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the lovely bones

From Habitat magazine - issue 17

A grand old home with great bones has become the canvas for some adventurous colour and a collection of pre-loved pieces.

When Vincent and Sarah Heeringa first saw the old villa they now live in, Vincent likened it to “a gracious old lady whose stockings have sagged”. Rumpty, rented out and looking the worse for wear, the house however had a long and proud heritage.

Art Deco sofa
Green reading nook
Sofa: An old Art Deco sofa was recently recovered in a selection of patterned fabrics. The walls are Resene Scandal and the architraves are Resene Norway.  Sarah: Sarah in the large bay window added early last century.

Built in 1852 as Allendale House, it would have once been surrounded by farmland. Now, it’s tucked behind commercial buildings in Auckland’s Mt Albert and while the approach to the house isn’t picture-postcard, the large back garden and established trees make you feel far from the city.

Originally a two-storey cottage encircled by verandas, it had villa features added to it later on. The house certainly spoke to the heart of the couple. It’s grandly proportioned rooms, original features, fireplaces, attic bedrooms and age were a good match with the couple’s love of retro and vintage pieces. And it now caters well for their four children – Levi (17), Tobias (15), Theodore (11) and Wilhelmina (9) – one dog, one cat, and four chickens.

White villa exterior
White kitchen shelving
Villa exterior: The grand home dates from 1852 and now has Resene Joanna weatherboards with Resene Lemon Grass trims.  Kitchen: New kitchen doors in Resene Black White were added.

Sarah and Vincent then had to reconcile their views on sustainability with buying an energy-sapping, cold and draughty house.

Sarah is the editor of Good magazine, New Zealand’s lifestyle magazine for simple, healthy living, and the recent winner of Supreme Magazine of the Year.

Art Deco wooden trolley
White dining room
Trolley: An Art Deco wooden trolley holds a collection of glassware, decanters and soda syphon.  Kitchen: Plenty of display space is crucial, especially in the kitchen.

Says Sarah: “I’ve written a lot about our country’s substandard housing stock, about poor insulation, the lack of passive heating, and how homes are typically not built for sun. And this house is typical of its era, built for the outlook but they somehow managed to position it to repel the sun completely.”

But the couple sees it as the ideal house to raise teenagers, have out-of-town family to stay and to entertain friends. Basically it has lots of space, with good bones but can’t be easily wrecked.

Clawfoot bath
Black dining room
Bathroom: The downstairs bathroom opens up to the garden, and has a clawfoot bath finished in Resene Magnum with Resene Silver Aluminium feet.  Dining room: The dining room is a moody night-time space in Resene Black.

“We appreciate the age of the house and didn’t want to mess with that, but still want it to be comfortable and energy efficient.”

It is also the perfect canvas for Sarah’s eclectic tastes, a home where she could use a variety of colours in the quite distinct rooms and not worry about decorating an open-plan space.

When they bought the house, the hallway was painted red, “which was really too much.” That and the kitchen are now painted in varying strengths of Resene Drought with trims in Resene Black White while other rooms are allowed stronger colour. “I’ve learned that you can be bold if you balance that with neutral spaces,” says Sarah.

Green bedroom
Outdoor dining set
Bedroom: The inspiration for the main bedroom was a Frida Kahlo painting. The intense green is Resene Camarone. Other walls are Resene Rice Cake. Get the look with Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen tinted to Camarone. Outdoor table: An old setting is refreshed in Resene Origin for the table with Resene Spring Fever and Resene Home Run for the chairs. Even the market bag has a partial paint job, in Resene Holiday.

Seven-year-old Willa and Theo (11) with a hen, eggs and Oscar the dog.

Hence, the main living room is Resene Scandal with trims in Resene Norway. This room had been painted by the previous owner; using two tones of green wouldn’t have been something Sarah chose but it really works, giving the room a Victorian summer room feel. Sarah has enhanced that feeling with floral upholstery and botanical themes, including a recently recovered sofa in a mix of florals and stripes.

Then there’s the Resene Black dining room, a complete contrast. As a night space, it has red curtains and one wall wallpapered in a partly glossy small stylised floral print.

The main bedroom has a feature wall in Resene Camarone, inspired by an artwork by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo “I wanted a zingy fresh green for the bedroom, to create a bright but also unisex space.”

The clawfoot bath in the downstairs bathroom has been transformed using Resene Armourcote and dark blue Resene Magnum with Resene Silver Aluminium feet – and plans are afoot for a jewel-coloured feature wall.

Sarah and Vincent also tackled the daunting task of repainting the large exterior, with Resene Joanna weatherboards, Resene Lemon Grass trims and a Resene Grey Friars roof. The window sills and front door are from the heritage range in Resene Bright Red.

Says Sarah: “I am fascinated by why people choose to live where they do and what ‘home’ means to people. Villas feel like home to me, probably because I grew up in an old farmhouse, and have always lived in old houses. There’s a Dutch word ‘gezellig’, which means cosy in feel – including the concept of togetherness, warmth, sociability. I’d like that word to apply to my house and for my children and any guests to remember that feeling forever.”

The challenge

Sarah's tips for an eco-renovation

Accessories: Freestanding stove: Smeg. Mesh-door cabinet: French Country. Sofa fabrics: The Fabric Room. Upholstery by Auckland Instyle Upholstery.

Alternative solution – a play on scale

elements of surprise add interest to this scheme

Rebecca Jansma of Space, Grace & Style suggests this alternative scheme:

Alternative solution 1

This scheme is an interpretation of the ‘modern classic’ look: a blend of classic styling elements juxtaposed with very contemporary colours and a smattering of quirky modern and mid-century pieces to add an element of surprise. By being unconventional you can add interest and personality to a space, rather than it being too prescriptive. I also like to play with scale – in this case by using a floor lamp, the shape of which is generally seen on tables. The colour scheme is serene and the design motifs classically inspired in keeping with the period of the home. Yet the unconventional elements keep it fresh and provide a reading room of classic elegance.

Classic elements are given a twist with accents in Resene Zion, main walls in Resene Quarter Stonewall and trims in Resene Half Villa White. Resene Black is used to paint the fire surround, and Resene Walnut from the Resene Colorwood interior wood stains range is used on the timber floor. The room also features a Virginie bone inlay mirror from Vixen & Velvet, a white King floor lamp from Luke Furniture and a stencilled zebra rustic cow hide rug from Saddlemans of Santa Fe.

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Accessories: Augustine wingback chair in charcoal linen, Isabella Desk in antique black, from Town & Country Style. Cushions in Sanderson Zahra, from Sanderson Fabrics. Gold glazed ceramic stool, from Meizai.

Alternative solution – the Great Gatsby

glamour and opulence abound in this scheme

Catherine Huckerby from Homebase suggests this alternative scheme:

Alternative solution 2

This look is inspired by the roaring 1920s, a time of prosperity and opulence. It was the setting of the classic novel The Great Gatsby, which is about to be made into film once more. Glamour is key to creating the look. Colours of this era were inspired by nature: yellows, deep blues and sea greens. Here, a feature wall in Resene Black Sheep contrasts dramatically with the rich tones of Resene Timbuktu. Resene Gold Dust metallic paint on the woodwork reflects light and adds to the sumptuous look. A gilded antique mirror, beautiful chandelier and carved furniture add glitz while over-sized furniture pieces upholstered in rich velvets and topped with silk cushions add decadence. Another element is the geometric shapes of the Art Deco era, represented in the rug. Accessorise with beaded lampshades, coloured glassware, exotic lacquer boxes or trays and, of course, a cocktail cabinet.

Rich colours give a decadent feel to this Great Gatsby themed living room. The back wall is Resene Black Sheep, the side walls are Resene Timbuktu and the architraves and skirtings are Resene Gold Dust from the Resene Metallics and Special Effects range. Also used is a chaise lounge from David Shaw, a chair from Le Forge and artwork from the Art Bureau.

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Accessories: Louis XV1 style gold mirror, from Vintage Revival. Deep-buttoned ottoman, from David Shaw. Empire rug, from Designer Rugs. Bombay chest of drawers, from CC Interiors. Le Maison basket chandelier, from Shady Lady Lighthouse.

words: Sharon Newey
pictures: Toaki Okano (bathroom by Charlie MacKay; outdoor setting by Tony Brownjohn)
illustration: Malcolm White

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