A Cape Cod-style home in Taranaki embraces a striking monochromatic palette.
Tracey Chilcott smiles to herself when people admire the beautiful renovation job she and husband Alastair have done on their New Plymouth home. The three-storey house was actually built only two years ago, but its traditional appearance has many fooled, says the passionate home decorator. “I’ve obviously achieved my goal of creating a new home that has old-world charm.”
Tracey and Alastair had originally intended to renovate a bungalow that sat in the middle of the site they bought in 2007. “But we decided it made more sense to subdivide it into two sections and remove the old house,” she says. “We moved the old house off and built a contemporary home on the front section, which we sold in 2011.”
Having left the rear site vacant for a couple of years, the pair now turned their attention to building a home for themselves on the “hanky-sized” (250 square metres) plot. To achieve the space they wanted as well as gain spectacular views of Mt Taranaki and the coastline, the couple knew the only way to go was up.
Tracey initially drew a blank when it came to the exterior form of the building but eventually, after close consultation with their draughtsman Chris Larsen, she came up with a design that worked.
“Our last three homes had mono-pitch roofs and a contemporary style, but somehow that kind of design on a house sitting up so high on the site meant that it looked like an office block,” she says.
“Once I had a clear vision of the exterior it was easy and the rest just followed. It’s my version of a cross between the American Cape Cod style and the New Zealand bungalow.
“We wanted to do something different that was aesthetically pleasing despite being just a tall box. I liked the idea of it looking old-style and blending with some of the character homes in the area but with the benefits of a new house.”
As they have with previous house projects, Alastair and Tracey managed the build themselves, employing the builder on a labour-only contract and the sub-contractors. They also organised all the materials, coordinating their delivery to the site when the builder needed them.
The couple are not afraid to get their own hands dirty either, says Tracey. “We are the weekend clean-up team, sweeping and clearing rubbish. Managing the whole project ourselves takes a lot of work and it helps to have a really good builder and subbies to work with. Some of our sub-contractors have worked with us for 20-plus years on many houses.”
To ensure the living spaces had the best views, the couple decided to put them on the top floor of the house, with bedrooms, bathroom and laundry on the second level, and garaging for the boat and car, plus street entrance, on the ground floor.
When it came to the interior fit-out Tracey was in her element. “Decorating is my forte. I live, breathe and sleep it. From the moment the plans are completed I’m in, walking through the house in my mind, putting all my furniture in the right spots, picking colours. Then I’m off on a hunt to find what I’ve dreamed up.”
She uses the word ‘colours’ loosely as there are really only two, sometimes three, that she prefers to use in any of the houses she has decorated. “I am very much a black and white girl… it’s even evident in my wardrobe. On paper, the building looked like a playschool house and most people turned their noses up at my ideas on how to decorate it. Even Alastair was sceptical. But once the black and white paint went on everyone changed their tune.”
Although she doesn’t try to match every element in the house, Tracey believes a consistent theme is essential. For extra interest and texture she also likes to use wallpaper, a material she has used extensively throughout this house.
When selecting furniture she mainly uses pieces she has owned for years, such as the large sideboard in the kitchen/dining area, which she purchased from a secondhand shop. To keep things fresh she will often rejuvenate them with new decorative details such as paint, handles or feet. She also makes furniture herself and built the office trestle table and the headboard in the guest room.
For the finishing touches Tracey likes to use an eclectic array of decorative objects ranging from her grandmother’s music box to her dad’s ukelele. “A lot of my most loved things belonged to my late parents,” she says. “I remember thinking they were yucky old things when I was a child. Funny how your tastes change. Or is it just that I’m getting older?”
Shop around. Use the internet, go to secondhand shops, read magazines, ask around. There are always alternatives that are affordable. Sometimes it involves modifications or painting – but it’s far more satisfying.
It’s always worth spending money on a quality carpet.
Invest in functional elements that reinforce the style of the house such as the shutters the Chilcotts have used.
Striped wallpaper has a classical look that never dates. Don’t be afraid to mix two different wallpapers in one room, says Tracey.
Words by: Carol Bucknell
Photography by: Jane Dove Juneau