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Despite a tight budget, an architect works magic

Architect Eva Nash approached her own home renovation holistically, with stunning results.

Lounge in showcase home

Above: The built-in Melteca cabinetry on the living room wall helps to maximise the amount of space in the small house.


A limited budget and very small house footprint is an all-too-familiar combination for many struggling renovators, significantly adding to the pressures of the building process. Eva Nash and her husband David were faced with both issues four years ago when they purchased a 1950s house on Auckland’s North Shore.

But angst was never part of the equation for the couple, thanks to Eva’s expertise and experience in residential renovations.

Eva runs Rogan Nash Architects with partner Kate Rogan and both believe a successful renovation is about putting as much time as possible into the initial design stages. “When budgets are tight any changes you make have to be high impact,” says Eva. “I had to have a good plan from the outset so that we knew the best things to do. The preliminary design stage is critical.”

Adds Kate: “If you put a lot of thought in advance into the design of a space, it can be more beautiful and cost-effective. Our work is about pushing the design without pushing the budget.”

Hallway on a budget

Above: The entire house was painted a crisp, yet warm white (Resene ‘Eighth Pearl Lustre’) to make it feel more spacious. The hallway is used as a gallery space for family photographs, all with the same colour frame for continuity.


“As soon as you break through the walls of a house, you’re likely to add at least $100,000 to the cost,” says Kate. “It was about transforming things in a sensible way. Not going beyond the original building footprint means you can see where the money has been spent; it’s not going into hidden structural works.”

Although small, the house had good features, with classic weatherboard cladding and a clay tile roof. “The original owner actually built the house and the one next door,” says Eva. “We were the second owners.”

With so few owners it was no surprise to discover that the interior hadn’t been touched since the house was built – carpet, kitchen, toilet, bathroom and light fittings were all original. Most of these were deemed beyond saving and ripped out.

As Kate says: “There are some beautiful things from the 1950s but not tiny kitchens and bathrooms.”

Bathroom on a budget

Above: Major changes were needed in the bathrooms to replace the 60-year-old plumbing. Built-in cabinetry along the top of one wall is mirrored to make the bathroom feel larger. “Mirrored cabinets are the unsung heroes of small bathrooms,” says Eva.


To open up the interior, some of the non-load-bearing walls were demolished, creating a semi-open plan living area at the back of the house. “Moving three walls made a world of difference,” says Eva. “You can transform spaces with just a few layout changes. We did all the building work before we moved in. I didn’t want to move in and live in a bomb site.”

Living area with fireplace

Above: The couple installed a wood-burner fireplace in the living room. “It’s lovely in winter. It keeps the whole house warm and I like the romantic notion of a fire,” says Eva. The couple was thrilled to discover pristine rimu floors under the original 1950s carpet.


One of the most dramatic changes to the house was the addition of a large deck at the back, allowing better views of the upper harbour and space for outdoor entertaining. A pergola clad on one side and above in white-painted battens screens the deck from neighbours and intense sun.

Ourdoor table on decking

The dining room opens out onto the new deck with views to the west over Auckland’s upper harbour.


“The deck really transforms and enhances the space,” says Eva. “Creating that flow from inside to out made the interior rooms feel much bigger. The slatted pergola over the deck defines the space and the sun shining through the battens creates interesting light effects. You feel like you are contained even though you are outside. In summer it’s lovely having a barbecue and sitting around a table under the pergola. So many of our friends comment on what a lovely space it is.”


If you have a small budget it’s better to spend money where you can see it, not on hidden structural work.

When gutting the interior of a house, it’s a mistake to try and live in it.

Think about whether you really need that extra bathroom or living area when the budget is tight. Sometimes making extensive changes to a house means you risk over-capitalising.

Where possible avoid making snap decisions. For instance, rather than rushing to refit the bathroom when you first buy your home, decide what you’re going to do for the entire house in advance and work out the palette of key materials for both bathroom, kitchen and other main rooms. The house will have more continuity and unity than doing things piecemeal.


Word by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: Florence Noble.


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