A dated 1980s cottage with views to die for was the perfect project for this clever working mum
For most of us who live in busy cities, a ‘good view’ counts as a skinny slice of ocean (in the distance) or maybe a really nice tree. For lucky Kiwis who live in our smaller towns and regions, the view can be a bit more special – perhaps a beautiful rolling hill or a stretch of picturesque beach. But at Jamie Lee Martin’s house, nestled in an unspoilt bay just outside Picton, the view is truly like something out of a painting.
Overlooking Whatamango Bay at the top of the South Island, Jamie’s 1980s house arrived in her life after a long wait for the perfect home.
“We were in a rental waiting for the right home to come along,” she says. “We’re originally from Wanaka and the Cromwell area, where we bought and renovated two homes. We did up another one in Picton while waiting for the right house to come on the market. We ended up waiting about eight months, but when we walked into this house and saw that view, it was all worth it.”
Built in 1981, the house had never been updated, so its wood panelling, lurid green bathroom fixtures and peach-pink curtains were all original and in dire need of a rethink. With their accumulated renovation experience, Jamie and her then-husband, Ben, knew exactly how to attack the project.
“We loved the house’s open plan, high ceilings and natural timber,” Jamie says. “But I hated the bathroom – it was pretty retro. Everything was in really good condition, though. It was just really dated.”
Jamie didn’t waste any time – on the day she, Ben and their children, Mason and Millie, moved in, she ripped down the old curtains, started painting the whole interior in Resene ‘Quarter Thorndon Cream’, and got builders in to add a balustrade to the slightly unsafe staircase. But her first big project was obvious.
“The bathroom was the number-one priority,” says Jamie. “It was so dark and dingy – even the toilet seat was wooden. I stuck with the same layout but installed a luxury deep bath and a huge vanity. It’s a big room so we tried to make the most of it on a budget. Luckily we had the use of the little downstairs studio bathroom while we renovated.”
That downstairs studio was another of the home’s assets that hadn’t gone unnoticed by Jamie. By installing a kitchenette and a lockable door, the space went from being simply a downstairs bedroom to a self-contained unit. “The area wasn’t so much of a selling point for us, but when we thought about it, we realised it would be really handy when family come to stay,” she says. “And later on I’ll use it for Airbnb.”
“I’ve always been a white and black sort of person,” Jamie says. “So I knew from the start that would be my colour theme.” After painting the kids’ shared bedroom, Jamie extended her black-and-white palette through to the kitchen and living space, and attacked the dated flooring as well.
“The kitchen and bathroom both had cork floors and the rest of the house was covered in pink carpet. We ripped it all up, starting with the bathroom, and laid new wooden floors throughout,” she says.
Laminate ‘click system’ flooring in ‘Honey Oak’ from Bunnings replaced the cork and carpet, making the whole upstairs level feel fresh and cohesive. Initially the flooring was laid around the old kitchen, but soon Jamie decided it was time to get rid of the dated cabinetry and thick, heavy wooden benchtop.
“It was so gross pulling out the old kitchen, but so worth it,” she says. “We kept the existing plumbing and power points, but moved the oven and stovetop.” White cabinets and a white laminate benchtop from Mitre 10 provided a cost-effective, yet modern, new look, with black tapware, sink, handles and rangehood adding that crisp contrast Jamie loves.
By stripping back the open-plan kitchen and living area to a simple scheme of black, white and natural wood, Jamie threw the spotlight on the home’s magnificent view of the bay, which is just a hop, skip and a jump away.
“I tried to bring colour into the space, but it’s really hard!” laughs Jamie. “So I just stuck to my usual palette. I didn’t want to take any attention off the view.”
Although the house already had two deck areas, plus a garden, some work was required to make them ready for Loader family life. “The downstairs deck was so weird. It was half hollow and full of lawn clippings, I think.
I don’t even know what it was!” laughs Jamie. “We filled in the hollow and laid more decking, and did some blockwork and a bit of planting.
I had bigger plans but we ran out of budget.” The upstairs deck was an easier undertaking that simply required new furniture. And again, with the emphasis being on the view, not a huge amount of work was required to bring the home’s exterior up to date. A simple coat of Resene ‘Bokara Grey’ completed the outdoor makeover.
When it came to furnishing her new home, Jamie started from scratch. “I change my furniture for every house,” she laughs. “I’ve always loved earthy whites and neutrals, so anything I found that fitted, I got.” By sticking with an aesthetic she describes as a combination of Scandi, boho and beachy, Jamie’s makeover of this home has brought it into the 21st century as well as making it ideal for family living.
“I love our open-plan living and dining area the most,” Jamie says. “It’s the most rewarding part. I try to entertain as much as I can and we love the occasional drink on the deck.” Despite loving her beautiful house by the bay, Jamie knows it’s unlikely to be her last port of call. “We’ve said with every house that it would be the last renovation! But I know this won’t be the last.”
Words by: Sally Conor. Photography by: Daniel Allen