A flair for upcycling, combined with some tricks of the trade, has transformed this tired Wellington house into a light, bright family haven
Meet and greet
Pip Hunter, ESOL teacher, Will Malone, builder and owner of iwillconstruct, Indy, 6, and Bella, 5, plus Marley the cat.
A Wellington home is renewed thanks to some skillful hands and DIY decor
While most of their peers were buying houses and settling down, Pip Hunter and Will Malone were busy collecting stamps in their passports. Wellington-born Pip and Brit Will met in Canada and did everything from working at ski resorts to backpacking across India. But when they had their first child, they knew it was time to get onto the property ladder.
Returning from living on the Gold Coast, they bought a modest do-up in Tawa, Wellington, which Will, a builder and tiler, renovated in his spare time. Three years ago they were ready to upgrade and set their sights on a four-bedroom, 190-square-metre house in Broadmeadows, nearer to the city centre.
While the location, layout, views and solid construction sealed the deal, the condition of the 1970s home wasn’t a dream come true. “Nothing had been done to it for 45 years,” says Pip. “It was owned by a hoarder, so there was junk everywhere and it was dark, damp and absolutely freezing.”
Armed with a minuscule budget and the knowledge that Will could do most of the heavy lifting himself, the couple forged ahead, purchasing the house and selling their old one all within a few days.
With living spaces in one wing and bedrooms in the other, this house works well for a growing family. Pip and Will were able to improve things even further by converting a large cupboard into an office for the couple’s building business.
This allowed them to turn the fourth bedroom into an art room for their two girls. Following in their mother’s footsteps, Indy and Bella love crafting and upcycling secondhand items, so a dedicated space to work on art projects is heaven, says Pip.
The house is filled with pre-loved treasures; a piano Will found on a building site was painted blue and now provides hours of fun. “It was free but ended up costing $300 because you have to get special piano lifters to move it,” says Pip.
Designer style on a budget
Although Pip’s family is well represented in scientific fields (she studied engineering, her father is a surgeon, her mother was a nurse, one sister is a doctor, another a physiotherapist, and her brother is a vet), Pip says they also inherited the creative gene. In fact, there isn’t much of this house that hasn’t been touched by Pip’s artistic flair.
This includes the many lampshades and chairs sourced from Trade Me and op-shops that she’s reupholstered. Even her father’s old naval trunk wasn’t safe: it now sits next to the front door and holds shoes. “Dad’s an orthopaedic surgeon and used his trunk to store skeletons. I sandblasted and painted it, lined it with fabric and built in some shelves,” explains Pip.
The surface of the dining table has also undergone a makeover, with Pip covering it in a patterned oilcloth found on Etsy. The chairs, all op-shop finds, were painted to match a framed tea towel by Australian artist Rachel Castle, who is a family favourite. The photographs hanging above the dining table capture moments from the couple’s trip to India and are showcased in a frame Pip upcycled from a window.
The first things Pip and Will did after moving in was rip up the old carpets, replace the chipboard floors with reclaimed timber and carpet the living spaces. Heavy damask wallpaper was stripped away and white paint liberally applied to the walls.
Because the couple were happy with the basic layout of their new home, there was no need for a large-scale reconfiguration of space. Instead, they reused existing spaces more efficiently to suit them and their daughters. “We relocated the family bathroom to the old laundry, moved the laundry to a toilet and turned the former main bathroom into our ensuite by blocking access from the hall,” says Pip.
Will also opened up the space between the kitchen, living and dining areas, moved the hot-water cylinder outside and blocked a door from the kitchen to the hallway, to create a linen cupboard.
A window in the dining room was replaced with French doors, while windows in the kitchen were enlarged to take advantage of the jaw-dropping views of Wellington Harbour. Last summer, Will finished building a 40-square-metre deck at the rear of the property, neatly covering over the previously unusable, boggy garden.
Because Will is a self-employed licensed builder and tiler who specialises in bathrooms, the wet areas in this house were always going to be special.
The main bathroom, which once housed a laundry, reflects the couple’s love of clean, Scandinavian design. Will’s talents came in handy when laying the concrete-look floor tiles and the white subway tiles by the shower, which he arranged in a herringbone pattern.
It was Pip’s idea to add a strip of ply above the tiles, which adds texture and warmth.Being in the industry meant a number of savings: while a similar bathroom would probably cost around $18,000, Will’s trade discounts and practical skills meant the couple still had change out of $8000.
It’s a similar story in the spacious ensuite, which used to be the main bathroom. Will blocked the hallway entrance and added access from the bedroom. “I always wanted a luxury ensuite and we’ve got it,” says Pip. “This room echoes the main bathroom, but we added the bath and Will got a great deal on some hexagonal tile seconds, which helped to cut down on costs.”
This hard-working couple are now keen to kick back and enjoy the fruits of their labours. It’s no wonder, after two renovations in quick succession.
“Our girls have lived in building sites their whole lives,” laughs Pip. “I’m sure one day in the not-too-distant future we will do another renovation because we like having a project. But for now, we’re going to put our feet up and enjoy it.”
Steal their Style
Words by: Sharon Stephenson. Photography by: Nicola Edmonds.