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Family living was central to this Herne Bay villa’s makeover

A pretty-as-a-picture villa finally gets the chance to embrace its backyard in a family-centred renovation full of feel-good vibes


Meet and greet

Felicity Bonham, innovation and partnerships manager, healthcare, Simon Neal, telecommunications marketing, Harriet, 9, and Isabelle, 4.

Family living was central to this Herne Bay villa’s makeover

“Happy, homely and comfortable” was how Felicity Bonham summed it up when she briefed her interior designer on how she wanted her new home to feel. Felicity and husband Simon Neal bought their villa in Auckland’s Herne Bay in 2011 and started renovating at the end of 2014, engaging Tomi Williams of Indigo Design to help create the interior.

“Instead of deciding on one particular style, such as Scandinavian or retro, we had a whole lot of words relating to how we wanted our house to feel,” Felicity says. “We wanted a place where people could connect.” The whole house was reworked, but their main goals were easy access to the backyard, decent storage and a new kitchen.


What they changed 

The rooms at the back of the house were partly closed off from each other, which restricted the flow of the interior. The couple wanted to transform the dated villa by opening up these spaces and creating a family-friendly home with a main bedroom (including ensuite and walk-in wardrobe), bedrooms for daughters Harriet and Isabelle, a playroom, main bathroom and an open-plan living area. A separate laundry and a kids’ art and crafts room which would open off the living space were also part of the plan.



Concept drawings were produced which involved demolishing the back half of the house and building an extension on a lower level with direct access to the back lawn. Once Tomi had made some tweaks, the plans were finalised and building work got under way. Meanwhile, Tomi put together a ‘lookbook’ for Felicity and Simon based on how they wanted the house to feel.



While a new layout was put in place at the back of the house, the front stayed much the same. The only changes were the repositioning of a single wall in each of the three front bedrooms and playroom to make space for wardrobes and a larger ensuite and walk-in wardrobe in the main bedroom. The main bathroom was made a little bigger and more luxurious by extending it to the hallway and reworking it as a wet room.


The new floorplan includes a central hallway leading down the length of the house, something the old villa lacked, with double doors added halfway along – effectively separating the old and new parts of the house – to shut off any noise from the living area at night. Being glass, however, there is still a sense of continuity and connection even when the doors are closed.


The hallway drops down a few steps into the open-plan kitchen, dining and lounge, allowing a gorgeous vista of the living area and backyard from the entrance. Harriet and Isabelle’s crafts room, which lies off to the side, is the perfect spot for them to play, draw and create without interrupting the adults.

It can be closed off from the lounge with a floor-to-ceiling glass door, which doubles as a cover for a large bookshelf, so the girls can have some privacy while still feeling part of the communal area. From the living space, large glass sliding doors open onto a sheltered deck, which steps down to a grassed area. Skylights overhead and slats in the walls around the deck allow sunlight to feed through while providing screening from the neighbours.


Final touches 

One aspect that stands out about this home is its bold way with colour. Felicity and Simon have welcomed it into their home and used it to make a statement in each room. Felicity gave images to Tomi which helped steer them towards their final choices, such as the lemon yellow on the bathroom vanity.

The shelves and cabinetry in the art-and-crafts room are Lego yellow, which makes a solitary grass-green chair in the same setting all the more eye-catching. In Isabelle’s bedroom a multicoloured chandelier hangs from the ceiling, while in Harriet’s a jade-coloured pendant matches the wardrobe.


The durable surfaces in the kitchen are in neutral hues, with a play on texture via the square-tiled splashback, shiny white benchtop and grey-stained oak-veneer cabinetry. Although Felicity and Simon wanted a long, rectangular window at the top of the kitchen wall, the council said it wasn’t in keeping with the villa style, so they opted for a row of small box windows reminiscent of little pictures.

An overhang with seating has been created at one end of the kitchen island – rather than along the front – to avoid taking space from the dining table. Splashes of colour add interest to the neighbouring lounge area, such as a yellow fire surround paired with a sapphire rug.


Comfort zone

Another bold feature is the hallway dado, painted a dark grey. “Villa halls are often long, dark and not very wide,” Tomi says, “so I didn’t want to close it in with anything too dramatic such as wallpaper or a dark colour, but I wanted some interest.” Felicity says Tomi brought her and Simon out of their comfort zone with some of the bold colour choices: “But the pieces Tomi challenged us on are the bits we now love most.”

The front of this home blends in seamlessly on this villa-lined street, yet its modern interior is one of a kind – and just as homely, happy and comfortable as its owners imagined.


Expert Q&A

What was your brief for this project?
To create a home that was relaxed, welcoming and a place where family and friends could congregate. Felicity and Simon were attracted to a number of different styles so I needed to bring all of them together in a cohesive and unique way.

What was the biggest challenge during the project?
Felicity and Simon were great clients who were looking to be challenged in terms of colour and how it was used. Of course, this meant I was challenged to use colour in different ways to what I would typically do. Plus I then needed to convince them that it would work!

What part of the home are you most proud of?
I absolutely love the big, oak-framed, sliding door in the living room, which has the bookshelf behind it. The door itself is a lovely feature and functional, too. While it closes off the art and crafts room, it enables that space to still feel connected to the main living area, which was crucial for the girls because they are still so young.

Words by: Catherine Steel. Photography by: Helen Bankers.

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