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How this creative couple added character to their new-build

A house-and-land package in Auckland’s Castor Bay turned out to be perfect for this young family, who have made their new-build feel like an established homestead

When Paula and Antony Ward were looking for a house, the Auckland property market was in full swing – homes were being snapped up overnight, auctions were heated and there was a hint of desperation with every sale. The couple decided to cast the net wider and search for sections.

They found one in Auckland’s Castor Bay that at first glance left a lot to be desired – it was sloping and overgrown – but Paula and Antony could see its potential. The property was part of a house-and-land package, meaning the couple had missed their chance to weigh in on the home’s design, but they still had the opportunity to make internal changes. The final result is a four-bedroom weatherboard home that is packed with personality.

The build

Although it wasn’t an option the pair had previously considered, nabbing a house-and-land package turned out to be a savvy choice. “We knew upfront exactly what it would cost and there was no emotional buying, which is what was happening at auctions at the time. It turned out to be a great decision,” says Paula.

Thankfully, the design was a smart one, with the main living area and the outdoor living space both north-facing. “It works a treat – to the point that we often have so much sun coming into our front patio and lounge that it becomes a suntrap!” laughs Paula.

However, the build wasn’t so easy – the building company kept dropping the ball, leading to a frustratingly long process. “When we started, Jaxon was around six months old. We were hoping to have his first birthday in our new house… we moved in just in time for his second birthday,” Paula recalls. But she says they’ve almost forgotten the challenge of building now their house is done.

“When you finally get to enjoy your new home that you’ve put so much blood, sweat and tears into, you start to forget how you got there and it doesn’t matter any more,” she says.

Adding character

To stop the house looking like a stock-standard build, the Wards added little touches of character throughout, including colonial finishing, beautiful lights and two standout features in the dining room: a custom-made barn door and a striking brick wall. The wall is actually faux brick panels, handmade and painted in Italy.

“I originally had my heart set on real brick but because the house was already designed and the plans had been signed off, the design didn’t allow for the weight load of a brick wall,” says Paula. “You can imagine how excited I was when we discovered the faux brick panels from VidaSpace!”

Initially Antony wasn’t convinced, but Paula brought him around. “When you’re building, you have to pick your battles and learn to compromise with your partner, but this was one battle I wasn’t prepared to lose! I’m glad I stuck to my guns – we absolutely love it and it gets loads of comments from visitors.”

A sense of style

Paula isn’t swayed by trends – she’s firmly in the ‘if you love it, get it’ camp. “I just go with what I love and don’t think too much about it,” she says. As a result, her home’s interior is a blend of vintage, industrial and contemporary, with a hint of boho. The house is filled with furniture found everywhere from homeware chains to high-end boutiques and op-shops. “I’m a huge lover of antique furniture,” she says. “Oh, the stories each piece could tell!”

As well as eclectic furniture, Paula also uses paint to create a mood. “I absolutely love dark colours – they’re so moody and sexy but cosy at the same time. I feel that when the walls are dark I don’t need to cover them up with art, so it ends up being a more minimal space. If there’s too much white I find myself putting art and bits and pieces up to fill the blank space.” She particularly likes the effect dark colours have in bedrooms, creating a calming and intimate vibe.

Sloane’s space

Of all the rooms in the house, it’s daughter Sloane’s that stands out for Paula. “It’s so pretty! I just love hanging out in there,” she says. Ironically, when the family first moved in, it was Paula’s least favourite room because it gets less light than the others, but she managed to turn it into a magical space with the help of a spectacular wallpaper. The design, ‘Woodlands’, is a collaboration by Fleur Harris and Jimmy Cricket in Australia – when Paula stumbled across it on Instagram, she knew it was just what she needed.

The future

Despite the build being a long-drawn-out business, it didn’t put the Wards off doing it again. They’ve found another section they’ve fallen in love with – this time out west – and are about to start work on their next home. This time, however, they’ll be managing the process themselves. “There’s nothing like building your own home – it can be daunting when you haven’t done it before, but when you move into a home that has been built for your family’s needs, it’s well worth the journey,” Paula says.

Words by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Jackie Meiring.

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