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How this cake-maker transformed her Auckland home with vintage style

When this cake queen and her husband first saw the ‘banana house’, they thought it was time to split. Twelve years on, it’s a confectioner’s dream

Meet and greet

Trudy Nicholls, caker and co-owner of Cherry Cake Company, Alaric Nicholls, 42 teacher, Reon, 9, and Parker, 6, plus Cocoa the chihuahua.

How this cake-maker transformed her Auckland home with vintage style

When Trudy and Alaric Nicholls decided to start a family, they knew their tiny Hillcrest, Auckland, home wasn’t going to cut it. After much hunting – and the inevitable frustration that comes with not finding The One – the couple visited a home, also in Hillcrest, that Trudy’s mum saw in Property Press.

“We thought it was dreadful – the front garden was overgrown and the house was lemon yellow and shaped like a banana,” recalls Trudy. “We were going to walk back up the driveway, but then figured we might as well have a look.” They entered a dated but practical, sunny home. It had the necessary storage space downstairs, plus three bedrooms and a large, north-facing section. “We quickly decided that the ‘banana house’ was for us,” says Trudy.

Let’s get cookin’

The banana house had all the ingredients for a wonderful family home, so who better to whip it all into shape than a professional caker? Trudy is an award-winning cake artist and co-owns Cherry Cake Company with business partner Kelley Tahitahi. Despite their home being ripe for renovation, Trudy and Alaric had their work cut out for them – the yellow exterior was matched by interior hues of toothpaste green and royal blue.

For Trudy, planning the aesthetic changes to her home was fun. “There was plenty of magazine-thumbing (thanks YH&G!) and my parents’ house was a huge source of inspiration – they are potters and their house in Northcote Point is eclectic and full of treasures,” she says. Furthermore, Trudy was lucky enough to have her brother Jack (a builder) and sister Isabella (an architect) to lend a hand. Her own style is vintage-influenced and fun-loving with a bold sense of colour, which is clear to see in the home’s vibrant decor.

Colour craft

“The first thing we changed, almost as soon as we moved in, was the Smurf-blue bathroom,” says Trudy. “It was very old with a dated vanity and grotty walls.” The couple had the whole bathroom stripped before installing floor-to-ceiling tiles, a new vanity and an ornate mirror, as well as plenty of additional storage. Next on the list was fresh paint and new blinds for the bedrooms.

Soon after eldest son Reon was born, Trudy and Alaric employed a team of painters to replace their home’s yellow skin with a more classic charcoal grey. “After a few more years, we attacked the kitchen and living area – a new benchtop, splashback and stainless-steel island, and new bifold doors out to the deck, which has made a huge difference to the appeal and usability of the area,” explains Trudy.

Recently she colour-matched the pink lacquer on her dining table and painted the staircase in the same hue, creating an eye-catching focal point for visitors.

A perfect curve

The unusual, banana-shaped layout of Trudy and Alaric’s house works well for their family. It’s almost divided into two wings, with the living, dining and kitchen areas in one half and the bedrooms and bathroom in the other. “It’s the perfect design as we can get the kids to bed and have our own space in the living area,” explains Trudy. Bifold doors in the living and dining rooms open onto a substantial deck which overlooks the large rear garden and offers views out to the distant Coromandel Peninsula.

The lower level offers ample storage for tools, bikes, sporting equipment and the unavoidable paraphernalia that comes with having young kids. A large office is shared by schoolteacher Alaric and Trudy who, as well as being a busy mother of two young boys and a hard-working business owner, also finds time to teach cake design. As a result, a variety of demo cakes and sugar skulls are displayed like wondrous works of art around her home.

Caker’s delight

Unsurprisingly, Trudy’s favourite room to redecorate was the kitchen. “This is where I spend most of my time and it was really important to me to have an area where guests feel comfortable and welcome,” she says.

She is especially fond of the pressed-tin splashback, which was recommended by kitchen designer Joanna Gilmore. This kitchen tells a story, with treasures such as mixing bowls and sugar shakers passed down from Trudy’s great-grandmother, some of her father’s early pottery, and part of her substantial cake-stand collection all on display. A striking splash of Komar ‘Romantic Pop’ wallpaper by the pantry adds a wonderful punch of colour and pattern to the otherwise light, white space.

Just right 

The wonderful thing about this home is that you can’t help but smile when you walk in. Much like its owners, this house is a welcoming, bright, colourful and happy place to be, and is an honest reflection of the style of the people who live there.

“It works well for us as it is not a ‘precious’ house – we don’t have to tiptoe around or worry about getting things dirty,” says Trudy. For this clever mum and cake maker, her house really is the top banana.

Words by: Annick Larkin. Photography by: Emma MacDonald.

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