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The Red House

3 Cranmer Square, Christchurch

The Project

With a history spanning back almost two centuries, The Red House on Cramer Square in Christchurch has been given a new contemporary face lift. Featured in the new season of Grand Designs, the build was one of the longest seen on the show, taking over four years to film.

Interior Design:
DNA Architectural
Contractor :
Brook Construction
Skillion roof and external wall
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The Red House was originally built in 1864 by widowed war veteran, Dugald Macfarlane. Built to house him and his sons, the home included a large cellar that was used to stock wine and spirits for the family business that operated from the Cranmer Square house.

The building unashamedly displays an array of building materials used over time to fulfil the needs of its successive owners. It was originally built as a traditional colonial cottage of brick which strayed from the common timber framed buildings of its time.

In 1900, the house was purchased by architect Hurst Seagor who introduced timber additions to the building. Seagor’s renovations would give the building the foundation of its unique architectural history and see it become an iconic building on Cramer Square.
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Seagor extended the building right to the edge of the property, bringing its south wall directly against the street’s footpath. This urban quality had rarely been seen on the streets of New Zealand and gave the Red House a distinct design.

The alterations made by Seagor to the Red House emphasized the importance of architectural tradition in New Zealand which at the time was lacking. Seagor’s designs were progressive and aimed to combine traditional architecture with that of the modern day and was considered amongst the most advanced architectural designs of its time.  

In the period proceeding Seagor’s renovations, the exterior of the building has remained largely unchanged. It’s statement red paint was thought to be a favourite of Seagor’s and has now darkened over time due to numerous coats.  
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Today the building is a category one historical building and recently featured on series four of Grand Designs New Zealand, thanks to the alterations made by couple Johannes van Kan and Jo Grams.

The van Kan family purchased the property in 2013, following  the loss of their iconic apartment located in the Lyttelton Council Chambers Building in centre of historic Lyttelton, on Banks Peninsula, in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

What commenced can only be described as a labour of love as the couple restored the historic Red House building and added a contemporary extension of the building, designed to maximise the views over Cranmer Square. 
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Refurbishing a historic building with such an extensive architectural history proved to be a challenge and a number of design revisions were made before the final plans were cemented and council approval was obtained.

“We wanted the exterior to be simple and possibly mysterious, much like the street facade of the original Red House that we are attached to. We wanted the good stuff to be on the inside”, commented Johannes van Kan.

The iconic red paint was kept on the original building and it’s new interior is dark, and detailed with light and sound to bring about a wonderfully mysterious and luxurious feeling to the home.

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The interior design features refurbished materials used from the couple’s original home in Lyttelton and focuses on alternative design and obscure difference, and adds to the unique and extensive architectural history the building has accumulated.

 “A home is a blend of the individuality of people, the creativity of architects, the solutions of engineers, the cunning of builders, and the physicality of the materials”, commented Johannes van Kan.

Kingspan’s Kooltherm high performance rigid board insulation was installed into the skillion roof and all external walls, allowing for a thin profile without the compromise of poor energy performance, and allowing for a more contemporary design.
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“The incorporation of Kingspan into our build is a smart variation on the New Zealand domestic standard fluffy solutions to insulation”.

“We have large open spaces where the heat could potentially escape, so it was important to minimise our losses with an effective insulation solution”.

Kingspan Kooltherm was able to provide modern, energy efficient technology whilst catering for the restrictions of such a historic design.

“I am excited that we are using an alternative approach to build our home and very appreciative of the contribution that Kingspan is making to our outcome”, concluded van Kan.
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The finished product of the Red House on Cranmer Square was aired on grand Designs on Channel Three in New Zealand on November 7th 2018, three years after the original anticipated airing in series one in 2015.

If you would like to find out more about this case study or get more information on the products used in this project, please contact the Kingspan Insulation by sending an email to or by calling 0800 1 23 23 1. 

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