Home Tours

A renovation project with future proofing in mind

A small, dark cottage received the full treatment from an interior designer with a knack for creating harmony between neutrals and colour


In a nutshell

Thandi Tipene (interior designer and owner of Thandi Jazmine Design), Bachelor Tipene (works in the oil and gas industry), Miakoda, 1, and Mika the dog.

The beginning

Interior designer Thandi Tipene’s professional understanding of interior space and light meant that when she was viewing potential homes to purchase in New Plymouth, a small, dark cottage with limited sun was not an immediate no-go, but rather a golden opportunity.

While Thandi and husband Bachelor were keen to keep the home’s quaint, cottage-style character, they were determined to modernise the building for family life and ended up embarking on a renovation which saw the interior layout and style change dramatically.
“We bought this as an original 1930s bungalow on a small site with no sun,” Thandi says. “Maintaining the character of the home was really important to us but, ultimately, light and layout were the most important aspects to tackle.” Now thoroughly modernised, with an entirely new layout and a soft white interior, the dwelling’s old character can still be seen in the exterior weatherboard features, and elements such as the original bungalow doors.

We bought this as an original 1930s bungalow on a small site with no sun


The existing layout, Thandi says, wasn’t going to work for them. “It had two and a half bedrooms, didn’t have any windows on the north side, and the shower area was separate from the bath and toilet and had to be accessed by stepping outside and walking through the laundry.” So they reconfigured it within the existing 100-square-metre footprint to provide the indoor/outdoor flow essential for modern family life. “We now have three double bedrooms and a spacious living area, with all the amenities, and most importantly, lots of natural light and sun.”

Expansive decks open to both the morning and afternoon sun, and the spare bedroom is the perfect tropical retreat for guests – although, Thandi admits, it’s actually her that gets the most enjoyment out of “the palm room”. Inspired by both Thandi’s and Bachelor’s trips overseas representing New Zealand on the surfing circuit, the leafy green wallpaper provides a tranquil escape without having to leave the house.

“Sometimes we spend a night in there to wake up amongst the rich green fronds, or spend a lazy afternoon reading books in the dappled sunlight,” says Thandi. The project also extended to a small studio at the front of the property, where Thandi works in between looking after baby daughter Miakoda.


It was clear when they purchased the house that a full renovation was overdue, so Thandi and Bachelor rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in to the project with the help of family and friends. The bungalow was renovated in three stages, enabling the family to live on site throughout most of the process.

“We began with the office, followed by the bedrooms, and this allowed us to remain in the house while we tackled the living areas and kitchen. In total, we only moved out for around
a month,” says Thandi.

DIY disasters were for the most part avoided, and the results of experience, patience and proper planning speak for themselves. Repeated elements, such as the washed-timber floors used throughout, give a sense of space and unity, while a balanced palette of colour and neutrals helps to define individual spaces.

“The success of a small home is dependent not only on a successful spatial plan, but also a balance between neutral tones and colourful hues,” Thandi says.

Our home is inspired by the tropics and personal travel experiences

Colour story

Embarking on a colour story of their own meant that Thandi and Bachelor had to ask themselves questions as the clients rather than looking at the project from the perspective of a designer. Taking clues from different aspects of their lives was a starting point for the design.

“Our home is inspired by the tropics and personal travel experiences in places like Bali, Hawaii and Panama, where our background in surfing has taken us,” Thandi says. “But we also wanted our home to reflect a subtle 1970s aesthetic. These elements helped shape the colour palette throughout the project, and we constantly referred back to these notions for inspiration.”

An intuitive love of bold colour, as well as an understanding of space and light, gave Thandi the tools needed to transform a tiny, dark cottage into a bright, light family home. Her extensive experience with colour is evident throughout the home, where she has struck a balance between rich shades and neutrals, including the choice of textural elements such as wallpaper and bespoke cabinetry.

Daring homeware is offset by muted pattern and texture, then layered on a soft white canvas for maximum impact. “Regardless of the new layout, it is still a small home,” Thandi points out, “so it needed a good balance between neutral tones and colourful hues.”


The end

Although this renovation project was designed with future-proofing in mind, the family have now set their sights on a new-build in the coastal town of Oakura, a short commute from New Plymouth’s CBD. They leave behind them a transformed home and the legacy that every interior should tell a story, which unfolds through colour, texture, light and style – a narrative whose seeds come from your own personal experiences.

Words by: Tina Stephen. Photography by: Helen Bankers.

Create the home of your dreams with Shop Your Home and Garden