Returning to Tauranga after a spell in the city wasn’t in this homeowner’s plan. But now, after a fresh renovation, being back in the Bay just feels right
Meet and greet
Keri Welham, writer, Dave, and Lyla, 8, plus Princess Sparkle the rabbit.
The house had poor connections between its indoor and outdoor living areas.
‘Prison cell-type’ fencing enclosed the pool, made the area feel small and restricted its use.
Rampant bamboo and agapanthus made a bank overlooking the water unusable.
Large bifold windows now open out from the dining room onto the garden and a stacking door connects the living area and pool.
The fence was replaced and the perimeter expanded to create lounging areas within the pool enclosure. A Caesarstone offcut forms a poolside bar leaner.
The agapanthus was cleared (the bamboo is next) and a sunken lounge cut into the bank.
Renovating their Tauranga home convinced this family to stay in the Bay
Keri Welham was loving life in Wellington and had no intention of ever leaving. However, when husband Dave received an appealing job offer in Tauranga she agreed to return to her old hometown – but only under protest.
“It was hard to imagine my life could be as full and vibrant outside Wellington,” she says. “I hadn’t really updated my view of Tauranga since living there in the 1970s and ’80s.”
The family moved in 2011 and, as a trial, rented a house at Mount Maunganui, a 10-minute drive from Keri’s parents’ house in suburban Maungatapu. After a few days of summer barbecues and early evening beach walks, the family were hooked on coastal living and decided to buy a house by the sea.
Fate intervened one Christmas night when Dave took an after-dinner stroll around the Maungatapu peninsula with his father-in-law and spotted a ‘for sale’ sign. Dave was certain this was The One but Keri clung to her dream of living by the beach. Eight steps inside the door, she was sold, too.
“In Wellington, our whole section was 400 square metres. We couldn’t believe we could buy this for similar money and have a pool, a view and more than twice the land,” she says.
Ready for reno
Three years later, in 2015, the family were feeling a little restless. They yearned for more light, better connection with outdoor living spaces, a new kitchen and bathroom and far more storage. After “real-estate stalker” Keri considered and rejected a series of alternative abodes, the couple found themselves embarking on a major renovation. This was no quick DIY do-up, though; they wanted high quality finishes that would last the distance.
“We kept working and got professionals in to do it. It was hard in the beginning because that decision comes with a much bigger price tag, but we had this great collection of mates working on the reno who helped us make smart decisions as we went,” says Keri.
Taking tradie advice
Once the walls and ceiling were all stripped back, the inevitable extras started popping up. The family seized the chance to install a wired security system and double-gibbed the lounge walls so raucous rugby-watching wouldn’t wake sleeping kids. Giant cavity sliders were selected in place of the standard ones they had budgeted for. Swanny, the plumber, suggested they forget about a filtered-water tap and instead prioritise replacing a power-guzzling water heater. And, having ripped off some external cladding, Jazz the builder sensibly proposed replacing all the weatherboard sections with new boards.
“Jazz told me when he thought certain features were a waste of money and was equally direct when he could see we were in danger of cutting corners – like with the weatherboards. He didn’t want us spending all this money and then dropping the ball at the end. He was right, but unforeseen expenses like that sure hurt at the time,” Keri says.
New bifold windows, which throw the dining room open to the garden, evolved into the home’s most expensive feature. Bricks had to be removed, steel beams installed and the switchboard relocated. “But that window has made such a difference to how we live,” says Keri. “Light and sun stream in here and we never used to use the space. Now we sit at the table all the time.”
A stacked sliding door opens onto the pool area and the “prison cell-type” fencing that hugged the water’s edge has been replaced and the perimeter expanded, to create lounging areas within the enclosure. Outside the kitchen window, an offcut from the kitchen benchtop has been turned into a poolside bar leaner.
Stay or go
Tempting as it may be for a real-estate junkie like Keri to move and renovate another home, she’s fairly certain the garden at this property will keep her occupied for years. With the pergola up, the hedging trimmed and a vegetable garden under way, she’s now focused on annihilating the rampant bamboo that’s killing off the native bush on the bank that runs along the edge of their waterside property.
“The best thing we did was eradicate the agapanthus on the bank and put in a retaining wall and sunken lounge. On a beautiful night, it’s an awesome spot to sit into the wee small hours,” she says. “This whole place is also kidtopia for Lyla, her mates – and her bunny.”
Words by: Sue Hoffart. Photography by: Rachel Dobbs.