Home Tours

Budget-friendly bliss in a 1950s bungalow


Meet and Greet

Kate Gardham (stylist, tutor and interior designer) and friends Grace and Linn, as well as Oatis the dog.

Budget-friendly bliss in a 1950s bungalow

After purchasing her bungalow on Auckland’s North Shore, Kate Gardham looked her fear of heights square in the eye, purchased a ladder, erected a scaffold system and began a six-week journey of desensitisation, proving to herself that anything is possible. With drive and determination Kate managed to repaint the entire exterior of her Forrest Hill bungalow single-handedly. What was once a demure beige home that looked no different to those around it, has now been transformed into a contemporary black beauty with street appeal.

“It’s been a dream of mine since I was little girl to live in a black and white house,” says Kate. “I didn’t fully appreciate how hard it was to prep and paint a weatherboard home, but once I started I was committed to finishing it. It took me six weeks to paint and get over my lifelong fear of heights.”


Kate’s passion for design, fabrics, texture and colour is obvious throughout her home. She mixes styles, layers patterns, and blends bargains with luxury items. After buying her 1950s house in 2007 there were no leftover funds to employ contractors, so Kate had to acquire new skills and find creative solutions to achieve her dream home on a shoestring budget.

“Thankfully, I love DIY and I have to admit it’s really rewarding sitting back and seeing what I’ve achieved. The transformations have taken two years but I have learned so many skills along the way,” says Kate.


Although the house hadn’t been updated since the 1980s, it had good features and Kate could see plenty of potential. She lived in the house for a while before making changes which include removing and extending the doorway between the living and dining room, and knocking down the breakfast bar that divided the kitchen and living areas. By opening up the living spaces Kate has created a light-filled, open-plan layout which now takes full advantage of the sweeping views out over Auckland city.

Kate describes her style as a mix of industrial, Scandinavian, vintage and contemporary. “I think it makes a space more interesting if you mix and blend old and new pieces together,” she says.

Although she’s used a mostly monochromatic palette, Kate’s favourite colour, turquoise, makes an appearance in every room, through soft and hard furnishings, wall paint, kitchen utensils and a selection of carefully chosen books.


The original inspiration for her colour choices came from a black and white striped cushion from Ikea. Pattern on pattern has been a big trend in clothing so it’s no surprise, given her background in fashion and interior design, that Kate has translated this into her decor. In the living room, a chevron rug, polka dot decals and a geometric cushion display Kate’s pattern-layering trademark.

The black and white theme extends to the dining room where Kate painted a matte Resene ‘Black’ feature wall; deliberately choosing the dark hue to showcase her ‘Love’ light.


Metallics and upcycling are two other trends that Kate has embraced. Gold and copper accents always bring a sense of luxe and glamour to a home, but Kate proves you don’t need to spend a fortune to achieve the look.

“With a can of gold metallic spray paint, I quickly and easily transformed a trio of inexpensive vases, a simple wooden chopping board and a pair of vintage colanders,” she says. Ever industrious, Kate re-purposed the golden colanders as a fruit bowl and planter, bringing added charm and personality to her light-filled kitchen.

Q&A with Kate

How have you gone about keeping the character bungalow of your home? A lot of maintenance and hard work. I think it’s important to be sympathetic to a home’s original design. My pet hate is aluminium joinery in villas and bungalows.

What is your favourite item in your home?  That’s a tough one, and probably why I could never be a minimalist! I love being surrounded by my collections and treasures – they all bring me comfort and happiness.

What were the most important things you wanted to achieve in decorating your home? I wanted a more modern look with fresh, clean lines but I still wanted to be able to incorporate my vintage treasures that I’ve collected from markets all around Europe. I love metallic accents and upcycling but with my restricted budget, I had to be savvy and creative to achieve on-trend ideas.

Is there anything you would do differently if you started over? I should have opened up the wall between the kitchen and lounge sooner. It has completely transformed the flow of the home, making it more functional and aesthetically pleasing.

What was your favourite room to decorate and why? The dining room. It was the first room I’d ever painted and I was petrified the black feature wall would be a disaster, but I had
a lot of fun. I also love the mismatched replica Eames chairs around my dining table.

What are you obsessed with collecting? Glass domes as they are great for showcasing treasures. Also colanders, vintage scales, deer and taxidermy (mostly antlers and Clementine the fawn in the hallway).

Style secrets

+ Create storyboards to inspire ideas. “I have a wire strung above my desk that I peg pictures to – from Pinterest, magazines and books – of things that I am inspired to create or replicate.”
+ Revamp rather than discard old furniture. “My dining table was originally stained dark with a high gloss finish. I sanded it back to its raw state, exposing a blonde Scandinavian finish that now fits perfectly with my aesthetic.”
+ Inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere. Kate’s idea for her colour palette originally sprung from a striped cushion cover purchased from Ikea.

Words by: Annick Larkin Photography by: Emma MacDonald

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