Going Bush: A Titirangi home is restored to its former glory

A mid-century revival is taking shape in tree-clad Titirangi

A sliding cutting board is one of the more unusual features of the kitchen, which glides across the stainless steel countertop. The black bar above allows homeowner Rosie Holt to hang dried herbs, which complements the pasta station. A floating shelf and benchtop look are achieved thanks to a clever steel frame system. The organic-shaped bowl is from

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Meet & Greet: Rosie (high-performance entrepreneur coach), Sam Holt (apprentice carpenter), and Molly the basenji mix.

The Property: A three-bedroom, 1949 wooden-framed house in Titirangi, Auckland.

Love at first sight is so rare, that it’s taken on almost mythic proportions. Known only to a lucky few, Rosie and Sam Holt were fortunate enough to experience that lightning-bolt sensation upon walking in the front door of their Titirangi home. “When we first walked into the house it was the feeling, you know,” Rosie says. “It felt right. It was the one, we’d found the love of our life.” 

Much of the cabinetry is made from recycled rimu. The colour palette of the kitchen is inspired by the native bush, from the lichen hue of the tiles to the pōhutukawa red of the steel beam. Industrial designer Tom Lopes created custom lamp shades mixed with black sand as a nod to the West Coast.

In typical fashion, it was the last house viewing of the day, up a long pot-holed driveway that was accessible only on foot. Having been on the market for nine months, the house had a long list of quirks thanks to previous owners, such as ripped-out windows, “flubber” green and Soviet red walls with curtains to match. To Rosie and Sam’s bafflement, this colourful work was all done in the past 10 years, rather than the last 50, to which they’ve inherited an uphill battle reinstating its character features. “We feel like we’re the custodians of the house now, restoring it to its former glory, because she deserved better,” Rosie says. 

The pair met five years ago, after various stints overseas, and realised New Zealand was home. Feeling tethered to Auckland but unable to afford central city prices, they began exploring fringe suburbs, settling on the western suburb of Titirangi, an area known for its bohemian creatives and pottery wheels. Despite Titirangi’s famed reputation for sparse, bush-diffused light, the house is flooded with sunshine, streaming in through a sunroom that enjoys views all the way out to Waiheke Island. After living in the house for a while to experience every season, they were ready to “build the house around our style and how we live”. 

A designated pasta station was designed left of the sink, which is perfect for Friday night cooking.

The kitchen

Sam stumbled upon design studio Atelier Jones on Instagram, established by Raimana Jones and Mathilde Polmard, who brought an industrial Bauhaus vision that felt sympathetic to the mid-century feel of the house in this space. “It was a really collaborative process,” Rosie says. “Raimana had some wonderful visions on how the kitchen would intuitively work for someone who loves to cook, like having some open spaces where I can attach my pasta maker or a big stainless-steel bench that’s practically indestructible.” 

Unfortunately, the renovation took place amid the Gib shortage, which slowed down the process to an agonising crawl as the pair waited for a vital wall to be installed. The overall process took an entire year, with Rosie crediting a small kitchen in the garden studio as the only reason they didn’t “lose their minds completely”. But the wait was worth it. Every inch of the kitchen is perfectly planned and executed, from the hand-turned reclaimed rimu drawer knobs to the magnetised spice station nestled in the floating shelf. A large, rust-red steel beam holds up the ceiling, creating a floating bench effect that becomes the centrepiece of the space. “I’ll often stand in the kitchen when I’m cooking or making coffee and feel so incredibly lucky.” 

The whole process was so inspiring to Sam that it even spurred a career change, he swapped hats from coding management systems to a building apprenticeship. “He’s now off bright and early every morning to go build other people’s houses and get more inspiration for ours, which is great. He’s always been incredibly handy and so detail-orientated,” Rosie says. 

Rosie is an avid cook and loves her new kitchen island, surrounded by vases made by Thea Ceramics. Green bowl, white jugs and tea towel from Father Rabbit. Orange Dutch oven and juice glass are from

Sunroom and bedrooms 

The kitchen flows out to the sunroom, originally a deck that was closed off in the ’70s. Rosie and Sam plan to open the area back up as a balcony, complete with stairs that lead down to what they’ve affectionately dubbed the “dream deck”. Two bedrooms connect to the sunroom, creating a wonderful flow of light and air from the Titirangi bush to the suites. Here, there’s a push-and-pull between Rosie’s sentimental nature and Sam’s minimalist one; a battle waged over bedside tables and shelves. For example, the previous ’70s owners were perfume makers who bottled their scents down in the garage, leaving an aromatic legacy that still lingers today. “When Sam was doing some work down in the garden, he found these old perfume bottles. They still have this incredible scent, like a super old-school perfume, really heady. They’re on the shelf here and it’s a nice bit of history,” says Rosie. 

Amongst the couple’s many treasures are Sam’s prized mid-century Trade Me finds, such as a walnut bedhead with matching bedside tables. The wardrobe doors were recovered from a Remuera house reno, with hand-turned handles and a beautiful veneer grain. Unable to resist, the couple have eight more of these doors in the basement awaiting the right project to use them on.  

Cushions from Citta dot the sun-filled lounge. A replica Noguchi coffee table completes the couple’s mid-century aesthetic. Sam’s friend at Lukeke Design made the blown-glass pendant light.

Chipping away

There are always projects on the to-do list, which is perfectly suited for Sam’s style of active relaxing. “Sam loves working on the house, I love being in the house,” Rosie laughs, content to put her feet up on the couch with a good book as she watches him tinker. A huge floor-to-ceiling window sits down in the garage, a common theme, as the pair deliberate on how best to install the “absolute monster”. There’s talk of a new bathroom, alongside reinstating a glass panel, although after the year-long kitchen renovation, the couple aren’t rushing to take on another huge project. 

Despite the ever-growing list of things to do, there’s deep contentment within the walls of this treetop home. “I don’t think we could leave now after all the time and energy we’ve put into this. We’re so invested in it and feel so at home here; it would take a lot for us to leave,” Rosie says. “My favourite thing is when we get up, make coffee and just sit in the calm, hearing the birds, watching the sun rise. 

“The serenity here is just incredible, it’s really grounding. In those little moments, we ignore the leaky sunroom and the unfinished things. In those moments we feel so, so lucky.” 

Trade Me finds, such as the wardrobe doors, writing desk, dresser and bedhead, pay homage to the age of the house. The wardrobe doors were such a good find that Sam and Rosie purchased eight more for future projects.

Shop their style here: timeless, earthy mid-century style

Home truths

What areas of your home did you save on? Splurge on?
The kitchen was a splurge. Far too much was spent, but it was 100 per cent worth it to get the kitchen of our dreams. We saved on decor, so it’s a mix of thrifted and gifted. We have some talented friends and scoured thrift stores for furniture and decor.

Best lessons learned?
Don’t start a renovation when there’s a nationwide Gib shortage. You will be living with Pink Batts and building paper for nine months.

What would you never do again?
Live in a house while it’s being renovated. The number of times we moved, removed and moved furniture again nearly drove us insane.

Any renovation or DIY disasters?
We should have listened to people when they told us it’s near impossible to stick to a budget. Know what you are willing to compromise on and what you will not at the start of your project, then attempt to stick to it.

What’s the one thing you would change about your home if you could?
We would build a dream deck. We have an incredible view across the city and building a deck to enjoy this would be a dream.

Most memorable experience you’ve had in your home?
Probably the first day we looked at the house at the open home. We remember walking through the door and, despite the bright red wallpaper, we knew it was our home. It has this incredible warmth. We instinctively knew. Four years on, we still experience that same sense of being grounded and feeling truly content.

What are your top tips for interior lovers out there?
When planning the look and feel of your home, don’t be afraid to include your personality. Build and create in a way that feels instinctive and intuitive to you. Lots of people look at renovations with a resale value lens. Trust yourself and back yourself.

Text: Caroline Moratti  Photography: Babiche Martens

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