POLISHING A GEM
Felicity Clark was 16 years old when she decided she wanted to be a property developer. The motivated self-starter was keen to learn her trade by ‘working in the field’ but when renowned developer Simon Henry recommended she complete a Bachelor of Commerce degree in valuation and property management as a way to understand the industry, Felicity took his advice. After finishing high school, she headed to Lincoln University, excelled in class, attained her degree and secured a job with Ngāi Tahu Property.
A year later, in 2013, she was appointed a role as development manager at Rapaki Property Group. In between overseeing major developments, including Belfast Business Park and the Maltworks in Waltham, Felicity started her own property portfolio with a makeover on a 1950s Wainoni property.
It was a juggling act, managing her own projects in conjunction with a demanding job, so late-2017 Felicity gave up the security of her full-time salary in pursuit of her personal dream. ‘My whole MO in life was to be a property developer. I’d been soaking up knowledge for years. I was ready to put all my energy into doing my own projects.’
Now 29 – she looks much younger – Felicity is wrapping up her sixth property venture.The past five doer-uppers were standard cookie cutter, safe, regular makeovers. This time around she has pushed all the limits in a property renovation that redefines exceptional.
For a gutsy young female developer staking her livelihood and reputation on her ability to find, buy, improve and onsell property for a profit, this latest project is no safe bet. The project has consumed her life for the past six months. Now that it is nearing completion, Felicity has no regrets that ‘the diamond in the raw’ she saw and fell in love with is about to go on the market.
Felicity happened to be driving past this Avonside property when the Open Home sign caught her attention. She popped in for a viewing and immediately saw the potential in the distinctive home built in 1973 for Christchurch architect John Huggins as his family home. ‘I was not looking to buy at the time but the developer in me couldn’t resist. When I see an opportunity, I react. I could immediately see the potential and I was craving something unique,’ she says.
What started out as a desire to ‘polish the gem’ and give her creative flair an outlet, soon turned into something much more compelling. ‘The house was inspired by famed architect, urban planner, artist, furniture designer and influencer Le Corbusier. He was arguably the most influential architect of the 20th century. The more I discovered about his design principles and how they inspired the architecture of this home, the more determined I was to make this place ‘pop’.
‘I purchased it to fix up but as I got into it, the house was so amazing I thought I may keep it to live in myself. However, six months on, after endless hours of research, renovation and reinstatement, I want to sell it to someone who loves and appreciates the unique architecture as much as I do. This property has created a passion in me to find another project that allows me to research and push the boundaries again.’
Felicity’s renovation brief was simple: bold, no white walls and a makeover sympathetic to the original integrity of the architecture. What she didn’t realise at the beginning was the intensity of the work required to realise her vision. ‘I had a masterplan in my head but I didn’t know it would be such a big restoration project.’
As she researched the work of Le Corbusier, Felicity recognised numerous design features in the home influenced by his distinctive style: dual-opening stable and pivoting doors, horizontal sliding glass windows, and cantilevered upper levels. John Huggins had added his own signature features, like stepped cabinetry in the kitchen. Where possible, Felicity has reinstated the unique features, and added a few of her own. ‘I custom-designed the steel-framed island bench unit with pastel coloured cabinets and a glass top. I scoured New Zealand for the unusual light switches to replace the ones that had been removed. The home had been a bit savaged over the years by previous owners so I removed and replaced some unsuitable features and additions.’
Classic 70s Guzzini light fittings were sourced from Slovakia after hours trawling online. Felicity resorted to Google Translate to complete the sales transactions. In the lounge, retro-looking yellow and brown carpet imported from France was chosen to complement the original small green tiles. Art on the block wall behind the staircase was inspired by famed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who was trained by Le Corbusier. The artwork was executed freehand by a painter Felicity saw painting power boxes on the street.
Felicity engaged colour consultant Jane Swinard to help with her colour choices. ‘When going bold there is a fine line between liquorice allsorts versus good taste. Jane can visualise in colour and she respects my disdain for ‘normal’. She is my sounding board and it’s great to have her to fine-tune some of my crazy ideas.’ A pair of treasured running shoes inspired the colours in the laundry, and charcoal and blue exercise tights influenced the exterior palette.
Felicity has been amazed by the reaction of friends, tradespeople and family. ‘I thought most people would be put off by my choices but the overall reaction has been surprisingly positive. It’s not what I anticipated. Even the tradies who initially reacted in horror later conceded it looks good,’ Felicity laughs. ‘I’m surprised. And pleased. I have given this amazing house lots of TLC and I’m very proud of the result.’
She admits she has ‘sunk a fair few hours’ into the renovation. The self-confessed perfectionist struggles with stepping back from the project. ‘I’m quite hands-on. I know my time is best spent looking for the next project and project managing, but it helps to be a jack of all trades and this house was so different, it needed a lot of my input to ensure things were done well.’
The proof of the pudding will be whether this out-of-the-box-thinking property developer can turn her labour of love into a profitable venture.
WORDS Ady Shannon PHOTOS Sarah Rowlands