Time, effort and an expert way with textiles has helped transform an early 1900s house situated on the edge of a hill in Auckland into a cosy family home
In 2010, Meredith and Michael (Mike) planned to renovate a tiny Auckland bungalow the couple owned. Unfortunately, the cost of the project kept escalating and after a fair bit of deliberation, the couple decided to park their renovation plans. They realised they could have everything they wanted for less, simply by moving to a new house. After several months of searching, the couple found an almost perfect house not far from where they were living. As co-owner of an online linen textiles company called Homebody, Meredith’s interior style reflects her love of linens, textiles and a monochrome palette. Meredith’s carefully selected pieces can be found around her home, injecting a sense of luxury and individuality to this striking family abode. Here, Meredith talks us through her project and shares with us some tips on how to refresh a space.
Can you tell us a little about what the house looked like at the time of purchase?
The house was built in 1905 and had been renovated five years prior to us buying it. Unfortunately, it had a lot of features we never really liked, such as creamy/yellow walls, high gloss orange-toned timber floors, a bland kitchen with an ugly frosted glass splashback, frosted glass windows in the main living area, hideous brown curtains in every room, beige carpet and no lighting features. The previous owners had moved overseas during renovation, so they had finished everything quickly without really caring about the aesthetics. Additionally, there was no planting in the garden despite it being a large section – just concrete and grass.
Were there any special features you fell in love with?
Yes. When we viewed the house for the first time the front entrance was nothing exciting, but the moment we stepped inside we fell in love with the stunning views that look out to Little Shoal Bay, across to Rangitoto and the Coromandel, as well as taking in the cityscape and Harbour Bridge. The house also had a few remaining original period features such has high ceilings and rimu floorboards. Despite their dated glossy orange hue, we could tell the floorboards were beautiful. But the previous owners had put a high gloss varnish on them, which made them look very orange.
I knew the second I stepped inside I wanted to re-do them, but we had to wait nine years before we could justify the cost. Additionally, the main bedroom and ensuite take up the entire third floor. It feels like we’re sleeping in the clouds as we’re situated on the edge of a hill. No one looks in on us, so we can sleep with the curtains open looking at the trees and down to the local bay.
What changes did you make?
The home’s layout couldn’t be faulted, however we never liked how the previous owners had decorated the house. Everything was in good condition so we couldn’t justify the expense of updating the interior in the first few years, but in 2019 we decided to give our home a much-needed makeover. The changes we made include:
• Tiled the front entrance in black and white statement tiles
• Updated the kitchen splashback in black subway tiles
• The frosted windows were removed and replaced with clear glass
• Installed new plantation shutters in the living room and girls’ bedrooms
• Papered a feature wall in the lounge using Anaglypta wallpaper from Artisan Collective
• Installed pendant lights over the kitchen bench
• Sanded the timber floors and blonded them
• Laid new grey carpet throughout
• Panelled the main bedroom wall
• Hung new blinds and curtains in the living spaces
• Painted the entire interior of the house.
What things did you do yourselves?
Mike and I did most of it. We also had help from Mike’s dad, who is a retired builder. I would tell him my ideas and he would make them happen. Mike’s dad did the tiling at the front entrance as well as installing the splashback in the kitchen for us. This year he panelled the wall, painted in Resene Jaguar, behind our bed which we absolutely love. It’s such a feature of the room now. He also made the very practical plywood desk and shelf in our office – he fixes all my mistakes. I bought an old sideboard off Trade Me and tried to paint it black, but he couldn’t handle the imperfections, so he took it away and re-did it for me. I’m so glad he’s a perfectionist.
I sanded and painted most of the interiors but got the professionals to do the more intricate areas, such as the stairs and main living area. I updated the kitchen cabinetry simply by spray painting all the chipped stainless-steel handles black. Such an easy, cheap DIY job but it made huge difference. In terms of decor, I’m a big fan of scouting around op-shops and upcycling old pottery with chalk paint. We’ve painted quite a lot of old furniture too although, funnily enough, I’m starting to like the natural wood look again so maybe I’ll strip all the drawers in the bedrooms back again. Mike will kill me because often he gets roped in to finish my whims.
Any unexpected challenges?
Yes, unfortunately we had a nightmare with the timber floors. The brief to the flooring company was to get rid of all traces of orange gloss. Unfortunately, when we came to have a look at the first coat of polyurethane, they had returned them back to orange. I was devastated. After some stressful conversations, we went for a blonding agent and we absolutely love the new light look. It’s changed the whole feel of the house.
You own a beautiful homewares business, how has it influenced your design ideas?
Hugely. I worked as a marketing manager for a leading homeware retailer for six years before starting my own linen textile business with a former colleague. My interior style
is similar to the textiles we create – strongly monochrome with pops of colour, pattern and texture. I love the idea of mixing patterns with plains or stripes and that’s one of the main reasons we created Homebody. My business partner Toni and I both felt frustrated at the lack of printed linen to go with New Zealand’s obsession with plain coloured bedding. I’ve kept to a fairly neutral palette at home and used our prints to add some drama. I love the idea of buying good quality white or grey bedding but using linen pillows and cushions to funk up the look – it makes our space unique. I’m constantly switching around the linen accessories in the rooms for an instant refresh.
What was your favourite room to decorate and why?
All of it. I have a compulsive decorating streak. I don’t feel the house will ever be finished – it’s ever-evolving. The layers we’ve created over the years tell the story of who we are. This home is our sanctuary, which we’ve put a lot of time and effort into creating. We love being homebodies now. It’s an absolute joy to live here.
Words by: Annick Larkin. Photography by: Helen Bankers