Home Tours

An ex state house gets a second chance

A classic state house is re-worked for contemporary family life


Who lives here? Mary Stokes (founder of baby and children-related market Mary’s Market), Mike Stokes (sales director), Tom, 10, and Ivy, 7.

Mary, how would you describe your interiors style? A mix and match of modern and industrial.


What is one thing you learned from this renovation? To choose your builder carefully. Our builder Cam was great to work with, making for a stress-free renovation.

What’s your favourite feature of the home? It sounds like a simple thing, but the addition of the breakfast bar has been fantastic. It’s a hub for the whole family.


Your home is a dramatic change from the original, did you find it hard to embrace such a new design? We were definitely ready for the change and have totally embraced it.


From the road, Mary Stokes’ Auckland home looks like your typical ex-state house. “I like how from the road people can’t see what the house is really like,” the founder of Mary’s Market says. “It’s a nice surprise.” Simple and classic, the home appears to look just like many others on the Point Chevalier street. But it is far from ordinary after being given the magic touch by Mary and two experts she hired to manifest her vision for a dream home.


Step inside and the home gradually morphs into a modern wonder, its strong contemporary features juxtaposing with the original home in a celebration of style.

Mary, husband Mike Stokes and children Tom, 10, and Ivy, 7, lived in the home for five years before they decided to renovate. Lacking in living space, they called in architect Evelyn McNamara of EMA Architects and interior designer Tomi Williams of Indigo Design to bring their brief of “something unique” to life. “We didn’t want just another renovated state house or just another extension, but something really special,” says Mary. “Our main motivation was to acquire more living space and modernise the house. When you have children you simply crave more space.”

Knowing they wanted to extend the original footprint, Mike and Mary’s only issue was how to blend the new roofline with the old, something their architect helped them resolve. “Mary wasn’t a fan of the board-and-tile look,” says Evelyn. “There was no way to tie in a new roof seamlessly without adding far too much bulk on the roof. So we started with a new form altogether.” Given that the interior, pool and deck would be done in a modern style it made sense to modernise the exterior extension too by way of the black box, making a statement of its point of difference.


The next step was to reconfigure the living area. Originally one had to walk through the lounge to get to the kitchen. “We wanted to get around this and have two lounges without it feeling cramped,” says Evelyn. The answer was to keep the existing kitchen and push out the side walls of the lounge by two metres, removing a deck. This allowed space for a dining area to include the kauri table from Mary’s family farm. “Part of the renovation brief was to make room for that table,” says Mary.

This also meant that they could create a television snug for the children – literally an enclosed room. Surrounded by acoustic wall panels that prevent noise escaping, the snug is where television can be watched or music played without disturbing the rest of the house. The panelling cleverly mirrors that of the exterior cladding. “Plus it creates a cool backdrop for the dining table,” says Evelyn.


The home’s footprint was extended length-wise, creating a lounge with a sunken floor, “giving the room a modernist industrial feel”, says Mary. The wooden floorboards were laid in a different direction to those in the kitchen and dining areas “to avoid it looking like we were trying too hard to match the new with the old”, says Tomi.

The fireplace was placed off centre to add a hint of quirk and allow for space on one side for decorative objects. “At the time we considered installing central heating for the same price as the fire,” says Mary, “but chose a fire as it gives the home character. Cam, our fantastic builder, created the hearth.”


The main bedroom’s french doors were closed in and its white walls painted a dark blue, adding privacy and a peaceful hue, away from the busy living area.

Prints and colour make their mark throughout the home with a palette of burnt orange, rich red, dramatic black and crisp white. Aware of Mary’s love of the works by Irish designer Orla Kiely, Tomi chose a Kiely wallpaper for the lounge, to match tins in the office nook and bedlinen by the same designer. From the lounge, floor-to-ceiling sliding doors open out onto a new deck that steps down onto a long rectangular lawn, framed in clean lines of griselinia hedging, mirrored by a pool in the same shape.

“The overall result is better than expected, it works really well as a place to live as well as a place in which to entertain,” says Mary. “We’re thrilled.”


Reno lessons

Have a clear idea of how you want to live and use your home, says Evelyn. “Images are a great way of depicting your style preference, but how you hope to use the space is important. Also, ensure communication is clear with professionals as it will avoid cost overruns.”

Start at the beginning when planning your interior. “Build a story for your home. Also, try not to get fixed on one aspect of a new interior, which can often mean you have to work around it further down the line,” says Tomi.


Wallpaper and rugs can really lift an interior – there are many great cost-effective options available at the moment.

Divide spaces to suit different needs but ensure the space flows evenly throughout. “You walk into this home and it is obvious that the private section (bedrooms) is on the left and that if you’re a guest you move through to the right (living area),” says Evelyn.

How they got the look:

Dining space: Walls in Resene ‘Black White’; black wall from decortech.co.nz, painted in Resene ‘All Black’; dining table a restored kauri table from Mary’s family’s farm in Hawke’s Bay; dining chairs from Philippe Starck; clear vase was a wedding gift; lightshade from ECC Lighting + Furniture; wooden side cabinet a gift; skull and white swan from Collected; white tall vase a wedding gift.


Living area Walls in Resene ‘Black White’; wallpaper by Orla Kiely from The Paper Room; print by Shane Cotton; ‘Birds’ artwork by Emma Bossley; white vase was a wedding gift; green clock from Green with Envy; green figurine from Bob And Friends; black figurine from Junk & Disorderly; gold figures from Junk & Disorderly; wooden cabinet made by Fabulous Kitchens; couch from Trade Me; striped cushion from Thread Design; yellow cushion and gold geometric cushions from Citta Design; rug from The Ivy House; coffee table bought on Trade Me; light fitting from Lightplan; book cabinet made by Cam from Elite Building; white pig from Simon James Design; geometric lightshade from Collected; fireplace surround is tiled; Escea DL850 fireplace; artwork of person is a framed tea towel from Third Drawer Down in Melbourne; letter ‘M’ from Republic Home; skull and yellow candleholder from Collected; side lighta gift from a relative.

Kitchen Cabinetry an existing feature of the house; bar stools from Flotsam & Jetsam; flooring throughout is kauri and the new living room features American oak; wall clock from Alessi.


Desk nook Walls in Resene ‘Orange’; Orla Kiely tin from Green With Envy; Marimekko container from Macy Home; white horse from Superette; red and yellow jugs from replete.co.nz; white chair from Trade Me.

Family room  Walls are plywood; pendant lights from Bauhaus; standard light from Madder & Rouge; couch from Trade Me; pink spot cushion from The Little Interiors Co; grey cushion from Thread Design; desk from Meluka; grey stool from Citta Design; carpet square from The Ivy House; white coffee table and green chair from Citta Design.


Hallway:Walls in Resene ‘Black White’; black and white artwork is a Grafton Bridge print; coat rack from Nood; geometric floor runner from Artisan Flooring.

Main bedroom Walls in Resene ‘New Denim’; flower bedlinen from Orla Kiely;  cushions from Thread Design; blue throw was a wedding gift; standard light from Mixt; striped chair bought on Trade Me and covered with Madder & Rouge fabric; carpet is Feltex Wool.


Exterior and outdoor Exterior painted in Resene ‘All Black’; beanbags from Coast; Mamasita chair from Madder & Rouge; Tolix chairs from The Vitrine; other outdoor seating from Trade Me; pool from Streeter Pools.


Words by: Catherine Steel
Photography by:Wendy Fenwick

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