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How this interior designer enhanced the character of her villa with a full renovation

Ten years after moving in, this interior designer completely gutted her Auckland villa to transform it into her dream home

Annick and Tim Larkin hunted for a new house for nine months before realising it would be better to renovate their current home to better fit their family’s needs.

Although Annick is an interior designer, it was the first renovation she’d tackled for her own home. “I knew that I’d eventually want to change things down the track, so I tried to keep things really simple to allow for that,” she says.

The end result, with its mix of simple tones and striking finishes, is the perfect blend of fun and functional and offers plenty of space for the couple and their three children. Here, Annick walks us through the project and shares what she’s learned.

1. The decision

Why did you renovate?

Annick: When we purchased our Remuera, Auckland, home in 2009, we only had Lottie, who was six months old at the time. It suited the needs of our small family, but by 2012 our family had grown, with the arrival of Esther and Tom. The house worked okay while the kids were little, but once they were all at school and more independent, it didn’t function so well.

We looked at buying a new house for around nine months, but we couldn’t find anything that suited our needs and was in close proximity to the kids’ schools. After making the decision to renovate, it took over two and a half years before we started.

Having lived in the house for 10 years, did you have specific ideas on what you wanted to change?

Yes. The kids all needed their own bedrooms with a decent wardrobe and room for play and study, and we wanted a second living room/play area for the kids. Tom’s bedroom was originally situated directly off the kitchen, which was impractical. We wanted the bedrooms to be in one zone that you could close off from the family spaces.

We also needed an extra bathroom/ensuite as one main upstairs bathroom servicing five people was insufficient. Plus we wanted to achieve better flow, and have a kitchen that worked efficiently, plenty of storage and more space in general.

As I work from home and Tim often has work to do after hours, we needed a study where we could both work. We also wanted a separate, sound-proofed space for the children to play their instruments (all three play the drums and Esther also plays guitar), so we converted the garage into a music room and office.

In addition, we wanted to fix walls and floors that weren’t plumb so we could get rid of draughts from old, badly fitting windows and doors and eradicate the mould caused by not having insulation.

2. The plans

What did the planning process involve?

We originally engaged an architect who had some incredible ideas which we absolutely loved. Unfortunately, when we got the quantity surveying report done, the plans needed to be seriously reined in as the estimated cost was triple our budget! It was really disheartening so we shelved the reno plans for about six months.

During this time I tinkered away and drew up literally hundreds of different layouts until I came up with a floor plan that Tim and I agreed would work for us and not blow the budget. We had a builder give us an estimate, then engaged draughtsman Blair Miller from House & Ground, who drew up my plans and managed the resource and building consent process, which took a further five months.

What was your inspiration for the style and colour palette?

Our house was originally full of bold colours, which I loved but had grown tired of. I still wanted to use colour, but with a more refined and mature palette. I’m also a lover of wallpaper so I wanted to use it in some rooms for colour, texture and interest.

It was important that the house felt modern, light and fresh but, equally, I wanted to bring back her beautiful character features which the previous owners had removed. My kids are not great sleepers so I wanted to create rooms that were restful and calming, but were still fun and reflected their personalities. I wanted the upstairs living spaces to feel light, fresh and airy, and the downstairs to feel cosy and relaxed.

3. The overhaul

What changes did you make?

With resource, height and heritage restrictions, we were limited with our floor plan. For instance, we were only able to extend the south side of the house by the tiniest amount for our master ensuite (4 metres by 1.3 metres).

We gutted the entire house and moved a lot of walls plus demolished a decommissioned chimney and flue. Every wall, ceiling and window was replaced and the whole house rewired. We created four bedrooms off the central hallway and added inbuilt wardrobes in every bedroom, plus hallway storage for linen and towels.

We added skylights, sanded and polished the floors, installed a new roof and made the stairwell narrower to create more usable space. We also installed a new family bathroom and kitchen, opening up that area to make an open-plan living/kitchen/dining space. Downstairs, we reconfigured the entire layout to include a spare bedroom, kids’ rumpus, laundry and third bathroom. We insulated walls, ceilings and floors beyond recommended depths, and installed a ducted heating/cooling system, under-stair and attic storage, double-glazed windows and internal shutters in every room.

Did you do any of the work yourselves?

I was responsible for choosing and sourcing all the fixtures, fittings and finishes. I also designed the kitchen and had this drawn up and manufactured by Fusion Kitchens & Cabinetry. Apart from that, our amazing builder, Chris Marsh from Elevate Projects, and his team of tradies did everything else.

Chris’ eye for detail is second to none and nothing was ever too much trouble – if I changed my mind on something or wanted to add new detailing to a room, he would make it happen. They were incredibly efficient and we ended up only having to move out for four months, with the bulk of the renovation being completed during that time.

4. The features

How did you enhance the character of the villa?

We have a 3.8-metre stud so we wanted to accentuate this by making our doorways taller. We went from 1.8-metre doors to 2.5-metre doors – this also lets a lot more light into the central hallway. We installed a new front door with custom-made bevelled leadlights, which is one of my fave parts of the house. We added ceiling battens to the hall ceiling, wide, detailed skirting boards and character architraves and cornices.

We removed layers of lino and bitumen to uncover the original mataī and kauri floorboards which we sanded back to their former glory. Chris sourced reclaimed kauri boards so we could match the original timber floorboards throughout the kitchen/living area. Additionally, we had all-new timber double-hung sash windows custom made to fit the home’s era. We also installed a new tongue-and-groove front porch with character fretwork and rails, plus a large finial to complete the exterior roofline.

Any unexpected challenges?

The week before the reno was due to start I pulled up a corner of carpet hoping to find timber floorboards. Instead, I found layers of lino and a thick, ultra-sticky, black substance. Chris immediately came over and took samples from around the house to send off for asbestos testing. It was a nervous week awaiting the results, but thankfully no asbestos was detected.

We also had large amounts of timber stolen off the site and had an excruciatingly slow painter painting the exterior. He originally said he would need scaffolding up for two weeks; however, this ended up being in situ for five months.

5. The end result

How did you find the reno experience?

I absolutely loved it. It helped having an amazing builder/project manager on site. Chris would call me every morning to discuss what was happening that day and what was required of me, like having fittings, door and window hardware and cabinetry chosen/ordered/delivered. He understood my aesthetic and strove to make my ideas a reality. He made the reno stress-free and enjoyable.

Now your home’s been transformed, do you think you’ll stay here?

Maybe. Maybe not. We all love the house – however, I’m keen for another project. Let’s just say I’m always passively looking! This was our first reno, but I loved the process so much I’m super-keen to do it again.


Words by
: Fiona Ralph. Photography by: Emma McDonald


This article was first published in Your Home and Garden. Follow YHG on Instagram, Facebook and sign up to the fortnightly email for inspiration between the issues.

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