Lots of love and lashings of flair have made this predesigned house a unique and treasured home
Here’s how a young couple turned a prefab into a unique family home
Angela Fairmaid is a self-confessed lover of villas and character homes, but when it came to finding a home for herself and husband Julian, practical considerations overcame her passion for the old. The couple were renting a character home in Christchurch city while looking to get a foot on the property ladder, but after trying to buy in the inflated post-earthquake housing market, they decided the smartest investment was to build.
At that time, Angela, an interior designer, was working as a colour consultant for GJ Gardner Homes, so it was a no-brainer to purchase a design-and-build package through her employer. Budget limitations ruled out central Christchurch, so the couple chose a site in Kaiapoi, 15 minutes north of the city. That decision proved to be an unexpectedly good one. “It made complete sense for us to build; we chose Kaiapoi initially for its affordability,” says Angela. “But now we love living in this community and being a little bit out of the city.”
Angela and Julian married in 2014, the same year they moved into their new home. They chose an economical three-bedroom, two-bathroom package with open-plan living. “We were just a couple at the time and, even though we planned to have a family, we didn’t need a huge mansion,” Angela says.
Angela was familiar with ensuring her clients were able to personalise their projects to suit their own taste, but being her own client was a strange position to be in. “I was familiar with the options but I became my hardest client,” she laughs. “Decisions are often determined by budget, but I have always advised people to spend extra money on the most important items. I think upgrading flooring underlay is really important, as is choosing the best-quality carpet you can afford.”
Soft-close drawers in the kitchen cabinetry and improved shelving in the wardrobes were two other areas that Angela typically recommended upgrading; she followed her own advice on all but one point.
Now with the benefit of hindsight, Angela says her strict focus on keeping costs down prompted some less-than-ideal choices. “We were very budget-conscious at the time we built this home, but now, four years on, I wish we had upgraded a few more things, like the carpet, which is already showing signs of wear.”
When it came to interior colours, Angela had no problem deciding on her palette. “I love colour, but I need my interior space to be a calming environment, so I chose restful tones. I want to feel relaxed when I come home at the end of the day.”
This practical attitude extends to the home’s furnishings, and Angela is always refining her decor. “Everything is function before form; absolutely the main priority is that things are comfortable and practical. If it’s not, it will end up being given away or sold,” she says.
As an interior designer, Angela is inspired by beautiful spaces, but she is down to earth enough to realise that family homes just don’t work that way. “My absolute bottom line is that a home needs to be lived in,” she says. “The designer in me wants perfection, but life doesn’t go like that. I can create the ideal balance if I can easily clear the clutter away at the end of each day.”
The Fairmaid home has been decorated in a way that is entirely child-friendly: off-white kitchen cabinets were chosen specifically for not showing fingerprints; benchtops and shelves house kitchen utensils beyond the reach of a toddler; and breakable treasures and tech are out of sight in converted cupboards and cabinets.
An antique glory box and vintage suitcases provide ideal storage for Georgia’s toys, a glass-fronted cabinet stores and showcases Angela’s growing collection of plates, and recycled wood and cane shelving units provide display space for collectables. Julian crafted the space-saving bookcase in the living room.
“With a two-year-old, nothing is too precious,” says Angela. “I have endeavoured to make things easy to look after and keep tidy. Everything has its place. We have plenty of storage but if there is no more room, I get rid of some toys. I can’t deal with clutter!”
The patio area is frequently used for entertaining friends and family. A picnic table, barbecue and comfortable outdoor seating make the space function as an extended living area. A macramé swing is especially beloved by Georgia.
Old meets new
Despite being a new-build, this home features a dynamic mix of vintage furnishings. Retro glass lightshades hang over the kitchen island and a secondhand timber table is surrounded by vintage mahogany chairs covered in original green velvet. A combination of new and vintage rugs are used throughout to provide interest, and Cleo the cat loves to curl up in the soft sheepskin that lines an old cane chair.
“The living area doesn’t suit large pieces of furniture so I’ve chosen furnishings in proportion with its size,” Angela says. Roman blinds have also been used to maximise the interior space. “Blinds are great for window treatments as they allow you to utilise the space under the window.”
Angela has recently given up full-time employment to concentrate on her artistic endeavours. Under the title Miss Vintage, she sells antique plates hand-painted with art and words, as well as teacup planters. Her favourite plates hang on walls in the living room. “I appreciate plates for their original beauty – I just upcycle them to give them a new life, and I custom design many to order. They come and go but I do find it hard to part with my favourites,” she says.
Working from the dining table, Angela loves the “uniquely Fairmaid” environment she has created – even though her home is not her dream character villa. “We have a low-maintenance, dry, warm house for our family. An added bonus is we know what is underneath in terms of ground stability and foundations. In Christchurch, that is always a comfort.”
Words by: Ady Shannon. Photography by: Kate Claridge.