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small wonders

From habitat magazine - issue 36, small and colourful

Painting small spaces white to make them look bigger is a common interior design principle. These small homes break the ‘rules’ and prove it’s not the size of your home but how you use colour that matters.

You beautiful doll

Tourists often take photos of Gemma and Jeremy's wee home in Nelson, and it's sometimes compared to a dollhouse. The couple has certainly imbued the dwelling, built in 1886 in a Gothic Revival style, with a childlike sense of fun. When they took the keys six years ago, they wanted to complement its quirky European charm, painting joy onto the exterior with Resene St Kilda on the weatherboards, Resene Colour Me Pink on the front door and Resene Alabaster on the fretwork and fence.

A small Gothic Revival home

Gemma and Jeremy’s Gothic Revival home glows with Resene St Kilda on the weatherboards, Resene Colour Me Pink on the front door and Resene Alabaster on the fretwork, trims and picket fence.

“I always wanted a little house that was a bit different. When we went to the open home, I actually hugged the house on the way out, hoping it may increase our chances of securing it,” says Gemma.

“When we bought the house, it was cream with a green trim and was looking pretty tired. We wanted something bright and beautiful but in colours that you could also find on unusual quaint houses of the past. Resene St Kilda is the main colour, and we love it. It’s warm and interesting and pops against the frequent blue skies of Nelson.”

A tropical inspired dining room

Vintage living room

Dining room: With its walls in Resene Wallpaper Collection J929-14, the dining room embraces the Tropicana style of the 1950s and 1960s. While this design isn't available now, try Resene Wallpaper Collection 807509, Resene Wallpaper Collection 1907-135-01 or Resene Wallpaper Collection 220122. The ceiling is Resene Alabaster. Protect native timber flooring and trims with Resene Qristal ClearFloor (floor) or Resene Aquaclear urethane (trims).  Living room: The vintage drawers in the living room were upcycled into a display cabinet for a record player and given a lick of Resene Elephant. The soft floral of Resene Wallpaper Collection E375003 works a treat with Gemma’s eclectic mix of mid-century, 1950s kitsch and Art Deco pieces, such as her prized Beswick polar bear.

Gemma and Jeremy’s 100-square-metre home has just two bedrooms. The interior, decorated with Resene wallpapers teeming with flamingos, parrots and dainty flowers, is as colourful as the exterior.

“We really wanted unexpected designs that would complement the wood in the house and the things we love – and to shock our parents.

“The wallpapers provide warmth, interest and make this home ours. All the papers have a vintage or retro vibe, which is completely us.”

Gemma caught the vintage bug as a child. Her dad is an antique dealer, and as a child, she grew up in a former bank building in Mangaweka. They spent weekends hunting for treasures.

Resene Wallpaper Collection 1907-135-01
Resene Wallpaper Collection 1907-135-01

Resene Wallpaper Collection 220122
Resene Wallpaper Collection 220122

Resene Wallpaper Collection 807509
Resene Wallpaper Collection 807509

“Dad and I would go on buying trips together. I was often sitting in the front seat of our van on the way home wedged next to something fantastic.”

Now her husband Jeremy enjoys the thrill of the hunt as much as Gemma. Favourite pieces include a collection of Crown Lynn pottery with a pink colour glaze, Tretchikoff prints and a Cathrineholm lotus bowl. When the Kaikōura earthquake rattled the home in 2016, a Beswick pottery polar bear was the item Gemma grabbed when she fled. The house was thankfully undamaged. A new favourite is a set of vintage drawers that now house a record player. The piece was “upcycled to perfection” by a friendly neighbour using Resene Elephant.

“Ultimately, we want our place to feel welcoming and not stuffy and boring.”

Pioneer spirit

Small homes are not short of great experiences. Just ask Finn, whose 18-square metre tiny home is painted in bold Resene Pioneer Red with trims in Resene Half Alabaster. The red exterior is a tribute to the remote DoC tramping huts, of which he has many happy memories.

Finn’s tiny house

Finn’s home is painted in Resene Pioneer Red with trims in Resene Half Alabaster.

“I chose Resene Pioneer Red because I wanted it to exude a feeling of warmth and cosiness inside and out and take some design cues from good old New Zealand backcountry huts,” says Finn.

“A Norwegian friend said it reminded her of places back home, and so I named the house Koselig, which is the Norwegian word for the feeling you get while sitting around a roaring fireplace with friends or family after a long day outside.” The tiny home is a transportable dwelling, designed to be towed behind a vehicle on a specially designed 7.2-metre trailer. Although it’s free to roam anywhere, it’s currently parked up in Twizel. As it’s classed as a vehicle and not a building, it’s free of much of the consents and red tape that comes with construction.

Finn built and designed the 7.2-metre long x 2.54-metre wide x 4.2 metre high home himself. Most of the interior timber he milled himself, including some that was first milled many years ago by his great-great-grandfather in the Riwaka Valley near Motueka.

“Every joint, design detail and feature has a story, and the space appeals to my inner child – kind of a mix of a backcountry hut, tree house and a real house.”

In the past he has rented it out on Airbnb so those interested in the freedom of tiny house living can try it out for size.

Has he ever felt the space is too small?

“Not yet! It is spacious for one and cosy with two. It’s easy to keep clean and tidy. Taking a leaf from tidying expert Marie Kondo helps – possess what you need, and each thing has a place.”

Sunny side up

The brief for interior designer Peta Tearle to renovate Sue and Paul’s Christchurch apartment was simple – the colour choices had to be anything but boring. The couple, who live on a vineyard in Canterbury and use the apartment as a pied-à-terre, have a vibrant artwork collection and interesting furniture. The existing beige walls wouldn’t do the trick. “This apartment is tiny and often when people want a place to look bigger, they paint it white or neutral – all that does is make it look like a little white box,” says Peta.

A small Gothic Revival home

Interior designer Peta Tearle turned on the sun in Sue and Paul's Christchurch apartment with semi-gloss Resene Lustacryl tinted to Resene Sunkissed on the left wall, ceiling and a border on the right wall. It is paired with Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen tinted to Resene Eighth Thorndon Cream.

“Sue’s brief to me was that she wanted the new scheme to make you smile when you opened the front door.”

Peta decided to paint all the apartment’s ceilings in varying bright colours, which also wrapped down the walls. In the open-plan living area and kitchen, the ceiling embodies “total joy”, with sunny yellow Resene Sunkissed, contrasted with Resene Eighth Thorndon Cream on the opposite wall.

A bright and colourful lounge

Soft pink bedroom

Living room: It's a happy accident that the Krystie Wade artwork on the living room wall painted in Resene Sunkissed also features soft pinks like Resene Blanched Pink and bright greens such as Resene Fruit Salad appearing elsewhere in the apartment. Bedroom: Resene Blanched Pink adds softness to the bedroom, teamed with a bedside table painted in Resene Half Grey Olive.

“When you've got a small space – a trick you can do to widen the space is to use two different colours, that stops the eye squeezing those walls together.”

The rest of the apartment is just as colourful, with Resene Blanched Pink in the bedroom and Resene Fruit Salad in the bathroom, with a door accented in Resene Japanese Laurel.

“The clients love how at night the colour glows. Sue calls it her ‘little jewel box’ and an ‘artistic adventure’.”

Wild and free

The tiny-house phenomenon has taken off. What started as a fringe housing movement in the early 2000s has become a mainstream affordable-housing option for first-time homeowners or those who want to downsize. When it started, the aesthetic was about the ‘small white box’ with minimalist Scandi-style interiors but the movement has evolved to be more expressive, in tune with the freedoms a tiny-house lifestyle can bring.

A tiny home interior

The interior of the Pōhutukawa Double Bridge tiny house is painted using Resene SpaceCote Flat tinted to Resene Half White Pointer, which contrasts perfectly with Resene Swamp on the cabinetry and stairs and Resene Wallpaper Collection 47404.

One of the big drivers for going tiny is the freedom this lifestyle creates,” says Rebecca McLean, managing director of Tiny House Builders. “Freedom from the big mortgage or the rent trap, from the big house and the housework, from the ‘stuff’ that we all accumulate over time, which needs to be reassessed when downsizing and going tiny.

“It also creates a connection with nature as you tend to live more outdoors, making use of deck extensions, pergolas and landscaping.”

For their latest show home, the Pōhutukawa Double Bridge, Tiny House Builders chose Resene Gunmetal, an intense charcoal grey/blue. Inside, Rebecca increased the contrast with Resene Half White Pointer on the walls and deep green Resene Swamp on the cabinetry and stairs. Other natural touches are introduced via a feature wall with Resene Wallpaper Collection 47404.

For those wanting to use colour in a small space, Rebecca says: “Use enough colour to create a feeling and mood in the space and give it character.”

Small space optics

Don’t feel limited by your colour choices in small spaces. Here’s how to think outside the (white) box.

Black tiny house exterior

The Weathertex cladding is painted in Resene Lumbersider tinted to Resene Gunmetal. The deep hue makes the greenery of the vertical garden wall pop. Inside, the walls are kept light and bright with Resene Half White Pointer.

Words: Sarah Kolver, Emma Rawson
Images: Boundless Vision, Finn Drummond, Sarah Rowlands, Virginia Woolf


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