This mum-of-one with an eye for eclectic design never planned to live in her grandparents’ old Napier villa, but fate had other ideas
Meet and Greet
Hannah Feltham, 45 (designer; runs Good Space home organising and styling), and Grace, 8, plus Peggy the Staffy
Hannah Feltham never intended to buy the house her father grew up in – she didn’t even like villas – but after an open-home visit “just out of curiosity” in 2015, she decided that night to buy the century-old Napier property that had once belonged to her grandparents.
“It went on the market so Dad said, ‘Let’s just wander around and look at the old family home,’” says Hannah. “I didn’t actually love it – I prefer 1970s houses – but I liked that there was that family connection and the big tree and the pool. It’s also quite hard to find a house on Hospital Hill in a sunny spot.”
The designer and mum-of-one also liked the amount of room she would have for her furniture and collectables. “I could finally put everything out and not have stuff in storage, and really let loose with all those nooks and crannies for putting things on display,” she says.
Hannah was just as surprised as anyone to find herself the new owner of a heritage villa.
Hannah’s connection to the house began with her grandparents, but it continued through her own childhood, when it was fortuitously owned by friends of the family.
“We always went there for barbecues and swimming and I had sleepovers with their daughters, so I knew the house well,” she says.
Hannah now sleeps in the same room that her grandparents once did, while 8-year-old daughter Grace is in her great-auntie Jane’s old room and often scales the same tree in the garden her granddad once climbed as a boy.
The house was quite “higgledy-piggledy” when they moved in, with rooms full of old wallpaper and carpet, but Hannah knew immediately how she wanted to modernise. She got to work planning her overhaul on a modest $35,000 budget. Within a week of moving in, she was already ripping up the carpet, pulling down the old curtains and peeling off wallpaper.
“I’m quite an instant person. I can’t just go, ‘We’ll do this over a couple of years.’ I’m more, ‘Let’s get into this straight away.’”
Hannah kept the bathroom almost in its original state by just painting the walls, replacing flowery tiles with subway tiles and refreshing the cupboards, bath lining and floor vinyl.
“In a bathroom, you could lose $40,000 and I just didn’t have the money,” she says. “But put a bit of art in there and it looks cute.”
Hannah’s experience renovating a previous home on a shoestring meant even the country-style kitchen was given a fresh look without spending big bucks by simply respraying the cabinetry and tiling the walls.
“The kitchen was quite a good lesson in keeping a bit of the old and just making it work – I was going to get rid of the wooden bench and replace it with something brand new, but ended up keeping it, and it works.”
She had to save for the ducted central heating, which came a year – and a further $30,000 – later. “We did one cold winter with the old fireplaces that didn’t work, and then put the central heating in, which was the best thing.”
It’s amazing what a lick – or five – of paint can do. With the walls covered in either yellow-and-white-striped wallpaper or brown tea-coloured paint, Hannah began by painting everything in her favourite colour, Resene ‘Bianca’.
“I’ve always painted my houses that colour,” she says. “I always use Quarter Bianca on the ceilings and Half Bianca on the walls.” Hannah did most of the painting herself, save for two rooms. After removing the wallpaper in one of the lounges, it took five coats of paint to get it right, but only after she learned an important lesson about sticking to her guns.
“In that room we got a painter in who convinced me to go full Resene Bianca on the walls because he said it would be softer. I went away to Taupo for the weekend, and when I came back it was far too cream, so I had to paint it again in Half Bianca.”
The budget didn’t allow for any structural remodelling, so Hannah focused on creating different spaces from the existing rooms, including turning the old dining room into a sunroom. “I made the spaces that were there work better,” she says.
On one side of the home are three living areas: the sunroom, a playroom for Grace and an adults’ lounge. The adjacent main living room, kitchen and dining area open to the pool and outdoor entertaining area. Hannah loves this central hub where she can watch Grace swim while she cooks.
Upstairs are Hannah’s and Grace’s bedrooms, along with the family bathroom and laundry, while a third wing downstairs contains three further bedrooms, a washhouse and another bathroom.
Hannah says there are two rooms she adores: the sunroom for curling up with a book, and the “eff-off lounge”. This is the grown-ups’ retreat, a place she takes visitors when she’s had enough of entertaining for the night.
“When I want people to go home after dinner, we go in there for last drinks – it’s close to the door. People are like, ‘Are we nearly in the eff-off lounge?’ And I’m like, ‘You’re really close; I need to go to bed,’” she laughs.
Both rooms are peaceful, with big French doors that open out onto the patio and extensive lawn. “They always have the most amazing light,” Hannah says.
Hannah describes her aesthetic as a “real mix with a neutral palette”. For many years she worked for acclaimed artists and designers Leanne and Brian Culy, who live just down the road, and says they taught her how to “see the beauty in things that aren’t the norm” – things that hold meaning and history.
“I used to hate going into people’s houses when they’d say, ‘I want this look out of a magazine,’ and it’s like, ‘Well, where’s the stuff you’ve collected for 20 years? Where’s your life?’ I’ve collected my teeth and Grace’s teeth under little globes, and Mum’s old fairy books she had as a child – just use things you have.”
For a couple of years, Hannah’s then-husband and his children helped to fill the large house. However, the property has now become too big for just Hannah and Grace so, after receiving an offer they couldn’t refuse, they’ve recently sold the home.
“It was unsettling when the big house sold, but it was nice we got to spend that time in the place Dad grew up in,” she says. “Homes are so important to me; they always have been. I just need to have that space and that’s where I’m happiest.”
Words by: Bonnie Sumner. Photography by: Florence Charvin.