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This black-barn style New Plymouth home has the cutest pink front door

A nose for a good deal combined with DIY skills has given this couple’s New Plymouth new-build plenty of soul — without breaking the bank

If there were a crown for New Zealand’s Best Bargain Hunter, it would belong on Jane Murray’s head. Not only is this stay-at-home mum an expert at upcycling and recycling, she’s also got a knack for finding super-stylish items on sale.

It’s a skill that came in handy when Jane and husband Marc built their house in Whalers Gate, a new subdivision in New Plymouth. “When you’re on a limited budget, you have to get clever about doing things,” says Jane.

The couple are no strangers to renovation, having previously done up a villa in Dunedin (where Jane is from) and a 1980s house in New Plymouth after Marc’s work in the oil industry led them to move to the city in 2013.

But they’ve always had a hankering to build their own home, so when this section became available in 2016, they jumped at the chance to purchase it and build their dream.

The plan

There were only a few things on the Murrays’ wish list: their house had to be a black barn, a style Jane has long admired, have easy-care concrete floors and include a partial dividing wall in the kitchen/living space to allow for separate zones.

“We also wanted three bedrooms but were open to the layout. We worked with the building company to come up with an L-shaped design which groups the bedrooms on the west side and the cooking and living areas towards the front of the 183-square-metre house,” says Jane.

The original plan was to build a cedar barn and paint it black, but when that proved too expensive, the couple went for low-maintenance black aluminium, which not only saved them money but also means low ongoing maintenance costs. However, they did use cedar panels on the front of the house and garage to help break up the “sea of black”.

The style

Although Jane only caught the interior styling bug a few years ago, she’s now a dedicated fan. So when the time came to decorate her new house, she was in heaven.

“I wanted more contemporary-style furnishings so we sold most of our old furniture. I have a policy of selling something if I want to buy something, which is not only cost-effective but also means I don’t end up with too much stuff,” says Jane.

New items included the family’s grey sectional sofa, a cane chair in the master bedroom (which was bought online from a store in Wellington), her sons’ black bed frames and the desk in Arlo’s bedroom, which she refashioned from a Freedom bar cart.

Jane saw the Perspex book holders in Herbie’s room online but baulked at the price, so she tracked down a company in Tauranga that made them for a third of the price. In typical Jane style, she also found the grey carpet for the three family bedrooms at a third of the cost of what she’d been quoted and shopped around until she found a website that was selling the green bedside cabinet in Arlo’s room at a discounted price.

She even created a stylish laundry on the cheap using a sheet of faux black subway tiles gifted to her by Vinyl Home, a company she does some styling work for, and some nifty shelves picked up for $30 online from US store Urban Outfitters (she combined it with other purchases as the shipping is free once you spend US$50).

“It’s all about being open to different sources and ideas. You never know where or when you’ll find a bargain,” says Jane.

The details

As a fan of Scandinavian design, Jane opted for simple but stylish fittings such as white tiles with black grout in the family bathroom and master-bedroom ensuite. Grey hexagonal tiles in the shower base were exchanged for light pink tiles in the ensuite.

In the kitchen, Jane chose plywood cabinetry with a laminate benchtop. The barn door in the scullery was another budget hack – the family’s builders used leftover timber to make it to Jane’s specifications. She also found the striking pendant lights above the kitchen island for $40 each on sale, and picked up the kitchen stools for $15 each.

Making an entrance

Jane was keen on a dramatic entrance, so she asked the builder to create a 9.5-metre concrete path, edged with lime chip, to the front door. She’s always dreamed of a statement front door but when she was quoted $2000 for a powder-coated pink front door, Jane took the plain aluminium door to a local panelbeater who spray-painted it for $500.

The entrance’s pink theme continues with a collection of pale pink pots which started life as $20 terracotta pots from The Warehouse and were then painted by Jane.

A crafty couple

Anything Jane can’t find for a good price, she designs and Marc makes. The wooden clothes drying rack in the hallway where she dries foraged flowers and herbs, the pine shelving in each bedroom, and the entryway table are all examples of their ingenuity. They are also what makes this new-build feel like an established home – those little touches that only the Murrays could produce.

Tip: Create a sense of arrival by painting inexpensive plant pots and grouping them together. Plant with statement succulents and cacti or pretty perennial flowers.

Words by: Sharon Stephenson. Photography by: The Virtue.

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