In this thoughtfully planned Manawatu home built for a large family, every inch is used every day – yet there’s space for all
Many designers use their own homes and gardens as places to try out new ideas, materials and products. Interior designer Belinda Woolford is no exception. The Palmerston North house she shares with husband Mark and their four children is, she says, her testing ground where she can experiment with different wallpapers, paint colours and fabrics.
“I view these things as easily changeable, so why not? I can then confidently specify elements of these ideas for clients, knowing that they will work. I also get bored quite easily and like making small changes here and there, much to the humour of the men in the house who really don’t give two hoots and love to tease me.
“Having my business, Wall St Designs, I get to see such an enormous range of wallpapers and fabrics that it can be difficult to choose, knowing that something better is just a new collection away.”
Belinda and Mark built their four-bedroom house seven years ago on a large 1.2-hectare site, 10km out of Palmerston North and surrounded by native bush. A stream runs through the middle of the property and kingfishers, wood pigeons, tuis and parakeets are constantly flitting through the trees around the house.
Taking advantage of their beautiful location was paramount in the couple’s brief to architects Design Group, who helped them design the house. There was only a narrow building platform on the sloping site and this “pretty much dictated the layout”, says Belinda.
The entrance is on the south side of the house, which backs onto the road. A family media room forms a wedge in the centre with two wings on either side: bedrooms to the west and an open-plan kitchen, dining and living room to the east.
Along the north side of the house are large windows and glass doors that open the house up to the sun and surrounding landscape. “The view down the length of the house, due to all of this glass, is possibly one of my favourite aspects of the house,” says Belinda. “It looks out to the bush and up a gully which Mark has spent much time and effort planting to help regenerate the bush. Some of the best views are on dreary winter days when you can literally see the fog folding in over the hill and rolling down through the gully. It really is beautiful.”
With four children to accommodate in a four-bedroom house, Belinda and Mark opted to make one large room for their sons, divided by a bookshelf. “None of the children’s bedrooms are overly large and this was done to avoid having four uniform rooms all in a row, much to the boys’ dismay at having to share a room,” she says. “In fact, none of the spaces is terribly large, making the house always feel cosy even when you are home alone. And we use every inch of it every day.”
To make up for a lack of space in the bedrooms, the house has a ‘hangout’ area in the hallway with comfy window seating, log burner, computer, television and library.
The design of the bathrooms incorporates another clever space-saving idea. The only bath in the house sits in a space between the main bathroom and the master-bedroom ensuite. Large opaque glass sliders provide access to both bathrooms so that the three spaces are, in essence, linked.
“We couldn’t make up our minds where to put the bath. This way makes it a real treat,” says Belinda. “Particularly as one wall is a large window which looks out over the garden. Unfortunately, it also looks out to the biggest, gnarliest macrocarpa on the section. But as that tree also provides privacy from the road and shelters us from all the wind, it looks set to stay.”
When asked about some of her favourite pieces Belinda points out several artworks but says furniture and other decorative elements are still on the wish-list.
“To be fair, we’ve bought very little over the past few years as everything has been sunk into the house. Furniture, rugs, art and other delicious stuff for the house are next on the agenda. On the other hand, we are now at a point where we’d rather wait and get the pieces we love, so it could be a long road before we get to the stage where we are totally happy. Probably not until at least some of the kids leave home and the grocery bill goes down,” she laughs.
Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photos by: Elizabeth Gooddall.