Armed with a paint brush, this homeowner transformed her idyllic rural home room by room while her children napped. See the before and afters below
After selling their quake-damaged home in Christchurch, Sofie and Daniel Isherwood were looking for an escape from the damage recovery and roadworks in their area. In February 2014, they found a great country home just outside Rangiora where the kids could play and roam outdoors. Not the types to wait around, they leapt straight into giving the tired old house
a fresh new look.
What did you like about the new house?
Walking through, we knew straight away that it had good bones, was warm and just had a great feel. It was exactly what we were looking for in terms of size (a manageable two acres) and, while the house was in great condition, we were still able to add our own DIY flair. It has generously sized rooms, loads of storage and amazing established gardens with stunning views from every window. When we bought it we couldn’t believe it was ours. We felt very lucky.
What didn’t you like?
The house was stuck in the ’90s with a blue kitchen, burgundy floral and fruit curtains and lots and lots of wood. The entire house had been painted cream – it had a very English feel throughout. From the first viewing I was already imagining what I was going to do with it. Initially, I also didn’t like the cork flooring in the kitchen and hallway but I’ve totally grown to love it. It’s soft underfoot, hides a lot of sins, it’s warm and very hard-wearing.
What did you do to update the kitchen?
The kitchen was a blue ’90s model but because the cupboards were in great condition, I decided I’d just paint them and add new handles and a new benchtop. The cupboards are in Resene Triple Concrete and the walls are Resene White Pointer. In a corner of this space is the log burner. At the time it was surrounded by old-fashioned red bricks, which I painted dark charcoal – we’re very pleased with the result.
Were there any hiccups along the way?
The kitchen benchtop was a lot more work than we thought. The corner sits in a large window that is supported by a vertical beam. This was problematic because in order to install the new benchtop, the external windows had to be removed. A number of companies didn’t want to take it on for this reason, but in the end we found a local kitchen company who did a great job.
What changes have you made?
I tackled the living room straight away. The burgundy floral curtains had to go and I replaced them with fresh, natural linen. For the kitchen and hallway walls I used Resene White Pointer, with Resene Alabaster skirting boards.
How did you want your home to look and feel?
We wanted a modern country feel; something that felt current but not too precious as our three kids were only little then and were tough on furniture and walls.
Did you do the painting yourself?
I painted the house room by room over several years. I did most of the work while my youngest was having her naps and the other two were at school. I knew I needed to tone down all the wood, so once I’d chosen Resene Alabaster for the skirting boards I decided to use it on the doors and stairs, too. I know that for some it would be a sin to paint over lovely wood, but it was just too heavy and old-fashioned. I got my inspiration mostly from magazines and Pinterest but also from my mum and where I grew up. I’m Belgian but have always lived overseas and have spent a lot of time in Asia, which I love. Bringing all these elements together in our house has made it unique and personal.
Did your children have input into their bedroom colours?
They were still quite little and I had a clear idea of what I wanted for their rooms so I just went with my gut as to what they might like. In Ella’s room (opposite, bottom left) I chose Resene Nepal, a lovely gentle blue. I kept it fresh, neutral and simple so it would feel like a kid’s room but could also be converted into a guest room. Matthew’s bedroom (bottom right) has playful, bold colours. With his bed under a sloping roof, it was a perfect place to create a cosy space. I used Resene Blue Night and Resene Golden Dream to add a pop of colour. Madeline’s room (middle) is light, playful and girly and was the last to be done. I used several colours on the walls and did one feature wall opposite the entry to the room. The colours I used were Resene Nepal, Resene Pretty in Pink, Resene Shark and my own light grey combo.
Did your vision evolve as you went along?
I think over the years my vision matured a little perhaps, along with me, but I always knew what style I wanted. My aim was a cohesive look throughout the house with individuality in each room.
When did you start painting and when did you finish?
We started painting the first few weeks we were in. We had overseas visitors arriving soon so that was good motivation to get started. Most of the painting was done in the first year or so but we have only recently completed the ensuite.
Any future plans?
We’re currently living in Thailand, but when we return to Canterbury and our lovely home I’ll be straight into repainting the main bedroom. It’s funny how the parents always get the last room to be renovated! I’d also love to add a covered outdoor space off the back door so we can enjoy dining outdoors.
Sofie’s reno & painting tips
- Buying good-quality paint and spending some time on colour selection means you have a better understanding of what the final result is going to look like.
- Take your time and be realistic about what you can get done in the time you have.
- Have an idea in your head of what you want to achieve, then be brave in your selections. We did this with the kids’ rooms and we’re really happy we have created something unique.
- When it comes to kitchens and bathrooms, find tradies who actually buy into what you are trying to achieve and are passionate about what they do. Talk to friends and look at previous work – there’s nothing worse than living with an end result that you are not happy with
Words by: Sally Conor. Photography by: Kate Claridge