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Maximising space was key for this do-up in West Auckland

Although they were first time renovators, this family transformed their Avondale do-up with creativity and a clever eye for detail

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Meet and greet

Yuka O’Shannessy, owner, director and curator of An Astute Assembly, and owner and designer of fashion label Yuka&Tristan, Tristan O’Shannessy, design director at Marx Design, Hana, 10, and Monae, 8, plus Franky Jackson the cat.

Maximising space was key for this do-up in West Auckland

Yuka is Japanese and came to New Zealand in 2003 to study fashion. She met Tristan O’Shannessy later that same year and the rest, as they say, is history. In 2010, looking for a larger home for their young family, the couple found a do-up in West Auckland which ticked plenty of boxes.

“We were instantly captivated by the garden which is surrounded by a variety of mature native trees,” explains Yuka. “It’s very private and tranquil, despite living so close to the city, and the well-established glass house was a wonderful bonus.”

The home is located on a quiet cul-de-sac in Avondale, just west of the city centre. With two young daughters, the peaceful street was a huge drawcard. “We immediately knew it would be a great environment for our girls to grow up in,” Yuka says. Further still, the fact that the house was being marketed below the couple’s budget meant they could afford to renovate parts of it and really stamp their mark on the place.

The original state

The house wasn’t in complete disrepair but certain areas were calling out for some serious TLC. Nothing substantial had been done to the interior since the house was built in 1969 – the laundry was dated and the small kitchen was anything but functional.

The retro Formica benchtops had seen better days, and the beige carpet installed by the previous owners had only been laid in parts of the house. Outside in the large rear garden, the vege patch had been planted smack-bang in the middle, which was sensibly returned to lawn once the family took ownership.

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Making it their own

Yuka and Tristan were quick to remove the patchwork of carpets, exposing beautiful, original rimu flooring underneath. Next on their to-do list was the tired family bathroom which was screaming out for an update. Making over the bathroom was the couple’s first ever experience in renovating, and due to a combination of excitement and rookie mistakes, what was supposed to be a shoestring upgrade morphed into a budget blow-out.

It was after this experience that they decided to get some professional advice. “Tristan and I drew up our dream layout before Tristan’s brother, Nye O’Shannessy, cast his professional builder’s eye over it,” explains Yuka. The couple then engaged an architect to complete their working drawings and submit their plans to council.

The final design ensured their top priority – seamless access from the house to the rear garden – was implemented. Internal walls that once separated the kitchen and living areas were removed to create a spacious, open-plan living, dining and kitchen zone and large bifolds (picked up for a song on Trade Me) were installed to open onto the garden. “It was like living in Tokyo – when you have a small space to work with, you get quite creative,” says Yuka.

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A family affair

Tristan’s brother Nye, a builder by trade, project-managed the entire renovation and completed most of the structural work himself. Tristan was also very involved in the build, even as far as hand-crafting the concrete kitchen benchtops on site.

“We turned our hands to almost everything,” explains Yuka,” including all the internal and external painting.” Yuka was more involved in the interior design. With her strong creative streak and eye for detail, the end result is an eclectic mix of styles and eras cleverly tied together.

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Kitchen creative

The rustic, industrial-style kitchen was designed entirely by the couple, with Nye providing some valuable input into the final design. Lacquered white cabinetry was chosen to complement the timber shelving, rimu floor and concrete benchtops.

A slate-tiled splashback provides contrast to the cabinetry and the black-painted underbar (the panel under the bench) helps pull all the design elements together. Exposed-bulb pendant lights over the kitchen island provide task lighting as well as creating an industrial vibe.

Work from home

“I had worked from the dining table for the longest time,” explains Yuka, “and although this had both advantages and disadvantages, it came to a point where I needed more space.” With no extra room inside, they took their ideas outside and transformed the garage into a light and airy showroom and workroom. The simple white palette creates a calming and inviting atmosphere and also allows it to double as a studio for photoshoots.

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Child’s play

The girls’ shared bedroom was the final piece of the renovation puzzle, with Yuka and Tristan surprising their daughters with a room makeover. A simple and modern palette of white and ply means the girls won’t outgrow the decor and can easily accessorise and update their space with new bedlinen or art.

Yuka painted a chalkboard wall, which not only gives the space texture but provides an outlet for the girls to unleash their creativity, or keep track of after-school activities. Tristan made the small wardrobe more accessible by removing the doors and installing ply sliders, which gives the room a lot more floor space.

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Summer fun

Now that all the hard work is done, Yuka, Tristan and their daughters will be making the most of their home’s wonderful indoor-outdoor flow over the summer months. “The bifold doors will be cast open and we’ll be hosting plenty of summer barbecues in the back garden,” says Yuka.

Words by: Annick Larkin. Photography by: Todd Eyre.

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