A Christchurch charity HQ gets a colourful makeover

Carolyn Frizelle-Smith and her team give a Christchurch charity headquarters a bright and uplifting makeover after encouragement and advice from interior expert Alex Fulton

Q&A with Carolyn

What is the villa used for? It’s the Oxford, Christchurch, base for Youth With A Mission, a non-profit Christian organisation where I’m a team leader.

Describe the space before… The whole villa looked pretty terrible. The library was dark burgundy and felt very closed-in. The rest of the house was mustard-yellow, harsh white and burgundy. It was neglected, tired and cruddy and everything was dated including mismatched furniture, strange light fixtures and worn carpets.


Describe the space now… The house theme is inspired by the Spirit of Adventure airship from the movie Up. We wanted it to have a playful feel but also be restful. The space is light and bright and has three main zones. The bedrooms are neutral and calming with bright doors. The library now feels like a cosy nest; a place to relax and enjoy the quiet. The games room/lounge is now a haven to play, chill out or socialise in, with muted brights that aren’t overpowering. When you open the turquoise door you can’t help but smile as you’re greeted by the happy dots and colourful staircase.

What was the makeover process like? We gave ourselves permission to be beginners at this – and that definitely helped the end result because there was a sense of fun, rather than taking ourselves too seriously. Although many a wall was repainted and several colours changed to get the final result, they were happy accidents.

What do you think of the final result? I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved. Myself, my husband, staff and students all pitched in on this project. All the hard work, sweat, prayers and tears came together in the end to create a space that everyone has said looks awesome.

What’s the feedback been like? We put photos of the finished rooms on our Facebook page and have been bombarded with messages from previous students who couldn’t believe it was the same space!

What’s your favourite feature? I really love the colourful, bright staircase – it didn’t have a welcoming vibe before, but now it’s a space where people want to connect, hang out and recharge. I also did a happy dance after I put the wall decal dots up.

Q&A with Alex

How did your involvement come about? Carolyn asked for advice via my monthly Your Home and Garden Q&A column, and I was so intrigued that I contacted her directly to organise a visit and answer her question more specifically with some on-the-spot advice – ‘Ask Alex’ was going on the road!

What were the main issues? When I contacted Carolyn, I discovered she worked for a non-profit organisation with a limited budget and resources, and she was having trouble coming up with a cost-effective plan for the large, multi-use space. It was apparent that she was confident with colour and design, had some amazing ideas and a super-cool colour palette, but like many people was having a crisis of confidence and was on the verge of going neutral with “pops of colour”. She needed help to bring all the different spaces together to create a cohesive interior with a strong colour theme, all on a very limited budget.

How did you solve these using…

Design on a budget is challenging but fun. Carolyn had many resourceful ideas, but needed the confidence to implement them. We broke down each area into function, use and style and made sure we nailed their needs.

I’ve never seen a more comprehensive ideas book than Carolyn’s. She had done her homework and researched ideas online, made Pinterest boards, browsed shops and scoured secondhand stores – which made choosing a colour palette quite simple. Dulux also came on board with colour samples, test pots and free paint. This wasn’t a standard home, so Carolyn felt she could be more adventurous with colour.

Carolyn has a natural gift for finding and upcycling bargains, and making them work for a space. Different furniture and lighting styles have been curated to give a sense of fun and comfort − all within her thrifty budget. The final result is comfortable, fun and functional.

Alex’s colour tips

– To make sure the large space still looked ‘designery’, we kept the colours and forms limited to inside the trims and above the white tongue-and-groove panelling.

– By painting the ceiling and panelling white, the design element is focused in one area and this adds impact without being too dominating.

– White is a great backdrop for the eclectic mix of furniture.

– Carolyn wanted the library to feel more restful, so we used neutral tones to lend a tranquil feel. We reversed the brights-to-neutrals ratio to help achieve this while continuing the overall theme.

Words by: Shelley Ferguson. Photography by: Kate Claridge.

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