Home features

A creative takes a rental home and makes it hers

The owner of Gisborne’s The Family Co design store has created a haven out of her rental home.

Creative dinning room in GIsborne

Above: The two ceramic lightshades above the dining table are the most recent purchase for the home. “They have created a certain intimacy that was lacking beforehand. I love the fact that they are handmade – perfection in the imperfections,” says Chelsea Thorpe, owner of The Family Co.


Home for Chelsea Thorpe, artist husband Gene Walker and their two girls Primrose and Coco is a recently renovated rental they lease from a friend. “It was ideal as it meant we could benefit from a brand new kitchen,” says Chelsea.

Gisborne home kitchen

Above: “The basic layout of the kitchen makes it easy for us as a family,” says Chelsea. A wall of the kitchen can be closed off, reducing visual clutter.


Although she describes her aesthetic as simple and minimal, she’s realistic about the trials of maintaining a minimalist decor with young children in the mix.

The three-bedroom Gisborne house has been re-defined by the Thorpe family to suit their lifestyle. “We have created defined living spaces and each room has a purpose and a reason for being. We have swapped rooms to fit our needs, so Primrose and Coco have the main bedroom, we have the second and the third has become a clothes room. Live in the space as you please… they are just rooms after all,” says Chelsea.

Gisbourne home childrens room

Above: Primrose and Coco’s bedroom is full of their little-girl treasures. A bed in the girls’ bedroom continues Chelsea’s love of vintage furniture


The lounge, kitchen and dining areas are merged, creating an open-plan space for the family when they’re not busy at Chelsea’s shop, The Family Co design store.

Gisbourne home sitting area

Above: In the living area, vintage chairs sit below a photo of the location where Gene and Chelsea’s wedding took place. The Angus and Celeste hanging planter is from Chelsea’s shop and the sculpted driftwood was made by Chelsea’s brother Che Thorpe.


Chelsea discovered the home when they were looking for a rental after selling their house. They were on holiday in Noumea when Chelsea spotted it online. “I had to have it,” she says. “I know the owner and contacted them straight away. I love the simplicity of its all-white interior. It’s easy for our family to live in.”

Gisborne set of draws in room

Above: An artwork by Gene hangs in the main bedroom.


With no renovating to be done, they were simply able to move in and make it their own with Gene’s artwork and Chelsea’s vintage furniture. A long-time collector, Chelsea has filled the house with her finds. Then, of course, there are the items from her store that inevitably make their way into the home. “That’s the great thing about what we stock – homeware that doesn’t dominate your home but that blends in with what you already own.”


Create defined living spaces. Each room in this house has a purpose. “We have swapped rooms to fit our needs. Primrose and Coco have the main bedroom, we have the second and the third has become a clothes room. Live in the space as you please… they are just rooms after all.”

When decorating a rental have a vision for your future dream home and every time you buy something, big or small, make a point to stop and think about it.

Combine antiques with new homeware without clashing by focusing on balance and colour. “Many pieces I have in our home fit into a similar colour palette which works well to keep the balance.”

The Family Co

Words by: Catherine Steel
Photography by: Sarah Horn