Although it wasn’t love at first sight, a confident DIY attitude helped this Auckland family give their tired 1970s home a relaxed, holiday vibe
Meet and greet
Bridie Zaloum, account manager in the fashion sector and owner of online homewares store For Home, Tony Zaloum, high-school science teacher and also working on a project for Auckland University, Lula, 12, and Ava, 10, plus Stan the British Blue cat.
This 1970s home offers a year-round holiday vibe on the North Shore
Bridie and Tony Zaloum’s house is set at the end of a long, winding drive at the western tip of Beach Haven on Auckland’s North Shore, and initially greets you with an unassuming peek of white-washed brick facade.
If you follow your nose through the enchanting courtyard, there’s a good chance that the aroma of coffee will lead you to the kitchen. This is the family’s favourite room of the house and it’s easy to see why, with its vistas of beautiful Waitemata Harbour, cosy nooks for reading, and dappled light filtering through the garden’s subtropical fringe.
In this welcoming space at the heart of a sprawling home, there’s a distinct focus on learning and experimenting – Tony’s coffee-making paraphernalia sits along the workspace like a science experiment, and fresh cupcakes with picture-perfect icing hint at daughters Lula and Ava’s love of cooking.
“Tony renovated the kitchen and it really is central to our daily living,” says Bridie. “We tend to eat at the high stools for most meals as there is plenty of space and you get to be part of the cooking experience as well – great for the girls.”
The family have been living here for seven years and Bridie and Tony are adamant that this is their ‘forever home’, but it wasn’t love at first sight and they almost let the opportunity to buy it slip away. “We’d been looking for a coastal Beach Haven property since moving back to New Zealand after living next to the water in Melbourne for more than five years,” says Bridie. “After renovating and selling several properties in Beach Haven, we were ready for our final move, but most of the houses on offer were built on very elevated sites, so there was no real indoor-outdoor flow.”
Their list of must-haves included a workshop, a backyard close to the living areas, and extra space for guests. The house, which was built in 1979, initially failed to meet Bridie’s strict criteria due to the seemingly poky rooms and odd layout.
“When we first saw this house, I wasn’t convinced,” she says. “It was a huge property, but the house was quite small with only three bedrooms and a single garage. But the potential was enormous. It was architecturally interesting and it had the backyard we wanted – a rare find, as we were discovering.” The final viewing at dusk stole their hearts, and all their concerns went out the window.
Armed with the mantra: “If someone else can make it, why can’t we?”, the Zaloums set about modernising the house. With a confident DIY attitude, Tony, a high-school science teacher, dived head-first into the kitchen renovation, which topped the list of tired and neglected spaces.
Bridie assumed the role of designer, thanks to her experience in the fashion and interiors worlds (she is an account manager in the fashion sector and also owns For Home, an online homewares store). “Tony is the maker, and I tend to just yell instructions from afar on design and colour – although painting and holding things in place are now my specialty.”
The existing kitchen was burdened with dated cabinetry and awkward design features, so a complete overhaul was the best solution.
“The kitchen was largely original – heavy wooden drawers that refused to open, and when they did, they were so deep you never found what you were after,” says Bridie.“There was also an upright stand fixed to the back of the kitchen bench which my towering five foot two inches couldn’t see over.”
With quotes from kitchen designers topping $40,000, Tony and Bridie’s ‘can do’ attitude kicked into overdrive. After some careful planning, they tackled the project themselves, from design through to installation. They came up with a layout that incorporated a huge central island (now a much-loved and well-used element of their daily lives) and a large butler’s pantry cleverly concealed behind a cavity slider.
“We planned it out together,” says Bridie, “then Tony had his specs for the cabinets sent to a CNC cutter (a computer-controlled cutting machine). We finished the cabinets and then had them sprayed in bulletproof two-pack (automotive high-gloss paint, also called 2K) to match the wall colour.”
They focused the budget on a bespoke benchtop and quality appliances, and the result has been a beautiful, functional kitchen for half the price they were quoted.
Although architecturally designed, the home still needed to be tweaked for modern living. With the kitchen successfully modernised and open to the adjoining living spaces, Bridie and Tony turned their attention to the rest of the home, focusing on creating functional, beautiful and fun spaces. “A couple of years ago, Tony converted the attic space into a playroom for the girls with the ultimate accessory: a fireman’s pole down into Ava’s room. The extra space is fantastic for storing all their bulky toys and, now they are getting older, it’s a winner for sleepovers,” says Bridie.
Another innovation was a working space for Tony’s personal coffee roastery and craft beer brewery, which has meant the garage has literally doubled in size. “Tony really can build and make anything that he puts his mind to – his ingenuity still amazes me,” says Bridie.
The overall effect of the interior is charming, with glowing timbers, delightful nooks and a combination of modern homewares and vintage finds. In each room there is a layered, lived-in feel, with family heirlooms positioned in pride of place, each with its own story to tell.
“We have been fortunate to inherit some fantastic pieces,” says Bridie. “A favourite is our Jon Jansen dining table – commissioned by my grandmother at the end of the 1940s and complete with matching sideboard. We have restored it and it will stay with us for ever.”
With a predominantly neutral colour palette combined with original features such as a large stone fireplace and natural timber floors, the house provides an excellent canvas for Bridie’s continuously evolving style. “We have a slightly mid-century vibe going on,” she says. “The house is also perfect for introducing modern shades and texture to the interior. I am currently in love with deep jewel colours, soft pinks and hints of mustard.”
As is often the case with stories of true love, this one has deepened over time as the family have grown to love their home and truly make it their own. With the vibrant city and its northern beaches within a stone’s throw, the Zaloums enjoy a year-round holiday vibe. “It’s a real hub for family and friends, and we love to entertain outdoors,” says Bridie.
The landscaped property has a lush, tropical feeling and has been kitted out with a Tony-made jungle gym and outdoor fireplace. As 10-year-old Ava eloquently states, “We don’t need a holiday home. We live in ours every day.”
Words by: Tina Stephen. Photography by: Helen Bankers.