Despite being happy in their Auckland house, this young couple found their forever home almost by accident
Meet and greet
James Rigden, director of Superette, Renee Rigden, founder of Renee’s Kitchen Food & Wellbeing, Sloane, 5, and Bay, 3, plus George the cat.
This stylish North Shore home has an indoor slide for the kids
Renee and James Rigden were happy in their Auckland home and had plans underway to extend it. Then they stumbled across a late-1960s, four-bedroom house for sale in Castor Bay on the North Shore. At first glance the house was nothing special – it was run-down, with dated paintwork and tired bathrooms, but the spacious footprint, 1500-square-metre section and sea views immediately had Renee excited.
“I loved the feeling of the house as soon as we saw it,” Renee recalls. “I loved the elevation, privacy and views from every room. It had a feeling of space that we couldn’t get with our other home, no matter what changes we made.”
Having renovated previous houses, the couple weren’t put off by a bit of DIY. “I think renovating and improving property is a bit addictive,” says Renee. And the cherry on top? The neighbours were pretty nice – in fact, their good friends lived just over the fence, close enough to pop over for pizza and pool parties in summer but distant enough for comfort. “We did seriously ask whether they would mind if we bought next door! It has worked out very well; we are still good mates,” Renee says.
So the deal was sealed and James and Renee started planning how they could transform their new family home.
Smashing it out
With two renovations under their belts, the Rigdens knew first-hand what living in a building site was like and made plans to do what they could to avoid it.
“We did a good chunk of renovating before we moved in – mostly the really messy stuff and the bits we didn’t want to live through if we could help it,” Renee explains. In a full-time, 10-week blitz the couple had contractors in to rebuild the stairs, replace the wooden flooring, lay new carpet, paint the entire interior in Resene ‘Double Alabaster’ (“I love the fresh chalky white,” says Renee), build wardrobe organisers, put new curtains in bedrooms, rewire and upgrade lighting throughout, and rebuild the top deck. It was a productive time!
The Rigdens also added in a quirky feature they knew would be a hit with their kids: an indoor slide. Running alongside the stairs, it’s definitely the preferred option to get to their playroom on the ground floor. “We wanted to rebuild the stairs because their layout was strange and didn’t really work in the house, and James suggested we add a slide. He often has ideas like this and they always work out, so we ran with it. It adds an element of fun to every day,” laughs Renee.
Piece by piece
After their initial 10-week reno to make the house “habitable”, the Rigdens slowly knocked off the other, less urgent jobs on their to-do list.
During the first year they repainted the exterior – the old black paint may have looked sharp once but it hadn’t aged well, bubbling and flaking in the hot sun. Painting the outside is a huge job that most people put off, but Renee has learned to make it a priority. “With our last two homes, we left painting the exterior until the last few months before selling, but that was a mistake. It makes a huge difference to the look of a house so we did it early this time, so we could enjoy it,” she explains.
The following year, the couple worked on the bathrooms, staggering them so they always had one available for use. One of the resulting spaces, an amazing bathroom with an oversized shower and bold framing, was a luxury investment, designed by the talented team at Material Creative. These award-winning industrial designers do a lot of commercial work (such as boutique hotels) so they know how to make a statement through design. The couple fell in love with their style after working with them on the Superette fashion and homeware stores, which James co-owns.
An individual style
The couple prefer a pared-back style that starts with a fresh, clean base. Then they add texture and layers from there. Much of their decor and furniture has been collected over time. “We really just choose things we love and, after being together for 14 years, we have accumulated quite a lot. Many of the trinkets and artworks around the home are pieces we’ve picked up on travels,” says Renee.
Art is everywhere in the Rigden home, including the kids’ rooms. “I think, with art, you just like what you like. Most of our artworks are quite bold. The piece in our bedroom is by Blacklist and we have some pieces from when Superette used to hold art exhibitions. James has always wanted a painting by Charles Goldie and we were lucky enough to have Enu, a local Auckland artist, create a portrait in a similar style for us,” she says.
The couple are always adding to their decor with Superette homeware, candles, cushions, marble pieces and coffee-table books. But they’re conscious of avoiding the feeling of a ‘don’t touch’ home – Renee says comfort and practicality are key with small kids.
Doing it for themselves
Many homeowners are mindful of making changes that will appeal to future buyers, but that wasn’t a concern for Renee and James. “We know we want to be here long-term so everything in this renovation we did for ourselves, not the next owner – like building a slide!” Renee says. “Creating a home that’s perfect for us meant we were happy to spend more time or money to make sure we got the result we wanted.”
With a home that perfectly suits their family and no plans to move on, Renee was still keen to get her hands on another reno project, so she’s now beautifying a 100-year-old villa that they plan to sell. She promises, though, that it won’t catch her eye as a family home like this one did. “We are not going anywhere! It is nice to enjoy what we have created here.”
Words by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Wendy Fenwick.