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A tired 80s interior gets a modern monochrome makeover

Threadbare avocado carpets, purple glitter lino floors, and a peach ensuite – this Howick home was in desperate need of a modern makeover

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Meet and greet

Angela Law, massage therapist, Cliff Law, 45 specialist gym floor installer, Beau, 23, and Krissy, 14, plus cat Morrin. Sons Gregor and Wade live in the UK.

A tired 80s interior gets a modern monochrome makeover

Angela and Cliff Law weren’t looking for a project when they walked into a do-up down a quiet cul-de-sac in 2010. But where others were quick to dismiss its dark and dated 1980s interior, this couple had a hunch that it could be the family home they were looking for. “Its bones were great,” explains Angela, “but it had threadbare avocado carpets, wood-panelled walls reminiscent of a log cabin, dark ceiling beams, a peach ensuite and purple-glitter lino floors.”

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However, the house’s location in the eastern Auckland suburb of Howick sealed the deal. “It’s in an excellent street, safe and quiet, with a large reserve at the end,” says Angela. They purchased the rather forlorn house with the firm conviction that it could become a light, bright haven for themselves and their four children.

Oh-so-eighties 

The house was built in the early 1980s and the kitchen and bathroom were both in their original state. The home’s greatest tribute to its era, though, was clearly a centrally located glass atrium which housed a spa pool.

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“It was very strange as everyone would have been able to walk around the house looking at you!” says Angela. Aside from its oddity, the atrium was also a waste of precious floor space. “It definitely put buyers off purchasing the house,” recalls Angela. “We overheard several people commenting on it at the open home but, luckily for us, we could see the atrium’s potential.”

The kitchen 

The kitchen is the heart of the modern family home and to Angela it is the most important room in her house. “I always knew I was going to have white cabinetry and I love the look of a high-gloss finish,” she says.

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As the budget was tight, Angela scoured Trade Me for bargains and picked up her Ariston oven and induction cooktop for a song. “The oven and cooktop came from a showhome and, although they had never been used, were still considered secondhand.

This meant the price tag was considerably less than if we’d bought new,” explains Angela. She also picked up the industrial pendant lights and splashback subway tiles for less than $100 in total. “I love finding bargains as it allows you to do more and buy more things,” says Angela.

The plan

The couple and two of their children, Beau and Krissy, lived in the home for about a year and a half before the renovation began. “It was a hard slog, but we could see the big picture,” recalls Angela. “The kitchen had only two working stovetop elements and most of the cupboards were falling apart.”

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During the renovation, the couple planned to install a new kitchen, move the entryway, enclose the atrium to create a dining room, and carve out an open-plan living space with generous indoor-outdoor flow. They engaged architect Sarah Muggeridge, who drew up plans to convert the home’s dated interior into a beautiful, contemporary family home.

Unfortunately the house’s Modulock construction – where the walls don’t have any framing – made things a little more complicated. Enter Airey Consultants, a structural engineering firm, who proposed extra metal bracing in order to pass inspection.

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Bedrooms

Back when the family first moved in, the master bedroom was entirely covered in varnished wood panelling. As soon as she was able, Angela painted over it in Resene Karen Walker ‘Milk White’. As the bedroom wasn’t huge, Angela and Cliff decided to install a sliding door to the walk-in wardrobe as a space-saving strategy. “I’d seen barn doors on Pinterest so I thought we could add some interest by hanging one in our bedroom,” says Angela.

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She hunted around and ended up purchasing a 100-year-old door on Trade Me. Cliff restored and painted it before attaching it to the hardware Angela had purchased online. “I got the barn slider hardware brand new for $190, which included delivery from America,” she explains. “It was a great find as the cheapest we could get in New Zealand was in excess of $800.”

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In Krissy’s room, Angela gave her daughter free rein to choose her own colours and furniture. “In the six years we have lived here, this is the fifth colour combination Krissy has had,” smiles Angela. Her current look features black vinyl wall dots, soft pink and plenty of texture. The dresser was another inexpensive purchase on Trade Me which Angela upcycled in Annie Sloan chalk paint.

The works

In 2012 the renovation was in full swing. Angela and Cliff did most of the work themselves – aside from a few structural jobs that had to be done by a registered master builder. Their eldest son, Wade, is a plumber by trade so was able to do all the plumbing work.

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Brent Holzer, an electrician and close family friend, installed all the wiring at cost, which also helped to keep the budget under control. Cliff’s building experience came in handy, too – he did all the tiling and installed the kitchen, bathroom and timber floors throughout.

“I did most of the painting and bought all the furniture and fittings, which is my favourite thing to do ever,” smiles Angela. It would take a further year before all the building work was complete. “We lived in the house the whole time,” explains Angela. “It was a bit like camping – we cooked on an electric frying pan and did the dishes in the bath.”

Make it monochrome

The effect Angela wanted to achieve when renovating her home was a feeling of balance and calm. A timeless combo of black and white with subtle additions of colour certainly hits the brief, but also makes this a practical and comfortable home.

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“You’re allowed to put your feet on the coffee table here – it’s distressed anyway – and feet and popcorn are also okay on the couch,” says Angela. In the dining room, a feature wall painted in Resene blackboard paint is both chic and functional.

“It primarily originated from the need to have somewhere for the family to write down where and what they were doing,” explains Angela. “But it also came from my love of black and white.” Although almost every wall in the house is white, Angela’s use of texture and pattern means the monochrome palette is far from flat. Splashes of colour, timber accents and potted greenery have been used with restraint, but bring warmth and personality to every room.

The great outdoors

Like most Kiwis, Angela and Cliff prefer to spend as much of the summer outdoors as possible. “We originally had a very basic outdoor living area,” says Angela. “The space was bare, aside from a large phoenix palm in the middle of a small lawn – it was far too big for the size of the garden.”

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Deciding to put the space to better use, the couple opted to build a large covered deck as well as a man cave that comes complete with a big-screen TV, Sky Sport and a collection of signed rugby jerseys from the All Blacks and other teams (which Angela didn’t want hung inside the house).

“The man cave is at the front of our house and is accessible via the deck that opens off the kitchen and living area,” says Angela. The couple built it themselves after purchasing a kitset on Trade Me and have spent most weekends over the past five months tinkering away at the build.

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To maintain a little privacy from their neighbours, Angela installed a copper-look wood-composite screen (from Bunnings) at the far end of the deck. “I saw it used on The Block Australia – it’s a wonderful product and gives the deck an element of interest.”

The deck and man cave have proved to be well-used extensions of the family’s living areas. “We’ve hosted many barbecues and most nights we sit outside at the bar leaner to eat,” says Angela. “It’s been a great investment.” Not only that – we’d say they’ve scored a winning try.

Steal their style

Words by: Annick Larkin. Photography by: Helen Bankers.

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