With a couple of kids under two, this hard-working tradie has transformed her home one colourful room at a time.
After a massive villa renovation in Island Bay in 2018, builders Nikki Kettle and Tom Taylor were determined to find a home that
didn’t need any work done. “We said to each other, we can’t do that again. We wanted to find something that was move-in ready, single level and with drive-in access,” says Nikki.
They found it in a sweet Greytown bungalow. “The plan was to move in and not touch anything because it was tidy. Very dated, but tidy,” she says.
That resolve lasted two weeks before Nikki pulled down the first wall. “When you’re a new mum and all you do is sit down during the day breastfeeding and looking at walls for hours, you start to wonder what you can do with those walls.” No one was as shocked as Tom, who arrived home to a newly framed doorway and an unabashed Nikki saying, “Honey, I pulled a wall down.” This phrase has since become the namesake of her Instagram account @honey_i_pulled_a_wall_down where their unplanned reno is documented in entertaining detail.
Within the first month of living in their new house, Nikki and Tom had ripped out the old carpet, which was not only on the floors but also the walls – “am I supposed to vacuum up the wall?” Nikki remembers thinking – then put in new carpet, skirting boards and painted the interior white.
Nikki’s penchant for paint is evident throughout the home. Her first flirtation with painted pattern was on a pantry wall where, after spying some eye-catching tiles on Instagram and failing to find a retailer that sold them, she decided to create her own stencil and paint them instead.
Her next mural was in the entryway. This time, looking for a way to help an inherited piece of artwork fit the space better, Nikki painted a green arch on the wall.
“Then I said to myself, you know what would look good? A whole lot of arches,” she says.
Pretty scallop details also appeared in baby Harper’s room and a striking half circle in cobalt blue was painted for two-year-old Jude’s room.
The palm tree in her lounge was the product of late-night breastfeeding and a can of black paint left out in plain sight. “I did that one while Tom was in bed, I stayed up between feeds and just got to work. He was quite shocked when he got up the next morning and saw a new mural in the corner,” she laughs.
By the time Nikki and her paintbrush had made their way into the kitchen, her flirtation with murals had turned into a full-on love affair. The ’70s-style mural is the piece de resistance in her colourful home. “I normally get a whole lot of test pots and they’re usually wrong first time, but it’s okay because I’ll use them as my basecoat, and then go back find the correct colour to go over the top. But for this one, I think I only changed the black. Believe it or not, there are many shades of black – I loved all the other colours, it was such a fluke.”
It’s not just the walls that have been transformed by Nikki’s artistic touch, the ceilings have also caught her creative eye. The lounge, which the family has dubbed “the music room”, was the first to get a colourful glow-up.
“This room was an addition the previous owners had put in as a formal lounge off the kitchen – that’s the wall I pulled down – and we ended up using it as a storage room because we would never go in there,” says Nikki. In an effort to make the room more usable she cleared it out, moved the piano, record player and leather couches in and created the gallery wall of music-inspired prints.
But, it was still missing something, “so I painted the ceiling.” Nikki decided to take the bold cobalt-blue paint down the wall ever so slightly, so the ceiling would feel less like a “lid”. She’s done the opposite in the main lounge, where Resene Gelato makes an appearance on the ceiling – but not quite to the edge. “I did that in an effort to lift the ceiling up, it’s quite a dark, long room and I wanted the scotia to feel taller,” explains Nikki.
“I’ve always liked colour,” she says. “I think my style has evolved from my budget. You create a style out of what’s available to you. For me, that was secondhand ’70s furniture, and it just went from there.”
To say Nikki and Tom have been hands-on in this reno is an understatement. The two builders have done all the labour themselves – often with a baby strapped to their front or back.
The kitchen, despite being three years old when they bought the house, was “supremely unfunctional”, says Nikki. They ripped out the pantry cupboards, and then framed up and built a scullery. The clunky overhead cabinets in the kitchen also got the chop.
They’ve been cut down and reused in the laundry, and have been replaced with open shelving with recycled timber from their old kitchen bench. Nikki and Tom also added the kitchen island and created a breakfast bar from an old bench she salvaged from a building site.
The laundry was a mere “super tub in the garage,” which didn’t pass muster for the young mum. So, with some plywood and subway tiles that she bought during a hardware warehouse sale and a stock benchtop from another home improvement chain, she built her own laundry. She also fashioned a hanging rack out of Tom’s garden rake and built a seat for their mudroom with the remaining ply.
“It’s tough doing it all ourselves with two kids under two. We’re lucky that we’ve been able to buy and live in an amazing house and that’s only possible because of our trade”, says Nikki.
Words by Bea Taylor. Photography by Anna Briggs