Inside homes

How to add traditional styling to a new-build

This sprawling, single-storey new-build in Tauranga is anything but one-dimensional. Quality materials, heritage bones and personality-plus make this a stand-out family home


When moving from one new-build to another, homeowners often tend to replicate the favourite aspects of the house they are vacating. Not so Glen and Sara Stewart. The new house they now call home, sited down a quiet lane in Tauranga, bears no resemblance whatsoever to their previous house further up the highway in a rural setting.


“In fact,” says Sara, “we’ve done a complete flip around, from a modern home in the country, to a villa-style home in the city.” New-build number one featured expanses of polished concrete floor, steel beams, glass and stainless steel. New-build number two, a sprawling single-storey with wings, features weatherboard, large verandas complete with fretwork, rustic and French-country touches, and a less- than-restrained approach to wall and window treatments.


The dream
“I wanted something that felt more homely and welcoming and where we could incorporate some antique pieces from family members,” says Sara. “I didn’t want it to be minimalist, but neither did I want clutter, and I was also keen for more colour – I wanted to be brave about colour.”

The wand was waved, and it seems that every last wish has come true – even down to the two recently re-covered German tub chairs from Sara’s great, great, great grandfather and the ornate mirror from her grandmother, which look perfectly at home in their new surroundings. These heirlooms keep company with many antique-shop finds, such as the old church pew at the dining table and the kitchen’s gun-metal enamelled lights which hail from England. The 1940s light in the powder room was one of the first pieces Sara purchased for the house and inspired similar, larger versions for the lounge and master bedroom.


The colour
Sara has realised her ambition to take a braver approach to colour with the help of Tauranga interior designer Jacqui Mitchell, of Twill Interiors, who provided the required confidence boost. The home’s weatherboards are a gentle duck-egg blue, the girls’ rooms are painted soft pink and blue, and in the kitchen an entire wall of splashback tiles in an unusual soft green-grey supplies the perfect foil to the white, airy space. In the lounge a sophisticated grey warms the walls.

The location
The Stewart family have plenty of love for the home they’ve cleverly and tastefully created in the Tauranga suburb of Bethlehem.


The final touches
Sara and Glen – with some parental assistance – have had plenty of hands-on involvement sourcing beautiful and unique things to fill their new home. Their fossicking unearthed the ceiling roses, the veranda’s fretwork, the timber for the living area’s raked ceiling, and the old bricks for the internal feature wall and landscaping. The front door, from an old villa, was a Trade Me find which Sara then adapted by replacing the opaque glass with custom-made leadlights which repeat the motif in the veranda’s fretwork.

The couple say they not only love their new home, but they have also enjoyed the process of creating it. “If I had to pick my favourite feature I’d say the wall of old bricks between the entry and dining room, but in general I just love the feel of the house we’ve made,” Sara says.

The wallpaper
Sara confesses to being “a little quirky” and is happy for her home to reflect that. Wallpaper is a fantastic way to express your individual taste and Sara has employed it to great effect. The design in the powder room and connecting hallway is a particular favourite.“It’s called ‘Topsy-Turvy’ and at first glance it’s like an old-fashioned floral in muted colours. But when you look closely, it’s got fish kissing birds, and jewels hanging from branches. I love that surprise element; how at first it looks very grown up and then it’s, ‘Oh wow!’”

Yes, she has been asked on numerous occasions how she got the butterfly wallpaper, in the master bedroom, past her husband. “Perhaps because it’s scientific-looking, rather than ‘pretty pretty’,” she muses.

The planning
Aspects of Glen and Sara’s home can be attributed to Sara’s childhood years. Between the ages of 6 and 18, Sara lived in Papua New Guinea. The coastal homes her family lived in there had wide verandas, as does this house, and internal shutters.

Sunlight also had a major role to play in the design of the Stewarts’ house. They came up with the idea of a u-shaped wing configuration around a courtyard as they knew it would work well in catching the sun. High on the must-have list were window seats and these can be found in the family area off the kitchen, the master bedroom, and in the playroom at the end of the girls’ bedroom wing. “We can migrate around the house, with the sun, to the various window seats,” Sara says.

Words by: Monique Balvert-O’Connor. Photo by: Angela Keoghan.