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A Wellington villa renovation 14 years in the making

Filled with junkyard treasures and with a design aesthetic that ‘takes some effort’, this Wellington villa is living proof that good things take time


Meet and greet

Jessica Godfrey, general manager of Acme Cups, Sven Wiig, freelance art director, and Otto, 9.

A Wellington villa renovation 14 years in the making

They say good things take time. This may be true in the case of wine and cheese, but it’s not what you hope for when planning a quick property flip. Take Wellington couple Jessica Godfrey and Sven Wiig.

They bought their three-bedroomed 1907 villa in 2003 with the plan of renovating and flicking it for a profit within two years. What actually happened was they started a family (Otto joined them in 2008), took six years to complete the interior, and only finally laid down their paintbrushes last year. Ah, the best-laid plans…

The original house

While Jessica was on her OE in 2003, Sven was tasked with finding a home the couple could do up. They were desperate to get into the market while they still could, gunning for a house in central Wellington rather than a remote suburb.

With their budget of $240,000, they did find something. It was a northwest-facing villa with a 3.2m stud and hardwood floors (albeit under grotty floor coverings) – but it was in a terrible condition.


“So much needed doing to make it liveable,” says Jessica. “The kitchen was a preserver’s kitchen, with bright yellow floor-to-ceiling cupboards and not one single benchtop. There was a very old sink and an oven from the early 1970s.

Our refrigerator had to stand in the middle of the room as there was no space for it. The house was damp (it wasn’t long before we found out why), every room was painted a different gloomy colour and the bath was falling through the floor.”

The reno plan 

Sven knew exactly how he wanted to transform the house. The couple had been poring over villa renovations in magazines and watching friends renovate similar houses with success. Looking past the gloomy colours and tatty flooring, they could see the potential. The home’s future layout was obvious to them right from the get-go.


“We knew exactly which walls to open up and exactly where to put French doors and add decks,” says Sven. “We already had floor choices, tile types and the wall colours in our minds before we took possession. I don’t think we used a single testpot or got any samples – our aesthetic was just so clear.”

The first thing they did was paint the three bedrooms, living room and hallway. It immediately freshened things up and made the interior more cohesive.

The bathroom and kitchen

Their next move was decided for them: the bath fell through the floor, leaving a hole in the floor and the wall – not really the indoor-outdoor flow they were looking for.


Because the bathroom and kitchen are next to each other, they worked on them at the same time so all the plumbing could be done at once. And since there wasn’t any running water during this part of the renovation, they moved into Jessica’s sister’s house for six weeks… “Ten months later we were thanking them a lot,” laughs Jessica.

The kitchen

Sven spearheaded much of the renovation but Jessica had a wishlist for the kitchen: subway tiles, a butler’s sink and pendant lighting to make the most of that striking high ceiling.


The fabulous industrial lights in the kitchen were pulled out of a factory – they’re explosion proof. Jessica also had her heart set on a kitchen island. “It means you can chat to people while you cook, plus it gives me a ‘stage’ for my espresso machine!”

DIY king

Art director Sven undertook all the plans, consents, design and building himself, including some tricky details such as the curved pantry door, which involved joining, curving and laminating 18 layers of ply.


Almost everything in the house was either found in a skip, a tip shop (the bath and toilet were $10 each), on Trade Me, or at a church junk sale (the dining chairs) or was made by Sven (the dining table, bed, all the joinery in the kitchen, and the shelving in the living room). He also gave new life to the old rimu kitchen cabinets, spray-painting them with white car paint.

The decor style

“We wanted the interior to be in keeping with the era of the house but also contemporary,” Jessica says – a style they’ve christened ‘Victorian industrial chic’. Of course, the first thing visitors comment on is the colour in the home. “We do like colour a lot,” says Sven. “It takes some effort to get it right. It’s safer to just be black, grey and white but it’s also really boring.”


The future

It may have been 11 years behind schedule, but the Godfrey-Wiigs had over a decade to enjoy their central Wellington home before they finally sold it late last year. Now they’re onto a new renovation – this time without a deadline!

Words by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Nicola Edmonds.

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