Inside homes

Inside a Wellington home large enough for a busy family of seven

Creating a home large enough to cater for their family of seven was no easy feat for this Wellington couple, but the result is a huge heritage home full of light, life and love


Who lives here? 

Matt Christie (manager at IBM), Sarah Christie and children Boston, Baker, Anabelle, Bridie, and Paddy, plus Kybi the Labrador, Oreo the cat and Mr Bunny the giant rabbit.


If you think white interiors and children don’t mix, you haven’t been to Sarah Christie’s house. Despite having five children under 15, the Wellingtonian has the sort of relaxed attitude to interior design that has allowed her to renovate her Kelburn home in various shades of white, cream and beige.


we’re not precious about stuff

“I love the vintage Scandinavian look, which combines a modern aesthetic with vintage items and fabrics such as raw linen,” says the former New Zealand representative runner. “Fortunately, we’re not precious about stuff,” she laughs.

Designed by prominent architect William Gray Young in the 1900s, the two-storey home looks nothing like it did when Sarah and husband Matt first set eyes on it in 2014.



“It was dated and freezing and basically a series of little boxes,” remembers Sarah. “Plus the front of the house had a terrible extension added in the 1980s.” Using bridging finance, the family had only three-and-a-half months to renovate the interior. Sarah, who was recovering from ovarian cancer at the time, called on friend Rebecca Ormsby to help manage the rebuild.


Adding character

The vintage French kitchen island, which Sarah bought in Martinborough, is the beating heart of this home and it’s not unusual to find 15 kids clustered around it after school.

I’m not a fan of perfect surfaces.

Imperfections add character

The wooden floors throughout the 270-square-metre home are the original matai boards, liberated from layers of manky carpet. Sarah had them sanded instructing the sanders not to remove imperfections. “I’m not a fan of perfect surfaces. Imperfections add character.”

An original chandelier was moved from the entrance to the dining room, and in its place hangs a large industrial lampshade found in Bulls. Sarah is a fan of vintage scales and the proud owner of several; a large specimen, and one of her favourites, stands in the entrance hall. “It came out of Matt’s old rugby clubrooms years ago and has travelled with him from house to house.”


Art & styling

The entire space was doused in litres of Resene ‘Bianca’ for the walls and Resene ‘Alabaster’ for the trims, to create a light-filled, airy, welcoming feel. Gorgeous old furniture and reclaimed pieces fill the house with character. As with the floorboards, the door handles and window catches got the lived-in look with Sarah calling on a friend from the famous Weta Workshop to “rough them up”.

Because Sarah dislikes built-in wardrobes, most of the bedroom storage is freestanding, with old filing cabinets re-purposed as drawers.

The two striking painted wooden artworks in the family room and dining room started life as headboards in China. They came from Redcurrent and are apparently meant to bring good luck.


The reno

Downstairs, the first things to go were several walls, which allowed Sarah and Matt to reconfigure the space to incorporate a living room, dining area, kitchen and additional family room where slouchy, oversized sofas add to the relaxed vibe.

A toilet, accessed from the outside, was removed to make way for a stainless-steel kitchen bench which runs the seven-metre length of the southern wall. It also freed up space for a roomy butler’s pantry. Sarah opted for grey subway tiles for the kitchen splashback because they pick up on the colour of the building’s original sarking, which has been left exposed on the opposite wall (pictured top left).

“The builders thought I was mad keeping the sarking boards. I spent a whole day scrubbing the wall but it adds a point of interest and pays tribute to the original structure.”


Sarah had a bit of a challenge getting the builders to install full-length windows in the kitchen and family room, but fortunately she won and the result is a light-filled space that provides sweeping views across Kelburn’s hills.

Upstairs, a large area at the front of the house – used by the previous owners to store artworks – was turned into two rooms, bringing the total to five bedrooms. A small porched area off the master bedroom was converted into an open-plan bathroom featuring a shower and claw-foot bath with views across the valley.

Down the hall, the main bathroom’s heavy wooden door came from their previous home, while the usual vanity has been replaced with a minimalist wooden bench. The upstairs hallway is illuminated with marine lights spray-painted white to create a seamless look.

Words by: Sharon Stephenson. Photography by: Nicola Edmonds.