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How a creative couple repaired their quake-damaged villa for $60,000

Faced with a major budget crunch, this resourceful couple needed all their ingenuity to turn a quake-damaged villa into a beloved home

Meet and greet 

Kiri Penfold, interior stylist, Skot Penfold, senior project manager, Inovo Project Management, Tane, 20, Gabe, 18, and Milan, 14, plus German shepherd-ridgeback cross Theo.

How a creative couple repaired their quake-damaged villa for $60,000

When Kiri and Skot Penfold sold their family home to invest in a business venture, little did they know it would be more than 10 years before they would become homeowners again. When that time finally came, in 2016, the old Christchurch villa they bought was earthquake-damaged and far from perfect but a combination of hard graft and prudent purchases have turned the place into their own slice of Kiwi paradise.

“We purchased the home for $300,000 and had a budget of $60,000 to repair and redecorate,” says Kiri, a creative interior stylist. Given the size and vintage of the home (it was built around 1900), fixing it up was always going to be a challenge. When the cost of re-piling gobbled up more than half of the already squeezed budget, only the couple’s positive attitude and complete faith in their ability to make it work carried them through.

Kiri dismisses the praise for her clever home makeover. “Clever? Not really. I’m just thrifty. If there’s a way of doing it myself, I just do it.”

What are the priorities?

The unexpectedly high cost of stabilising the villa necessitated a rethink of what could be achieved. “Our renovation budget was fixed so we had to reconsider our priorities and adopt a DIY attitude where possible,” says Kiri.

She and Skot had been seduced by the home’s original features – sash windows, skirting boards, cornices, architraves and ceiling roses – so it was imperative that these were retained in the makeover. “We both love villas. We loved this place from the moment we first saw it advertised,” Kiri says.

The previous owners had lived there for 37 years and their 1970s and ’80s decor was still very much in evidence. “We decided we would do what we had to do and learn to live with things that didn’t actually offend us,” says Kiri. The acoustic ceiling tiles, Palliside cladding (uPVC weatherboards) and interior doors from the wrong era would all have to stay. The pale grey carpet used throughout the villa was in good condition but the dated lino was torn up and replaced with sticky-back vinyl flooring from Bunnings.

Repainting the skirting boards and sash windows was deemed too costly and time-consuming. “‘Pearl Lusta’ would not have been my choice but it made economic sense to keep the colours consistent,” says Kiri. “We had to match the wall paint to suit what was already there.” She added some flair, though, by wallpapering feature walls and painting the art which adorns the home. The kitchen was transformed with new cupboard doors and a composite benchtop.

Fearless and unfazed 

Kiri first discovered her passion for interior styling as a teenager. The family home flooded during a renovation when a tarpaulin blew off during a rainstorm, and Kiri’s mother gave her free rein to redecorate her damaged bedroom. “Mum disliked everything I chose, but when the room was finished she admitted mine was the best room in the house,” Kiri laughs.

Over the decades Kiri has honed her interior design skills, using her creative flair to benefit friends, family and work and charity events.

“I love theming and creating special spaces,” she says enthusiastically. Making bold choices – despite opposition – has never fazed her. “When I showed friends the ‘Mr Fox’ wallpaper by Scion, they were very dubious. Now it’s up (along the staircase, page 61), they all love it!”

A little help 

Both Kiri and Skot have had a long involvement with the building and construction industry. Those contacts, combined with a large network of friends and family, enabled them to achieve great results with limited resources. For instance, when they realised that many of the rooms had to be rewired and various lights needed replacing, an electrician friend offered his expertise. For her part, Kiri set about finding an assortment of affordable and funky fittings.


A trusted team of plasterers was brought in to restore the original hand-plastered cornices and mend walls where the lath-and-plaster needed repairing.

For two months prior to moving in, Kiri and Skot worked tirelessly on the project. “We were both working full time and we would come here and toil away till the early hours of the morning. Our kids recall it as the two months when they didn’t have parents,” Kiri says. “We pulled out the kitchen, painted, sanded. Anything we could do, we did.” It would have been too expensive to remove textured wallpapers so the pair painted or wallpapered (in the case of the lounge and stairwell) over these instead.

“Mum used to work for Hurst & Drake, a paint and paper supplier. After watching Mum tackle wallpaper, paint and furniture repair over the years, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t hang paper myself,” says Kiri.

That can-do approach has been used to great effect in the master bedroom. At one end of this large room Skot and son Gabe, an apprentice builder, built a freestanding wall which screens the wardrobe, and Kiri customised ready-made sheer curtains by sewing pom pom fringing down the edges.

How to buy well 

Kiri admits to two addictions: coffee and Pinterest. “I get energy from coffee and inspiration from Pinterest! I see things on Pinterest and think to myself, ‘I can do that.’ Then I keep myself awake at night wondering how I can achieve the effect.”

Kiri has a great eye for buying and loves a bargain. Much of the home’s decor has been salvaged or repurposed. “I love finding things that have a story.”

The bergère lounge suite in the master bedroom was found on Trade Me and brings back memories for Skot of his grandmother. The six fire-alarm covers on the laundry wall were unearthed in a Christchurch salvage yard, and the French glass-drying rack – which now makes a colourful display on the wall opposite the kitchen – was snapped up at The Store at Tai Tapu. The glass fruit bowl and egg stand have been made from crystal bowls and goblets, stacked on top of each other and glued with clear glass adhesive.

Kiri is a dedicated Trade Me shopper who has “learned to buy well”. “I decide how much I’m willing to pay for items, then I place an auto bid and walk away. I never look back; that way I don’t get caught in a bidding frenzy.”

One of her favoured shops is vintage store Overflow in Mayfield, Mid Canterbury, were she heads twice a year. “It’s a great place and we almost always find treasures there. We always take a vehicle with a big boot, but I only buy things that I have a place or a purpose for.”

Into the future 

As keen socialisers, Kiri and Skot found that the dining room was not big enough for the way they like to entertain. Their interim solution has been to knock out the wall at the end of the carport and use the space for al fresco dining during the summer. However, Gabe will soon start work on replacing the old decking around the side of the house to create a better outdoor living – and entertaining – space.

Additions to the villa over the years include the closing-in of the front veranda to create two sunrooms on either side of the original front door. Kiri is keen to remove these rooms and return the entrance to its former glory.

Other items on her blacklist are the lowered ceilings in the bedrooms and the acoustic ceiling tiles in the kitchen, back entry and dining area. One day Kiri would love to reinstate the original ceilings and high stud.

For now, though, the Penfolds are simply enjoying the delightful home they have created in the suburb of Burwood. “The neighbourhood is awesome,” says Kiri. “We wake up and watch the sun rise over the cabbage tree, listen to the birdsong, enjoy the fragrance of the garden and we simply don’t want to leave.”

Costs (approx)

+ Kitchen $8000
+ Stabilising foundations $35,000
+ Gas hot water system $4000
+ Painting, wallpaper $5000
+ Flooring $2000
+ Electrical work, lights $3000
+ Curtains, blinds $3000

Words by: Ady Shannon. Photography by: Kate Claridge.

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