This Lovely Roger Walker-Designed “Chalet” Might (Just) Be Affordable

If the first thing that comes to mind when you see the tiny townhouse at 62 South Karori Rd is “cute”, then the second might be “cottage”.

This is thanks to the steeply pitched roof and decorative gables chosen in a fresh and vibrant green. It’s so picturesque you can almost hear the cuckoo clocks and smell the snow.

However, there is nothing wintry about this little gem. Located at the back of one of the capital’s largest suburbs and a short walk from Wrights Hill, this 1970s-built townhouse backing onto Karori Stream was designed by Wellington architectural legend, Roger Walker.

A cottage in Karori?

Ray White Real Estate/Provided

A cottage in Karori?

Walker is best known for the landmark Haitaitai Park Mews, which won the NZIA Enduring Architecture Award in 2019. Karori House shares some design elements of Park Mews, including the steep roofline, balcony and round window.

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“About 19 years ago I was trying to buy a rental property and I searched for years to find the right kind of thing,” says owner Sue, who asked that we keep her last name private. .

“I was amazed at how awful they were. They had big banks behind them, or they were cramped, or they had bad access – they just weren’t welcoming.

“Until I stumbled upon this one. I walked into this one, and immediately felt at home.”

The townhouse was built in the 70's and has some classic Roger Walker features.

Ray White Real Estate/Provided

The townhouse was built in the 70’s and has some classic Roger Walker features.

Sue fell in love with the property because it was so different from the average Wellington home. She has become a fan of Walker’s creations and says she would live in the house herself if she could, but severe arthritis makes stairs impossible.

“I really like his work, some people don’t. But the longer I’ve had this apartment, the more I admire Roger Walker,” says Sue.

“Even though it’s only 70m², it feels a lot bigger because the cupboards are in the right place, there’s easy access to everything. It makes a big difference to have an architecturally designed place.”

Walker may be one of the most important architects in the country, but Sue says he’s also very approachable. At one point, she wanted to get some work done to the property, but wanted to do it the Walker way, so she called his office and was able to talk to him.

The ceiling is Canadian cedar, a classic Roger Walker element.

Ray White Real Estate/Provided

The ceiling is Canadian cedar, a classic Roger Walker element.

He put her in touch with a handyman whose “obsession in life is the houses of Roger Walker”, to help her with the works.

A classic Walker feature is the tongue-and-groove ceiling in the living room, crisscrossed with dark wood beams. Tongue and groove are Canadian cedar.

“Some people in the complex actually had the ceilings painted white, and I was horrified because it’s just beautiful wood,” Sue says.

“I kept it as original as possible.”

The house is open plan, which was rare when it was designed in the 70s, but influenced by Scandinavian design.

Ray White Real Estate/Provided

The house is open plan, which was rare when it was designed in the 70s, but influenced by Scandinavian design.

The layout of the house is simple, stripped down to the essentials: an open-plan living/dining/kitchen area opens through arched patio doors onto a compact garden, ready to transform into a sheltered urban courtyard, where you can hear the stream below. .

Upstairs, two bedrooms in the attic, separated by a shower room and a toilet. The master bedroom has a balcony over the rear garden.

A shared title, which means the owner shares maintenance of the player and outdoor lighting, but pays for their own rates and insurance, there is a monthly fee for outdoor maintenance of $35.

The master bedroom has a balcony overlooking the courtyard garden.

Ray White Real Estate/Provided

The master bedroom has a balcony overlooking the courtyard garden.

Sue acknowledges that the townhouse could use a bit of improvement and would have liked to do it herself to keep it in Walker’s style, but accepts that it will depend on the next owner – it is now on the market, presented by the real estate agent as a first home.

Now 70, Sue is selling because she would like to realize her strengths and enjoy her golden years.

She hopes whoever comes next will buy it because they want to live in a Walker-designed home — not paint on wood. Her tenants have often had families, and she feels the house is suitable for children, who love the playful nature of the design.

It is on sale by call for tenders which closes on March 9 at 1 p.m. The listing is with William Calder and Lucy Clements for Ray White Real Estate.

The property backs onto the Karori stream, which you can hear below.

Ray White Real Estate/Provided

The property backs onto the Karori stream, which you can hear below.

The property’s 2021 RV was $740,000, putting it nearly $300,000 below Karori’s average.

Another Roger Walker-designed townhouse – a two-bed house in Park Mews – hit the market in November 2021 and was fetching around $700,000 to $750,000. The median house price in Wellington is around $1 million, making it the second most expensive city in the world.

Homes.co.nz estimates the Karori property to be worth between $770,000 and $840,000, which is high for a first timer, but again more than $200,000 below the Karori average and around $100,000 at $150,000 above a standard new-build townhouse in the capital.