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This 1910 villa got a second chance with an exceptional renovation

A dark and unwelcoming Despicable Me-type villa was reanimated into an Auckland family’s dream home

The calm feeling that envelops you as you walk into Chloe and Shaun Lincoln’s home belies the hard work that went into making it the serene space it is today. The 1910s villa wasn’t always this polished – in fact, when Chloe and Shaun bought it, it looked a lot like Gru’s home from Despicable Me: the brooding, black house on the street.

“Most of the period features had been removed and, what little bits remained, had been disguised with the harsh black paint job. Inside, it had been painted in vibrant heritage colours,” says Chloe.

The couple relocated the three-bedroom, one-bathroom villa onto their section in Riverhead, West Auckland, in 2016 before embarking on an extensive renovation that would take them until 2019 to complete. “We both loved this era and style of house, and were excited to embark on a renovation project that had so much history. We fell in love with the two front rooms, sash windows and high ceilings – it offered so much potential – and we loved the idea that we could be part of its century-old timeline,” Chloe explains.

“However, there were some days where I definitely had regrets about taking on a villa. Nothing is ever straightforward when working on a 100-year-old house. But we wouldn’t have done it differently as we’ve ended up with the dream we envisioned.”

The reno

It wasn’t easy to get the home from Gru to glam. It needed plenty of work once the villa was on-site – some of which was necessary due to the move, some due to the age and condition, and some because of layout changes needed to bring it into line with 2020 living. They reroofed, re-plumbed, rewired, re-floored and repainted inside and out. For three years there was certainly no time for ‘relaxing’.

One of the biggest challenges the couple faced was trying to keep everything well-proportioned to maximise space. “This was a constant battle as a wrong decision could result in compromising on living space,” explains Chloe.

In the end, they managed to separate the laundry from the bathroom to give it its own space, and they moved the kitchen to make that area work better. In making these changes, they gained more room for the living room and the indoor-outdoor flow suddenly worked better with the existing French doors. During the renovation, the couple lived in a shed at the back of the property – a sanity-saving move. Being on-site made it convenient to make decisions for contractors and the short commute home to bed was a blessing on the countless late nights they worked.

To save on cost, the couple tried to do as much of the reno themselves. Shaun’s skills as a plumber came in handy, and both of them quickly became dab hands at painting and planting.

The kitchen

The hub of the home sets the tone for the calm vibe throughout the rest of the home. The couple chose a Calacatta Quartz stone with waterfall edges for the island and it’s the quiet scene-stealer of the space.

“It was an easy decision as light and airy was what we wanted to achieve, and we thought it worked so well with the light grey kitchen,” says Chloe. “We really liked the idea of having a galley-style kitchen with a walk-around island – it meant this space became more versatile and open, for both indoor and outdoor living, and really made it the heart of our home.”

Chloe and Shaun went with layered cupboards along the back wall for aesthetic purposes, but the added bonus is the shallower cupboards don’t encroach on the workspace lighting while still providing plenty of kitchen storage. Track lighting above the island – instead of hanging pendants – gives the kitchen the task lighting it needs while keeping the openness of the high ceilings. It also means the couple can add extra lighting if they need it or the ability to reposition the existing ones.

Solid American oak flooring was laid throughout the kitchen and living space to replace the original flooring, which sadly had sections missing and was too far gone to fix.

Living it up

Chloe confesses to being a minimalist when it comes to her decor choices, but her thoughtful use of materials and textures stops the rooms from feeling cold and sparse. “The idea of interior style here was to be aesthetically pleasing to us, but at the same time be easy to maintain and clean with a new baby, creating a calm environment for us as a family,” she explains.

All the furniture was purchased to fit the new layout, as opposed to trying to build a house around existing furniture and the frustrations that come with that.

“It saved us from forcing things and compromising on the layout and design. We quickly got used to the concept of listing and selling what didn’t work and starting again. It became a joke with some of our friends, actually – ‘Is that a new sofa?’ they’d always ask,” Chloe laughs.

They finally met their match with the Contempa sofa and chair in the living room. “We are so happy we spent a bit more and got good quality. They have been so great for kids (Orly and her friends) and the dog – it’s such a change from having countless ones we were disappointed with,” she says.

The couple also bit the bullet and invested in integrating a wall sound system in the lounge, which they say was money well-spent because it saves on space and gives a cleaner finish
to the room. The room with the bay window is a family favourite – it was a guest bedroom, but during the second Auckland lockdown, they decided to turn into a TV playroom to get better use out of it as a family.

“It means we now use every room in the house, instead of just gravitating to the same spaces. It’s given us a great room to use as a family to relax and watch Orly play, plus it keeps the house tidier and me sane as this is the room I keep all her toys in,” she says.

“It gets beautiful afternoon sun and the bay sash windows are so lovely when they’re open in summer – we’ll sit and relax, listening to the wind blow through the trees, and Orly loves to stand on
a footstool and wave to people passing by.”

The bathroom

A new bathroom was most definitely on the cards, but the couple were thoughtful in the way they executed it. They aimed for a timeless look, while also blending old with new as a nod to the history of the home. “The tongue-and-groove vanity and dado rail helped retain the period features of the room as well as drawing your eye up to take in the ceiling height.

Using large tiles, an LED mirror, black shower and gunmetal fittings gave it that modern sophistication look that we love.”

The free-standing bath is the piece de resistance adding a touch of luxury and a boutique-hotel feel to the room.

Adding the wow factor

Chloe and Shaun’s taste might be minimalist and pared back, but they’re good at adding features that give each room a focus point. For example, the wallpaper in Orly’s bedroom has completely elevated the space – it captures your eye as soon as you enter the room and adds to the calm yet playful vibe they wanted in here.

Both Shaun and Chloe immediately loved the woodland-themed wallpaper, Chloe especially so, as she’s from the UK and the squirrels reminded her of home.

The wow factor in the main bedroom, other than the gorgeous beaded lightshade hanging over the bed, is a little more hidden – pull back one section of the floor-to-ceiling mirrored doors and you’ll find a shoe-robe.

“This was an idea Shaun had to utilise a small section of otherwise wasted space in the bedroom. As well as giving us a dedicated place to store our shoes, it also allows space for the mirrored doors to roll in front of to give us complete access to the rest of the wardrobe. The racking is made out of our leftover oak flooring. Genius,” Chloe laughs.

The outdoors

Having essentially plonked an old villa on a section of land meant the couple had to start from scratch with their landscaping. They added a concrete driveway (perfect for children and their bikes) and planted a mix of Buxus sempervirens and camellia hedging in keeping with the home’s classic style.

The covered deck that comes off the living room effectively doubles their living area. It gets plenty of use, both when entertaining and when it’s just the family of three.

“Because it’s covered, we can still sit out there with the doors open when the weather isn’t so great,” says Chloe.

“It is also a great coffee spot in a morning as that’s the side where the sun rises – it’s the perfect place to start the day.”

The house is certainly no longer a dark, brooding hulk of a home – instead, it looks like a smart, welcome addition to the street with its classic grey and white paint job and blush-pink front door.

Lessons learned

“We work really well together as a team – I don’t think many couples could do this scale of renovating and be on the same page through the whole process,” says Chloe.

“We have similar ideas and like the same designs, which is very helpful when renovating and making decisions. I would have a lot of the interior ideas and Shaun would be the one to figure out how to execute them; he always found a clever way to make it possible.”

The couple spent a lot of time planning and found the free software Floor Planner was a great tool to get their heads around a plan and figure out if an idea was even possible.

At times they found the renovation was exhausting, both mentally and physically, with Chloe doing some of the renovating while pregnant. “If you’re doing a lot of it yourself there will definitely be days you wonder why you’re doing it, but once we had finished, we just loved the result and what we had achieved. We really love the family home we made.

“Our biggest learning was to try and live in the home for at least a year so you can experience every season in it before making changes,” says Chloe. “This really helps you to get a feel for the best and worst bits of the house, such as where it’s sunny and hot, or dark and cold.”

Words by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Helen Bankers.

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