Common modifications

Some villas retain their original character while others have been altered extensively.

There are still a significant number of villas that are largely in their original condition. It is more likely that they will be found in areas where property values are lower, or the suburb is not seen as desirable. Tenanted properties are more likely to remain in close to original condition, for example student flats in Dunedin. 

However, there are many that have been changed significantly, and the original character is not always retained.

Modification trends

A number of villas were ‘modernised’ in the 1920s – these houses have been described by Jeremy Salmond as ‘bungled villas’, where design features of the bungalow such as casement windows were been incorporated into the original villa form.

In the 1950s–70s, it was common for villas to be modernised. Lean-to service areas were often extended (and extended again) to allow the construction of an internal bathroom, toilet, laundry or to enlarge kitchen/dining spaces.

Modifications may be extensive – in extreme makeovers, little of the original villa is recognisable. In a number of cases, all vestiges of internal trim and finishes have been removed and it is only the outer form that defines the building as a villa. In some cases, even the external vestiges have been removed.

Flat conversions

Over the years, there have been fluctuations in how building owners saw the villa. With a move out to the suburbs in the 1950s–1970s, villas were seen as less desirable. A significant number of larger inner-city villas were remodelled internally (and externally) to change them into two or three flats, sometimes with the work being carried out illegally. This trend saw:

  • addition of internal walls in illogical places (such as half-way across an existing room)
  • removal of a number of original features such as skirtings, stairs or windows
  • addition of new kitchens and bathrooms
  • creation of new entry doors into the building
  • infilling of verandas
  • use of spaces for purposes for which they were not designed
  • more than one switchboard
  • walls that do not meet current fire safety requirements for inter-tenancy walls.

Recent trends

Recent trends have seen the street appearance of the villa being maintained while the rear of the property has been redesigned to provide for modern living, such as increasing light levels, installing modern bathrooms and kitchens, and providing the ability to move easily from inside to outside (Figure 1). 

A limited number have been restored to their original condition and layout, but with new bathrooms and kitchens (Figure 2). 

There are also a number of villas that have had another floor added (Figure 3), often not in keeping with the original house, and there are some examples – particularly in Auckland – of excavation under villas on sloping sites to house garaging or additional living spaces.

One indicator of modifications is the presence of beams across a ceiling – these typically indicate where an original wall has been removed.

Common modifications

As part of earlier renovations, common villa modifications have included:

Garages were added where space was available at the front of the section or in the rear yard. Sometimes they were added in a way that intrudes into the veranda and blocks daylight or ventilation to a room. Carports were commonly supported off the side wall.