Conservation Plan McCahon House 67 Otitori Bay Road Titirangi for Waitakere City Council and McCahon House Trust, 2003

 

Graeme Burgess. Burgess and Treep Architects

Research: Tania Mace. Historian

Summary

  • Colin McCahon and his family lived at 67 Otitori Bay Road from 1953-1960.
  • McCahon, himself, carried out the idiosyncratic alterations to the cottage which predominantly remain as he built them.
  • McCahon painted in the house, on the deck and in the garage (e.g. the Northland Panels, and the Wake).
  • The period (1953-1960) was one of significant transition in McCahon’s art, its style and subject matter.
  • The house was a gathering place for many of New Zealand’s leading artists and literary figures during the time the McCahon’s lived there.
  • McCahon is acknowledged internationally as New Zealand’s greatest modern painter.
     

Introduction

The house at 67 Otitori Bay Road was built as a weekend cottage following the purchase of the land by Herbert Harpour in 1939. The legal title of the property is Lot 11 DP17297 portion of allotments 242a, 410 and 412 Parish of Waikomiti (Certificate of Title 723/55). The property measures 1034 square metres

In 1953 Colin McCahon bought the property and the painter and his family lived here until 1960. During this time McCahon carried out numerous projects on the property. The changes he made to the house were largely left in place by Ms Jacqueline Amoamo, who lived there from 1960 until 1999.

This report has been commissioned by Waitākere City Council, and the McCahon House Trust. The conservation plan is intended as the first stage in a process to establish the significance of a place. It gives guidance as to how the place can be retained and maintained. It is a document that tells the story of the place and recommends policies which will ensure appropriate care and use.

 

Methodology

This document is based on The Conservation Plan: A Guide to the Preparation of Conservation Plans for Places of European Cultural Heritage Significance, National Trust (N.S.W.), 1990, by James Semple Kerr, and on the principles and practices set out in the ICOMOS New Zealand Charter For The Conservation Of Places Of Cultural Heritage Value, 1995, and the NZHPT Guidelines for the Preparation of Conservation Plans, 1994.

This document is intended to provide as full as possible a record of the building and site, as it stands, from readily available primary and secondary historical sources, a survey of its present state, and from the recollections of those associated with the house during the 1950’s.

The conservation plan is in two sections: Cultural Significance, and Conservation Policy

Part One: Cultural Significance, establishes the history of the place, it’s relationship to broader events, and how the building contributes to the understanding of the place and community. This is summarized in the “Statement of Cultural Significance” at the end of the section.

Part Two: The Conservation Policy, is intended as a management tool to guide the future development and care of 67 Otitori Bay Road, in a manner which will retain and reinforce the significance of the building. The policies are also intended to allow for the building to be restored to community use, if this is possible, and to provide guidance as to how this can best be done.

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Summary

  • Colin McCahon and his family lived at 67 Otitori Bay Road from 1953-1960.
  • McCahon, himself, carried out the idiosyncratic alterations to the cottage which predominantly remain as he built them.
  • McCahon painted in the house, on the deck and in the garage (e.g. the Northland Panels, and the Wake).
  • The period (1953-1960) was one of significant transition in McCahon’s art, its style and subject matter.
  • The house was a gathering place for many of New Zealand’s leading artists and literary figures during the time the McCahon’s lived there.
  • McCahon is acknowledged internationally as New Zealand’s greatest modern painter.
     

Introduction

The house at 67 Otitori Bay Road was built as a weekend cottage following the purchase of the land by Herbert Harpour in 1939. The legal title of the property is Lot 11 DP17297 portion of allotments 242a, 410 and 412 Parish of Waikomiti (Certificate of Title 723/55). The property measures 1034 square metres

In 1953 Colin McCahon bought the property and the painter and his family lived here until 1960. During this time McCahon carried out numerous projects on the property. The changes he made to the house were largely left in place by Ms Jacqueline Amoamo, who lived there from 1960 until 1999.

This report has been commissioned by Waitākere City Council, and the McCahon House Trust. The conservation plan is intended as the first stage in a process to establish the significance of a place. It gives guidance as to how the place can be retained and maintained. It is a document that tells the story of the place and recommends policies which will ensure appropriate care and use.

 

Methodology

This document is based on The Conservation Plan: A Guide to the Preparation of Conservation Plans for Places of European Cultural Heritage Significance, National Trust (N.S.W.), 1990, by James Semple Kerr, and on the principles and practices set out in the ICOMOS New Zealand Charter For The Conservation Of Places Of Cultural Heritage Value, 1995, and the NZHPT Guidelines for the Preparation of Conservation Plans, 1994.

This document is intended to provide as full as possible a record of the building and site, as it stands, from readily available primary and secondary historical sources, a survey of its present state, and from the recollections of those associated with the house during the 1950’s.

The conservation plan is in two sections: Cultural Significance, and Conservation Policy

Part One: Cultural Significance, establishes the history of the place, it’s relationship to broader events, and how the building contributes to the understanding of the place and community. This is summarized in the “Statement of Cultural Significance” at the end of the section.

Part Two: The Conservation Policy, is intended as a management tool to guide the future development and care of 67 Otitori Bay Road, in a manner which will retain and reinforce the significance of the building. The policies are also intended to allow for the building to be restored to community use, if this is possible, and to provide guidance as to how this can best be done.

The Development of Titirangi as a Suburb

During the early period of European settlement of West Auckland, forestry was the primary industry for the area. Timber exports from the Waitākere Ranges began in 1836.

Mixed farms were established on the cleared land. Titirangi remained a small settlement until well into the twentieth century. Few farms survived the difficult years of the First World War; farm labour was scarce and untended farms quickly reverted to bush. As farming declined, Aucklanders discovered a new interest in the scenic beauty of the Waitākere Ranges. During the early years of the twentieth century few tourists had made their way into the hills beyond Titirangi. The roads into the ranges remained poor until the 1930s when the construction of Scenic Drive provided the first all-weather road through the ranges.

After the First World war several of the properties around Titirangi were subdivided. This included a block of land on South Titirangi Road (then known as School Road). It was subdivided in the 1920s into two acre lots and advertised for auction:

‘MAGNIFICENT SITES, with unexcelled panorama of THE MANUKAU HARBOUR, THE CITY, THE WAITEMATA AND THE HAURAKI GULF...

Fern and Forest-clad Hills with deep water frontage to Manukau Harbour...

SUMMER HOMES in the Kauri Forest....

MAGNIFICENT FISHING, BOATING and BATHING’

In 1919 nearby land had been subdivided into 70 one acre lots. This was part of the 300 acre Atkinson Estate that was subdivided and sold during the early twentieth century. The 1919 subdivision was bounded by Otitori Bay and Tanekaha Roads on the west, and Wood Bay Road to the east. Roads were also surveyed in through the land block. By October 1923 thirteen of the allotments, which had failed to sell, were further subdivided. These sites on Otitori Bay Road and Valley Road were divided into 37 allotments measuring just over one rood each.

During this period Titirangi, and the Waitākeres beyond, were promoted as a playground for Aucklanders. The Titirangi Hotel opened in the late 1920’s adding to the holiday feel of the area. However, the Titirangi subdivisions were slow to sell. Several of the one acre lots from the original 1919 subdivision remained unsold in 1930. Similarly the 1923 subdivision failed to take off. By 1930 only 28 of the 37 sites had been purchased. In 1935, Otitori Bay Road had nine heads of households listed in Cleave’s Auckland Provincial Directory. Amongst those listed were a manager, nurse, boarding house-keeper, agent and a master mariner.

Titirangi had grown with the influx of population occasioned by the subdivisions following the First World War. However, improvements to roads and services were slow to come. As late as 1944 there were only four and a half miles of sealed roads in Titirangi and virtually no footpaths. This situation improved over the years and travel to and from the city became much easier. The Titirangi of the 1950s earned the description: ‘a sprinkling of raffish cottages, the hideaway homes of society’s casualties and the weekend baches of city dwellers.’

Lot 11 on Otitori Bay Road was part of the 1923 subdivision. Measuring one rood, the site sold in 1939 to Herbert Godfrey Harpour. It is likely that Harpour built the small bach on the site soon after his purchase of the land. The dwelling was one of several baches nestled in the bush in an area which became known as a ‘sylvan slum’. In 1950 it was purchased by retired hairdresser Albert Mason and his wife Matilda. Three years later Colin McCahon purchased the property.

 

Colin McCahon - The Titirangi Years

McCahon was born in August 1919 in Timaru, the son of a commercial traveller and grandson of William Ferrier the photographer and landscape painter. He grew up in Dunedin and Oamaru and attended Otago Boy’s High School and then Dunedin School of Art. 

In 1942 he married Anne Hamblett, daughter of Archdeacon W. A. Hamblett. Anne was a promising young artist who had been awarded with scholarships and prizes during her time at Dunedin Art School. In 1943 the couple moved to Nelson. They subsequently lived in Dunedin and Christchurch. By 1949 Anne and Colin had a family of four children, William, Catherine, Victoria and Matthew. They were desperately poor and Anne began working as an illustrator to supplement the family income.

In 1953 Colin McCahon met Eric Westbrook, director of the Auckland City Art Gallery. McCahon gained the impression that there was a job available for him at the gallery. On the strength of this he moved to Auckland in May 1953. It transpired that the only job available for McCahon was a cleaner at the gallery, a position he readily accepted. McCahon bought the house at 67 Otitori Bay Road and the family moved to their new home in Titirangi. The house was small and primitive. Money was tight and for the first month the McCahon’s lived ‘almost entirely on a diet of potatoes, parsley, and bags of rock-cakes given by a kind and ancient aunt.'

Their new house bore little resemblance to the home they left behind in Barbour Street, Christchurch. McCahon would later describe the Barbour Street property as: ‘A place almost without night and day as the super floodlights of the [neighbouring] railway goods-yards kept us in perpetual light.’

The Titirangi home was located in bush, far from the city lights. It was a basic bach. The minute kitchen doubled as the entry lobby. A small lean-to area to the north of the kitchen was the laundry, bathroom and dining area. To the other side of the kitchen was a living room with an alcoved porch off it beside the fireplace. The house was on town supply water and had electricity. Toilet facilities consisted of a bucket (a casko can) in a corner under the house for the women and open-air facilities for the males of the family. The children in this early period slept in the lean-to area of the living room; Colin and Anne slept in the tiny porch.

McCahon’s work progressed during his time at Titirangi. He was delighted by the unique quality of his new surroundings. He wrote:

‘The November light for that first year was a miracle. . . After the south, the drenching rain and brilliant sun, that shattered clouds after thunder and the rainbows that looped over the city and harbour through the Auckland light . . .’

 

After McCahon

In 1960 the McCahon’s sold the Titirangi property to friends Jacqueline and Tairongo Amoamo. From 1960 until 1999 the property was largely kept as it had been left by the McCahon’s. Jacqueline and Tairongo made minor alterations to the property over the years. A flush toilet was installed during the mid-1980s. A roof was erected over part of the deck to provide shelter and to protect the windows from the elements. Another deck was built behind the garage and this provided a pleasant space to sit on summer evenings. The concrete path down to the house was repaired by Tim Shadbolt who also surfaced the deck with concrete. The mural on the wall was removed as Jacqueline felt that it dominated the house. The kitchen cupboard doors painted by McCahon were also removed from the house. In the early 1970s Tairongo and Jacqueline separated. Jacqueline remained living in the Titirangi house and became the sole owner in 1975.

In 1999 the Waitākere City Council acquired the property. In 2003 the property was given to the McCahon French Bay House Restoration and Residency Project Trust. The Trust intends to conserve the property and to return it, as closely as possible, to its known state of 1959.

Chronology

Abbreviations

Amoamo Personal communication with Jacqueline Amoamo, 7 June 2002.

LINZ Land Information New Zealand, Auckland.

Catalogue Draft Catalogue, Folder 1, McCahon artists file, E.H McCormick Research Library, Auckland City Art Gallery.

1919 Part of the Atkinson Estate in Titirangi is subdivided into 70 one-acre lots.  LINZ DP13120

1923 Thirteen of the one acre lots are further subdivided into 37 new lots on Otitori Bay Road and Valley Road. LINZ DP17297

1939 Lot 11 on Otitori Bay Road is sold to Herbert Godfrey Harpour. LINZ CT723/55

c1939 A small bach is built on the Otitori Bay Road site. LINZ CT723/55

1950 Albert and Matilda Mason purchase the property. LINZ CT723/55

1953 Colin McCahon purchases the property. His wife Anne and their four children move into the house. LINZ CT723/55

1953-1960 McCahon paints a mural on the wall of the dining area and sliding cupboard doors in the kitchen are decorated by McCahon. A small room is added to the front of the house and a deck is added behind the kitchen dining area. Amoamo

c1954 A sleeping porch is constructed underneath the house. Catalogue p.8 and Amoamo

1955 Building Consent application lodged. Waitakere City Council records

1958 McCahon builds a bedroom under the garage. Catalogue p.5B

1960 McCahon sells the property to Jacqueline and Tairongo Amoamo. LINZ CT723/55 and Amoamo

1960-1999 The McCahon mural and decorated kitchen cupboard doors are removed. Deck is built behind the garage. Many general repairs are carried out by Jacqueline and Tairongo Amoamo. Rotted weatherboards at the front of the house are replaced with shiplap boards. The roof of the garage is replaced and a window at the rear of the garage is removed. Amoamo

Mid 1960s Otitori Bay Road is widened. The path to the house is altered and Tim Shadbolt forms a new concrete path near the street frontage. Amoamo

1975 Jacqueline Amoamo becomes the sole owner of the property. LINZ 723/55

Mid 1980s A flush toilet is installed to replace the bucket which had previously fulfilled this purpose. Amoamo

1999 Waitakere City Council purchase the building. LINZ 723/55

2003 Waitakere City Council gift the property to the McCahon House Trust LINZ NA723/55

Description of the House at 67 Otitori Bay Road

Introduction

The property is located on the Southern side of Otitori Bay Road almost at the bottom of the road (which finishes as an esplanade along French Bay). The section falls away from the street down into a bush filled valley. There is a single garage on the street at the top end of the property which is cantilevered out over the bank. A crude sleep-out has been built below this cantilever and out from it. The house is sited on a bench made in the slope about six metres below the road and thirteen and a half metres in from the street boundary. The house is level with the cut ground on its northern side. A half-basement has been formed beneath the house on its lower side, facing south. The entire section is bush covered.

Description: Entering the Property

A winding pathway leads back from the lower street boundary, along a falling contour, to a sleep out and deck, which have been built under the garage. The path then runs back between kauri trees and turns down to the house. The path is now very rough and broken. The original path was beach sand and shell concrete hand raked in place by McCahon. Along the first section of the pathway from the street are the remnants of a white painted handrail, 760mm high. This is constructed of arissed 75x 50 posts, set at uneven centres, with a horizontal 150x 10mm rail, set on edge, built by the Waitematā County Council when they widened the road. 

According to William McCahon, the original rail down the top section of the pathway was a plain water pipe rail. On the 'cut' side of the path are the remains of vertical ponga logs, which appear to have been used as a primitive form of retaining. In some areas these have been replaced by 1/2 round tanalised posts, also set vertically. The banks around the house are similarly treated. The 1/2 round posts have not been set into the ground. There is a plain board letter box in an abstract style at the top of the path. This was built by the Amoamos to match the original McCahon letterbox. According to William the letterbox was a plain American hoop letterbox. Another letterbox story, as yet unconfirmed, is that the artist Billy Apple now has the original letterbox.

Garage

The garage, used as a studio by McCahon, is a plain shed with a skillion roof across its width. It is built right up to the street. The entry is tar sealed. The entry doors are bi-folding vertical tongue & groove framed doors, installed by the Amoamos. The roof is corrugated iron on timber sarking. Originally it was roofed in malthoid sheeting. In the 1950s when the garage was level with the road, it dominated the corner. 

The width of the garage is a bare 2.67m. It is 4.74m long on its right hand side (from the street) and 4.67m long on the left. The internal height is 1.9m on the left rising to 2.23m on the right. The rafters are braced down to the right hand studs with 25mm wide boards. The walls are weatherboard clad and unlined. The timber framing is minimal, both studs and rafters are 100 x 50 framing at 700mm crs. At the end of the garage two timber braces, meeting at the sarking, have been fixed on the surface of the studs. There was a single window in this wall which was removed by Jacqueline Amoamo. There is a pair of casement windows set just back from the left rear corner of the garage, facing east. The floor is decked in butted timber boards.

Below the end of the garage a room was built by McCahon for his sons as a bedroom. This room is located partly under the garage and partly beyond it. The exterior of this room is finished in vertical wide rough sawn boards with 50 x 10mm battens. The door into the room, which directly faces the pathway, and the eastern base of the garage, is similarly finished.

There is a tiki on the door which was fixed there by Jacqueline Amoamo. The room is not lined. At the outside line of the garage above is a 150 x 50 post which supports the central bearer of the garage. The joists of the garage run across the room and are also exposed. The room is set back 1.5m under the garage, and 1.3m out beyond it. The projecting section has a lean-to roof framed of rough sawn 140 x 50 pine. The floor is of wide timber boards. The clay floor mentioned by McCahon was the bike shed area back under the garage. There are sections of wide board shelving within the room. 

In the end wall of the sleep out is an extraordinary glazing arrangement, formed of two demolition sourced double hung window sashes, one set vertically on the floor, the other on its side across it. These were set to run on coloured glass marbles. The windows no longer function and have lost their marbles. Outside the end of the sleep-out is a deck which was constructed by Jacqueline Amoamo in an attempt to stabilise the garage. Before this was built there was only a narrow ledge/platform barely 300mm wide outside this room. 

The sub floor of the garage and sleepout, in contrast to the new timber piles of the deck, is redolent of an earlier time. Under the garage the sub floor structure is set on concrete piles. There is a brace between the second and third line of piles. Some of the concrete piles are no longer stable.

House: General Description

The pathway from the street ends in a random tumble of a few steps which turn towards the house. The area around this side of the house into the entry porch and beyond is a concreted levelish cut. The concrete outside the entry is almost level with the floor of the house. The concrete is all very rough shell aggregate concrete with occasional decorative panels set into it formed with broken ceramics or shell. The paths and steps were begun by McCahon and carried on by the Amoamos. A concrete terrace extends out beyond the building to the west. On the bank above this another level platform has been formed. This is finished in the same random brick and concrete work and similar decorative tile work to that used elsewhere. According to William McCahon this area was formed after 1960.

The house itself is a very basic building. The core of the building is a simple gable running East/ West, (3.2m wide x 5m long), with a lean-to at the Western end. The entrance to the building is to the side of a lean-to on the northern side of the building. There is an enclosed 'porch' at the eastern end and a roof, supported by a simple post, extends out to form the entry alcove. This feature was extended to its present form by the Amoamos. There is a proprietary concrete chimney at the internal intersection of this alcove. A further lean-to 'wing' has been added at the south-east corner of the building. A raised deck terrace (360mm above the floor) extends from outside the lean-to at the end of the main gable and out beyond the south east lean-to. The external access to the deck is a single step of 100 x 50s set on edge, built by McCahon in 1955. The ground slopes down from the centre line of the main gable to the south on a gradient in excess of 30 degrees. Beneath this southern section of the building is a sequence of 'open rooms', which were the childrens’ bedrooms, and, at the eastern end, the laundry/ bathroom.

A set of ill-formed (and decorated) concrete steps leads past the western end of the deck down to the 'open rooms' below the deck. According to Jacqueline Amoamo these were built by McCahon using ponga logs with gravel infill. According to William McCahon the steps were formed of mudstone from French Bay. Between the steps and the house is a retaining wall formed in a free curve of bricks, laid staggered apart, which was built by Jacqueline Amoamo. This runs back behind the wall of the excavated basement, and is now filled with ferns.

In the garden at the lower side of the house is a large fig tree. This is the last remaining fruit tree. The McCahons planted a peach, grapes and cape gooseberries, acanthus, and small pink begonias. Victoria McCahon has cuttings from the begonia in her garden. The family encouraged some native shrubs, mahoe and fuchsia in particular, around the edges of the house. The bush was cleared down into the valley below the house. The rest of the bush around the house was thinned and the children could run freely through it.

Exterior Finishes

a. Roof

The roof is corrugated iron with plain rolled barge flashings. The barges at the eastern end of the main gable are 200 x 25 and the barge to the entry lean-to 'porch' is 150 x 25. The awning shelters at the western end of the building and above the deck are of clear corrugated material on unpainted pine framing. These were added by Jacqueline Amoamo. Most of the spouting on the building is new p.v.c. There is a remnant section of 1/4 round galvanised spouting along the south eave of the main building. All the spouting discharges straight onto the ground. 

The chimney is a stacked prefabricated concrete chimney. The gable end soffits are plain boards which were replaced by Tairongo Amoamo to match the original. The soffit at the entry is painted hardboard and batten. There are large gaps between the weatherboards and the soffits/barges. According to William McCahon the roof was painted in K16 tar based aluminium paint.

b. Sub-floor

The subfloor of the building, excluding the 'open room', is all timber on concrete piles. Most of the sub-floor framing is borer ridden. There is no proper retaining beneath the house.

Under the house was a tree stump known by the family as 'Mr Mason’s stump'. The “open room” area is fully described later in this section.

c. Cladding

The cladding on the building varies. On the core gable the remaining cladding is 180mm cover weatherboards. This remains at the Eastern end of the building (where it is strangely butted, without soakers, part way across the wall ) and on the internal wall of the entry alcove.

The odd butted boards on the Eastern wall were explained by Victoria and William. To create a reasonable hanging surface Colin removed a large window from this wall. There are corner boxes and boxed vertical junctions on the Eastern wall. The base of this wall is finished in random width vertical whalings, mostly around 150mm but with some 75mm. The enclosed “porch” is clad in narrower, random cover weatherboards on the eastern side and by vertical shiplap boards on it’s other walls. The base of this wall has malthoid sheeting run under the concrete pathway and back up under the cladding. Vertical shiplap boards have also been used to clad the lean-to at the western end of the main gable. All the vertical shiplap boards were added by the Amoamos.

Around the deck area the cladding changes to creosoted wide board and batten. Below the deck and around the outside of the lower area the cladding is plain butted vertical rough sawn boards, all creosoted. The walls inside this area are a mixture of rough sawn vertical boards and battened fibrolite. There are no window facings, except on the kitchen window, and no soakers over butt joints in the weatherboards. Malthoid has been used to weather the base of the building where concrete has been poured against it. On the Northern side of the building the finished exterior ground level is very close to, and sometimes above, the level of the house. The exterior was painted in Ferric oxide and creosote.

d. Joinery 

The joinery on the building is an odd mixture; some recycled, one casement and some purpose built 'light walls' formed of glazed framing timbers. These last windows are sculptural, and were created by McCahon. The Group architects used joinery to spectacular effect in their houses of this period. The gap between the window frames and cladding is filled with putty. The front door is a bungalow door with a high glazed top panel and three sunk lower panels. Jacqueline Amoamo fixed linoleum sheets into the panels to stop draughts. This door was painted forest green.

e. Deck/Terrace

The deck, as previously described, is an open platform which has been built as the roof to the 'outdoor room' below. It is 360mm above the internal floor of the building. The deck was originally of broad timber boards, covered with malthoid sheeting. This has been overlaid with concrete in a falling wedge. The concrete has been laid on a malthoid barrier and a tarry substance has been used to seal the new deck to the weatherboards. The deck is unrailed. 

There is a single step up to the deck, formed of 100 x 50s placed on edge across a pair of concrete blocks. The only other access is through a window from the extended living room. Above this area of the terrace is a clear roofed lean-to, supported by a post seated directly on the deck. This lean-to is not original.

The deck is framed in 150 x 50 joists running across it. These are supported on 100 x 75 bearers which are supported 100mm back from the exterior line of the deck on 100 x 75 posts set on 10mm diam. bars on raised concrete plinths. There is a 100 x 50 tie between each post at the outside line. The posts were faced with rough sawn 250 x 25mm boards. Most of these have now fallen away. 

The facing boards were also carried across the head between the posts to frame each opening. There are remnants of very plain rough sawn shelves which ran between the posts in the second, third, and fourth bays from the West end. The entire structure is fully exposed. The original wide board decking runs between the joists. The ends of the boards are affected by rot. The area below the deck is a sequence of 'open rooms'.

House Interior

a. Entry/ Kitchen

From the entry alcove the front door of the house opens into the kitchen area, which is in the original section of the building. The floors throughout the main level of the house are tongued and grooved timber flooring (rimu or matai). The floors were originally covered in brown linoleum. The ceiling in this entry/kitchen area is stippled plaster with wide planted battens. The cornice is of plain boards, one horizontal, one on the vertical plane. All the electrical wiring in the house has been run exposed over the surfaces.

According to William McCahon the wiring was all in black metal conduit run to round switches set on wooden blocks. The light fittings throughout the house were plain white porcelain Chinese hats. To the left of the entry door is a panel of green mosaic tiles set at table height. The tile panel was built by Jacqueline Amoamo. There is an exposed slate distribution board above the mosaic panel. The original wall colour remains behind this panel. McCahon painted a cover for the distribution board, 'a quick and dirty green plane.' To the right of this panel is an open doorway into the main living area of the house. The wall between the kitchen and the west lean-to is largely open. A beam runs from the kitchen side across to the entry wall, which runs flush through into the lean-to. 

The kitchen is basic. There is a sink bench on the south wall, with a four light awning hung window above it. The bench is finished in yellow linoleum and trimmed with a painted timber moulding. The top edge of this moulding is bull nosed. There are sliding doors below the bench. The remaining cupboards and shelves are a random jumble. These have all been built in situ of solid timber, and are painted. When the McCahon family lived in the house the shelves were oiled. The most unusual remaining feature of the shelving is the plate rack, to the left of the kitchen bench, which has been created using steel knitting needles set into holes in the shelving. There was a pair of sliding cupboard doors which were decoratively painted by McCahon. These were mounted to slide on a metal rod system.

b. West Lean-to, Dining Room

The lean-to to the West side of the kitchen (and open to it), has a tongued and grooved ceiling which follows the fall of the roof. The floor is also strip timber. There is a remnant plastered concrete hearth in the North West corner of the room. Above this, in the ceiling, is a metal cover plate where the flue has been removed. On the West wall is a pair of Victorian French doors which have been adapted to fit the wall. These are fitted direct to the framing with 1/4 round beads each side (both inside and out) of the doors for weathering. 

The concrete terrace outside these doors is above the floor level of the house and the threshold of the doors has been plastered up to a lip to prevent water flowing into the room (a gap has opened between the hearth and the North wall and surface water does run under the building in this area).

Beside the doors is a two light window which is directly glazed into the framing. On the north wall there was mural panel by McCahon which was removed in the 1960s. The mural was formed to the shape of the wall. On the centre of the wall was a simple table made using a flush panel door set out from the wall on tree trunk legs. Colin McCahon’s favourite place was sitting at this table looking out. The cupboard opposite was the bath alcove, ( housing the hot water cylinder) and then, when the bathroom below was built, it became a wardrobe with a simple curtain. Victoria and Catherine McCahon recalled hardboard doors set using hook eyes on a metal rail, the system used by McCahon for the kitchen shelf door. Supplejack was used to fashion cupboard door handles.

c. Living Room

On the east wall of the Entry lobby/kitchen a doorway (no door) opens into the living room. This opening has a very deep reveal made up of two 220 x 25 boards set against each other which frame the shelving which runs each way from the doorway against this wall. Some of the shelving was purpose built by McCahon for his gramophone records. 

This room, with the entry lobby/kitchen, is the original section of the building. The floor is of strip timber, the walls are now plastered gib board. The ceiling is a flat battened ceiling with plaster panels. There are three battens across the room and one along. The cornice is similar to the kitchen cornice but with a 1/4 round moulding to the intersection of the wall and ceiling. 

The plaster panels are a 'pebble/ amoeba' pattern. On the northern wall is the fireplace. The plain board mantle of the fireplace runs right across from the entry wall. The fireplace surround is defined by a grid of 40 x 22 battens. These are finished to the wall by a 1/4 round moulding. The fireplace opening has been blocked by a board panel. Vertical on the centre of this panel is a batten painted by Tairongo with a Kowhaiwhai design. 

All the shelves in this area were also originally plain oiled timber. The shelves on the fireplace side were built to the depth of Phaedon books, the shelves on the lean-to side were shallower, the depth of Penguin paperbacks. The radio/record player sat in the Phaedon area. Anne habitually sat in a chair by the Penguin shelves. The walls in this area were finished in plywood with a soft grey rubbed into the surface.

d. North Lean-to, Bedroom

To the right of the fireplace is the doorway (no door) into the diminutive lean-to room at the north-east corner of the building. This room is similarly finished. The ceiling follows the fall of the roof. At the internal corner the wall is stepped to accommodate the chimney. Centred on the north wall is a double casement window. There is a matching single casement on the west wall. This room was Colin and Anne’s bedroom.

e. South Lean-to, Living Room

The south wall of the main living area opens into the lean-to on the south-east corner of the building. The opening runs right across most of the wall from the west side of the room. 

This lean-to is set down 200mm below the main floor of the house (the bathroom area is directly below this room). The ceiling follows the fall of the roof and is finished in battened soft board. Across the right hand side of the south wall is a bench, open below to the right and boxed in, as part of the stair, on the left. The surface of this bench is finished in blue and cream chequered linoleum which was laid by Jacqueline Amoamo. The edge is finished in a moulding as per the kitchen bench. The bench is 680mm high. 

The entire west wall is a glazed framing window. There is a single casement set into the window by the bench to give access to the deck. A step ladder has been built in below the window. From the south-west corner back to the stair enclosure, above the bench, is also a full glazed frame window. The left panel of this is a bank of metal louvres. The louvre panel is a replacement. A section of the original louvre remains beneath the house. This window arrangement is clearly visible behind Colin in a photo taken by Barry Millar in 1957. 

In the south-east corner of the room is an enclosed box with a hollow core door. This is the access to the Ladder/Stair to the bathroom. William McCahon recalled the stair being enclosed, Catherine and Victoria McCahon remembered it as being open. The entire interior was generally plainly finished, the timberwork was oiled and the walls finished in an off white (soft grey). There was a guest bed in this room under the window to the deck. All the beds were flush doors set on castors.

f. Ladder / Stair

This stair, built by McCahon, runs down the exterior wall landing in the Laundry area of the Bathroom/Laundry room below. At the bottom of the stair the inside wall finishes in a natural post stripped of its bark. The stair is most unconventional. The treads, of rough sawn timber, are turned down at each side to the tread below and have a very deep toe space. The stringers are finished in line with the linings. The stair is more a ladder or ship’s stair than a domestic stair, a consequence of the very tight use of space. 

The unusual construction gives the stair a sculptural composition, which is let down by the quality of construction. The first riser is only half the height of the remaining risers, an ergonomic disaster. McCahon finished the panelling of the stair using a blowtorch and linseed oil.

g. Bathroom/Laundry

The Bathroom/ Laundry opens to the 'walkway' of the 'open rooms'. This entire area was constructed by McCahon. It is an enclosed room, internally connected to the main floor of the house by the Ladder/ Stair. It is lined in white painted oil-tempered hardboard which is finished with a variety of battens; some ‘D’ mould, some 1/4 round, some rectangular flat.

According to William McCahon the panels in this area were painted in geometric patterns by his father. The floor throughout is concrete, which is continuous with the concrete of the 'walkway'. The concrete has remnants of red paint. The ceiling is also lined in painted hardboard. According to Jacqueline Amoamo there was also some yellow used in this room. The bearers are exposed. 

The floor to bearer height is 1900mm. Opposite the bottom of the stair, on the western wall, is a pair of concrete laundry tubs on a creosoted timber plinth. On the north wall at this end of the room is a makeshift toilet platform constructed when the sewerage was connected in the mid-1980s. There is a hardboard clad board partition at the end of the bath which is set against the northern wall through to the eastern end of the room. On the wall above the bath beside the partition is a planted board shelf. The bottom section of this has evenly set out, 5mm diameter, dowel pegs along it. One of these has broken. 

Above the bath on the east wall is a top hung awning window, divided into four lights. The cill and jambs of this window are in very poor condition. Beside the window on the eastern wall is a new pedestal basin. Within the return beneath the stair landing above is a very small shower cubicle, also finished in painted hardboard, and concrete floored. There is a window in this space in line with the stair window. The shower drains straight out via a terracotta pipe into a drainage channel within the outdoor toilet.

h. 'Open Rooms' 

In the area below the house to the south, 'alcove/rooms' have been formed between each of the bearer lines. The end wall (west), the back wall, and return walls of this area are seated on a raised concrete plinth. There is a 'walkway' along the outside, with a folding gate constructed of three rough sawn boards to separate the 'ablutions' area. 

The western end wall finishes in a glazed stud wall. This end room', the girls’ bedroom, has two bunk beds against the back wall and an arrangement of boxed shelves made of the same rough sawn wide boards across the western wall. Catherine slept on top and Victoria below. The shelf runs across the top of the window and down the internal side to form a broad reveal. 

The interior walls have been finished in fibrolite sheet with 50 x 10mm battens. On the back wall these are fixed around the sheet edges and across the horizontal centre line. There are also vertical battens to the lower sheet on the western wall. The internal return wall is finished in rough sawn shelving.

The second 'room', the boys’ room, is similarly finished. There is a 'wardrobe' recess in the eastern return wall. At the end of this wall the line of the building steps back out. At the corner is a rough sawn three-leaf board 'gate' hung from the house and hinged to fold back on itself and onto the wall. The leaves have been roughly painted in the three colours universally used in this area of the building; earth red (Resene Indian Red), a cream/white, and creosote black. The side facing west is red/red/black. 

The east side is black/white/white. The paint has been applied in a very casual manner with colour splashes each way. This painting is the original paintwork done by McCahon. These colours are a signature in this area. The rear wall of the first alcove is cream/white. The west wall and “ceiling “ structure are earth red. The red has been smeared down the dividing wall of the first alcove to just below the joists. The exterior and posts have been creosoted. The shelves between the posts (refer to the description of the 'open rooms' in the previous section) appear to be part of the original composition. The McCahon children remember this side of the 'rooms' being open, enclosed only by bushes and open beyond down into the valley.

The remaining shelf-boards have remnants of the earth-red colour. The exterior wall of the bathroom is white through to the line of the shower. From this point the boards are creosoted. The return wall from the 'gate' is also creosoted. The 'ceiling' through this area is dropped level with the roof structure of the “outdoor toilet”, which sits below the deck level. There is a rough sawn board shelf running along at the top of this wall. 

A three section rough sawn board door (as per the “gate” and the toilet door) opens into the laundry and bathroom. The concrete floor runs level into this space. To the immediate right of the door, inside, is the ladder/ stair up to the main floor of the house. There are two small windows in the outside wall, one to light the stair, the other for the shower recess. Both are painted red. Beneath the stair window is a horizontal towel rail on wire cup hooks. 

At the end of the 'walkway' is an oddly shaped semi-open toilet. The concrete floor in this area has been dished across the edge of the building as a drainage channel. The shower recess inside the building drains into this channel. The room is framed in rough sawn 100 x 50s and clad in vertical butted rough sawn boards. The interior is painted red, the exterior is creosoted. The door is a half-height door constructed of three vertical rough sawn boards designed to fold back against themselves. The exterior of the door is white, the interior is unpainted. 

The wooden toilet seat is set in a plain fibrolite plinth. The plinth has been left unfinished. The roof of this free form addition to the building is facetted galvanised iron sheet set on rough sawn sarking. An area of this has been repaired without matching the original detail. According to William there was no cover outside the toilet. The toilet was a 'Casko' can set beneath the wooden seat. This was only for the use of Anne and the girls. 

Catherine and Victoria recalled using a signal arm taken from a truck to indicate that the toilet was in use.

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