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A creative pair give an old Dunedin home a new lease of life

Step inside Shelley and Doug McConaughy’s welcoming Dunedin home and it’s quickly apparent that these creative homeowners don’t conform to design rules

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Meet Shelley and Doug

A clever mix of texture, contrast, colour and art fills this weatherboard beauty, which has changed significantly since the couple made an uncharacteristic snap decision to buy it in 2013.

The couple had been based in Queenstown for 25 years before moving to Dunedin with their two sons – Oscar and Eli, now aged 13 and 11 – to be closer to great schools and Otago University, where Shelley was completing a degree in visual arts. “We’d come from a housing market that we were very familiar with, and Dunedin was uncharted waters, so we played it safe as far as investment was concerned and bought in a street that had potential,” says Shelley.

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Their renovation story

Although this large property with its high stud, bay windows and quarter-acre section stole both their hearts, it definitely required vision to see through the disrepair. “The exterior was in very poor condition with peeling paint, rotten weatherboards, extensive borer and rust. Inside, the bathroom and kitchen hadn’t been updated in over 40 years and the walls were a combination of maroon and bright yellow,” recalls Shelley. “Then there were the timber floorboards, which were also heavily infested with borer. Outside, due to a prior planning error regarding camber, the driveway was rendered unsafe and unusable.”

As the couple had only recently moved to town, they’d just signed a year-long rental agreement, but this was a good thing as it meant they could live off-site while they renovated. “I am very grateful we were able to live elsewhere during the build. It was so nice to walk away and have the space and time to consider the project, and not be overwhelmed living amongst the debris,” says Shelley.

I am very grateful

we were able to live elsewhere during the build

Having built in the past, Shelley and Doug had confidence in themselves and chose not to use an architect. Doug’s expertise as a structural engineer meant he was able to design and submit all necessary plans to the council, while Shelley’s background as a designer and artist meant she had the perfect credentials for giving the entire interior and exterior a facelift.

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Using the space cleverly

Doug and Shelley installed an ensuite off the master bedroom and removed the wall between the dining room and kitchen to create one, large, open-plan living and dining space. Wanting to mirror the way the family use furniture in this living area – where most of the furniture is movable and regularly shifted around – Shelley opted to install open cabinetry and shelving in the kitchen that can be relocated whenever she feels the need.

“It has a really lovely feel and, with open shelving, clutter simply isn’t an option,” she says. “I love the fact that I got to choose functional furniture for the space that I could potentially use throughout the rest of our house.”

It has a really lovely feel

with open shelving, clutter simply isn’t an option

Shelley also put her creative talents to good use designing the stunning macrocarpa kitchen island bench and the sculptural awning over the French doors leading off the living area. She also chose the window treatments, carpets, lighting and paint colours, and stained every inch of timber by hand.

In the course of the renovation, the couple made some happy discoveries, the greatest find being the beautiful stained glass-windows that had been boarded up at the top of the entryway. Now restored to their original glory

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Creative flair

When decorating her home, Shelley focused on what she loved, rather than thinking about resale, particularly in the kitchen. With Shelley being an artist, the art on the walls plays a big role in the ambience of the home. “I surround myself with art that helps contribute to the feeling in our house,” she says. “I am drawn to objects that are playful, a little cheeky, clever and quite fun. The children have been brought up with artwork and have been encouraged to make art their whole lives.”

I am drawn to objects that are playful

a little cheeky, clever and quite fun

Little bursts of yellow erupt around the property. It’s a colour Shelley has loved since she was a child: “My first bike was yellow, so was my playhouse door, and our caravan in the 1970s had yellow panels. The vibrant glow of yellow brings me joy and stops things being too serious.”

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Exterior and landscaping lessons

First up, the unusable driveway was removed and extensive earthworks undertaken to make way for a new garage and a guest loft above it. The exterior weatherboards were treated for borer before Doug and some friends painstakingly repaired and repainted the entire house in beautiful, crisp white (an untinted Resene white). Together, the couple hand-dug a trampoline lawn and built raised garden beds, which required four skip loads of detritus to be removed from the back section.

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Moving forward

Since our shoot, Shelley and Doug have sold their beautiful home and are building new on the hills of St Leonards, overlooking Otago Harbour. “The long-term goal was always to have a sea view, so we’re very excited about the new project,” says Shelley.

Words by: Annick Larkin. Photography by: Emma MacDonald.

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