North & South art director and columnist Jenny Nicholls joined forces with spatial designer Michelle Ben Zur to update her space-starved Waiheke cottage – with stunning results
When North & South art director and columnist Jenny Nicholls bought her 1940s cottage on Waiheke in 2007, it was more holiday crash pad than the permanent home Nicholls needed. “There was enough shelf space for a few cans of spaghetti and some togs, but not enough for my books or even my shoes!” You couldn’t swing a cat in the kitchen, and the rainwater tank was the size of a washing machine. To cap it all, everything was a dreary beige, except the carpet, which was grey.
After the first crucial purchase (a bigger rainwater tank), Nicholls set to work bringing colour into the house with some nail-biting online buys. The mercury gold glass lights, linen curtains and Fornasetti fish wallpaper were all impulsive sale bargains from US website anthropologie.com.
Then a fortuitous island friendship with spatial designer Michelle Ben Zur made everything easier. “I saw her house,” says Nicholls, “and thought: I need some of that!” Ben Zur made architectural drawings of Nicholls’ two-storey home, reworking the kitchen, dining area, bathroom and laundry without changing the footprint. “I thought I could do the interior design myself, but it is much more efficient working with a professional. Michelle is an ideas machine.” Setting cube shelves into the kitchen wall, for instance, freed up space in the kitchen and, in a stroke, also made space for a bookshelf in the bedroom.
Ben Zur supervised the building and tiling and even designed the bookcases and lighting herself. “I’m beige phobic – I love mixing patterns,” says Nicholls. “A great designer like Michelle is a personality flavour enhancer.”
Words by: Irving Carey. Photography by: Rebekah Robinson.