Influenced by holidays abroad, this family’s transitional villa embraces the colour and vibrancy of exotic Turkey and Morocco
Clarissa and Doug Thompson’s brief for revamping the transitional villa they’d just bought was simple and unambiguous: “Anything but white.” They wanted the interior of their house to be colourful and to work with some of the special pieces they’d bought on their travels.
“I’ve always loved terracotta and colours from Morocco and Turkey,” says Clarissa. And so the couple and Clarissa’s best friend, interior designer Mary-Ellen Hinton, set about planning the decor for the 1920s house in the central Auckland suburb of Mt Albert. Mary-Ellen interviewed them, made a mood board and then presented them with options for each room. “We said, ‘Yes let’s do it’,” says Clarissa.
Now the couple, their daughters Ivy and Alice, and Doug’s mum Gloria, live in a home that’s been renovated just for them and not for resale in a year or two’s time.
Rooms with a hue
The lounge is painted in a rich blue. “Because this room gets lots of light and sun, we could have it dark,” Clarissa explains. The bedrooms have patterned wallpaper features and colours that finish midway up walls with special pieces – gifts and items from the couple’s days of globetrotting – are everywhere. An orange- and blue-toned Moroccan rug, which has pride of place in the lounge floor (it’s turned over during the heat of summer because that’s what Moroccans do, says Clarissa), and a collection of small wall hangings, also from the North African nation, are clustered above a table in the hallway. A table made by Doug is the star of the dining space.
“We wanted a home that we loved living in,” says Clarissa. “We didn’t want to be overly cautious. It’s really cool doing what you want to do, and getting advice.” And, she adds, when you’re redoing the whole house, paying for an interior designer “is nothing in the scheme of things”.
Time is on your side
The couple had the luxury of having the work done before they moved in. “An empty house is an easy house to renovate and redecorate – so we seized the opportunity,” Clarissa says. “We had eight weeks from settlement to moving in. A professional painter stripped the wallpaper and repainted the entire interior. Doug is an ex-builder, so he did the building works. We changed the layout slightly and hung doors where there weren’t any. We blocked off a door between the kitchen and one of the bedrooms so all the bedrooms are only accessible from the hallway.”
The couple had wallpaper hung for feature walls, the three bedrooms were carpeted and all the lighting and curtains were replaced. “We bought new furniture beds, bedheads, chairs, a couch, cushions, wall hangings and bed linen to complete the new look.”
The 135sqm house works “amazingly well – we all have our own special spaces, as well as beautiful communal areas to share,” Clarissa says. Doug’s mum Gloria has her own room downstairs.
Clarissa’s favourite room is their bedroom: “It’s my sanctuary. I immediately feel calm and relaxed in there and bed is one of my favourite places to be,” says the busy working mum. “I love everything about it – the wallpaper, the grey-toned paintwork, the bed and the soft linen curtains. Mary-Ellen captured exactly what we wanted.”
The designer, who runs Hello Saturday, also came up trumps elsewhere.
“The lights in the lounge are amazing – they set off the couch, walls and Moroccan rug perfectly. I bought the rug on a trip in 2019 with Mary-Ellen, so it’s special in many ways. I highly recommend travelling with your interior designer.”
When Clarissa and Doug first saw the house in 2018, they knew there was plenty to work with, despite its ’70s and ’80s wallpaper and decor and “lots of dark beams and doors”. The house and site is sunny, north-facing and the neighbourhood is quiet.
The couple learned lessons from renovating their previous home, a former state house. One is “Get tradies in,” Clarissa says, without hesitation. Another is, use an interior designer, if you can. “I was at work the whole time [of the renovation] so I couldn’t focus on making decisions. Having Mary-Ellen made such a difference.”
Clarissa and Doug have tried hard to retain the character of the 100-year-old house. “I hope we’ve achieved that through our colour and wallpaper choices.”
Now they’re looking forward to their next project – extending their home, giving it indoor-outdoor flow, building a new kitchen and renovating the bathroom.
Meanwhile, they’ll enjoy living in a house that’s “beautifully decorated in the way we chose,” Clarissa says. It’s a quiet, light and airy place for her whānau and fur babies.
Words by: Fiona Barber. Photography by: Helen Bankers.