WORDS Ady Shannon PHOTOS Paul Willetts

Seafront penthouse – the words conjure up images of a glamorous lifestyle, stunning outlook and luxury living, be it Bondi, Miami, Venice Beach or Surfers Paradise. This seafront penthouse is closer to home, but no less enticing. Situated on the third level of a distinctive apartment complex, designed by renowned architect Peter Beaven in 1998, the penthouse overlooks the Esplanade, Cave Rock, Sumner Beach, Southshore and the Kaikoura ranges beyond.

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Damon Rutherford and his wife Sijing acquired the penthouse in 2017 almost by accident. The apartment complex – six units in all with five apartments on two levels below the penthouse – was about to undergo a major refit to repair damage sustained in the 2011 earthquakes. Damon’s parents owned an apartment on the first level and along with the other five apartment owners, were facing the daunting prospect of overseeing reinstatement works following several years of investigative work to determine a repair strategy. They invited Damon to assist with EQC, insurance and building company discussions on their behalf.

Damon was well equipped to handle the repair negotiations. He and his family had lived in the complex for several months after returning from overseas. Damon is a trustee and asset manager for the Ada Rutherford Trust (ART), established in the name of his grandmother to provide funding for the advancement of education, research, engineering and architecture – with funding raised from property developments.

Of the six owners, only the couple in the penthouse were permanent residents. They had already been displaced for a year when Damon’s parents invited him to assist with negotiations. The penthouse owners were reluctant to engage in what they knew would be a long and protracted process so opted to sell their apartment to the Ada Rutherford Trust and “move on with their lives”. As Damon says, “Usually we would seek out our development projects. This one literally fell into our lap.”

ART purchased the penthouse in 2017 and it was a foregone conclusion that the acquisition would secure Damon’s role as spokesperson for the body corporate. Within a month he was appointed chairman and his role ramped up to a position devoted to endless site meetings, project planning and owner advocacy. Working closely with the architect and the builder, the time commitment was surprisingly high, even for an experienced project manager. “I’m a tiger for punishment,” laughs Damon.

The body corporate engaged earthquake structural engineering specialist Michael King, director of Centraus Structural Consulting, to recommend the most effective repair strategy. Aside from the aesthetic appeal of Cave Rock across the street, proximity to the Sumner icon was advantageous from a structural perspective as the rock foundations mitigated the impact of the quakes on the building’s structural integrity.

“The challenge was trying to repair an earthquake damaged building efficiently, while providing some necessary cosmetic modifications,” explains Michael.

The entire complex was stripped, leaving just the concrete floors and lift shaft. That strip-out provided a unique opportunity to redesign the floor plan and Damon and Sijing worked with Paul Wilkins of PXA Architects to totally redefine the penthouse interior. Paul was originally engaged by EQC in 2015 to prepare architectural documentation for earthquake remediation. That contract ended in 2017, when building consent was approved and settlement was agreed. Paul was then engaged by the body corporate to act as architect and to project manage the repair contract with Summitbuild Construction which managed its own subcontractors throughout the repair.

“The Summitbuild team were fantastic to work with,” says Damon. “And most importantly, from the Body Corporate’s point of view, they came in on budget month after month”.

Paul and Damon liaised closely with all the unit owners regarding the remodelling work to their apartments as well as general upgrades to modernise and improve the complex. The penthouse was totally redesigned to reflect current lifestyle preferences and to enhance views. Aluminium joinery was replaced with stacking sliders and large, single pane windows. Tinted glass provides privacy and extended sliders allow access from the open-plan living area and master bedroom out to decks on the eastern and western facades of the suite. Pitched ceilings increase the sense
of spaciousness and create amazing audio effects. The highly specified fit-out includes state-of-the-art technology that operates heating, lighting, sound, window treatments, security and access from a mobile phone.

Paul Wilkins says, “The finished building is much more than the sum of its parts. I believe it has been given a new life and stands with a sense of vitality in the Sumner landscape”.

The intrinsic qualities of the original design have been retained but everything has been upgraded and replaced, including the roof. “The only thing we did not replace was the frame,” Damon laughs. “Everything else is new.”

“We enjoyed being part of the process from the early stages of scoping to design and ultimately into the construction of this fantastic finished product,” says Joseph O’Donnell of Summitbuild.

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Although Damon and Sijing never intended to live in the penthouse, their signature approach to property development is to create an environment they would enjoy living in. “We do things we can be proud of and of a standard that we would want for ourselves,” says Damon. That commitment to excellence is evident in every detail.

The internal lift opens to a generous entry lobby. A bespoke window provides natural light and views over the beachfront are a hint of the vista beyond the front door. The open-plan living area is surrounded by glass and a wide recessed slider opens to the master suite adjacent to the kitchen. White walls and stone-coloured carpet provide the ideal backdrop to the magnificent views. Every centimetre of the 180 square metre space has been carefully considered to accommodate three bedrooms, two bathrooms, ample storage and superb open-plan living, dining and lounge spaces. There are two carparks in the basement and a large vegetable garden, tended by an apartment owner with green fingers, provides seasonal produce year round.

Damon and Sijing collaborated with friends and family on the interior. Damon’s mother picked the paint colours and tiles, and friends Tony and Catherine Martin brought their combined technological and interior design expertise to the automation systems, lighting and the interior selections. Bespoke joinery, including a bar area, was designed by Sijing and ART’s third trustee, Brian Palliser QSM, provided invaluable design recommendations throughout the project. “The outstanding result is a testimony to the fantastic team we had to work with,” Damon says.

Now that their labour of love is complete, Damon and Sijing are excited by the possibilities the penthouse sale will offer to their philanthropic endeavours. Damon’s late uncle Jim Rutherford was an acclaimed engineer and a strong advocate for better collaboration between architects and engineers to ensure improved design and build outcomes for projects. Jim died in 2014 but his desire to foster collaboration between the two disciplines inspired the Trust to make a significant endowment to the University of Canterbury which resulted in the establishment of a new Master of Architectural Engineering degree.

“The course is already receiving tremendous feedback from industry and will undoubtedly provide sought-after graduates in the building industry for many decades to come,” says Damon.

This property is available for deadline sale. Contact Adam Heazlewood at Bayleys for information.

FeaturesJoshua Brosnahan