Fans of online homeware store SE3 will swoon over the Auckland villa owned by its founder Fiona Shine. And not surprisingly, it’s decorated to perfection
A grand villa on Auckland’s North Shore with a dream kitchen
Three years ago, the Shine family was on a mission to find a house they could make a home. Moving to New Zealand from London, they wanted to make the most of the Kiwi lifestyle and buy somewhere close to beautiful beaches.
They soon discovered that Auckland’s North Shore ticked that box and the search was on. Fifty houses later (yes, 50!), Fiona and Richard Shine found a beautiful old villa in Torbay and knew it was the one. “I fell in love with the flow of the house and size of the rooms,” says Fiona. “The house had a great family feel to it.”
The house was perfect for them… but that’s not to say that it was perfect. The original part (now the children’s bedrooms and a lean-to kitchen which no longer exists) was built circa the 1880s. It’s listed on the district plan as a heritage house. Its first owner was the manager of the kauri mill, who managed the milling and export of kauri logs, brought in by scow from the Coromandel. Over the years the villa had been tinkered with by each of its owners, undergoing many extensions and changes. By the time Fiona and Richard found it, it was in need of some love and a pretty thorough overhaul, starting with the electrics and wiring.
“We started on the electrical switchboards, alarms and hard-wired smoke detectors to bring them up to current standards, but it snowballed into something much bigger!” says Fiona.
Before they knew it, the Shines were head-first into a major renovation which they juggled with family life, busy law careers and the launch of Fiona’s new online homeware store, SE3. Getting a project manager on board is what kept them sane, and provided them with expert knowledge and sage advice along the way.
First they renovated the master bedroom, living room, office and children’s rooms – where they found their best surprise of the reno: removing false ceilings revealed gorgeous original panelling. They also lifted the carpet in the children’s rooms and discovered original wide-plank flooring which they promptly sanded and varnished.
Next on the list was a new ensuite bathroom and kitchen, which is now Fiona’s favourite room in the house. “I love my kitchen – it’s a great entertaining space,” she says. “We splashed out on appliances, including a big black Aga range cooker which provides a focal point for the kitchen. I love the space I have to cook in behind the kitchen benchtop.”
The pared-back, clean, beautiful space you see now belies the work that went into getting the house to this state. The Shines fixed parts of the roof, installed new guttering, put up new Gib and skimmed walls, and replaced and repaired skirting and architraves in the original style. Old laminate flooring and carpet was ripped up in the kitchen and hallway to make way for solid tawa planks, to tie in with the original flooring in the living room, and new carpet was put down elsewhere. They had a gas line put in from the street for cooking (which Fiona swears by) and an Infinity hot water system.
Bringing the home up to spec energy-wise was important for the family. Like a lot of old houses, the place was cold, so in went new insulation. They were keen to install solar panels but unable to make alterations to the external part of the house without obtaining consent so instead went with LED lights throughout to reduce electricity costs and help the environment.
Once the gritty part of the renovation was done, it was time for the fun bit: styling the house, which was a cinch with Fiona’s SE3 connections and love of design. “I’ve always been into interior design and renovating houses. I loved art when I was young and got into art school, but at the last minute I decided to go to law school instead! I guess this renovation and SE3 has enabled my creative side to come out while also working as a lawyer,” she says.
The monster renovation the Shines undertook certainly wasn’t for the faint-hearted, but they are pleased they bit the bullet and went for it. “I’m proud that we took on a big project – bigger than I first realised – and managed to see it through to the end. We love that it has so many quirky features, from the beams and internal coloured glass doors to the old tawa floor.”
You might think with the renovation almost done, Fiona would be making the most of that tranquil living room and putting her feet up for a bit. Think again…
“Once we complete these renovations, we’ll start a new project – probably the garden. I tend to have a lot of things on the go at once – it’s just the way I am. No time for standing still!”
Words by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Jackie Meiring.