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Inside a 115-year-old Ponsonby hall turned welcoming family home

Article by Homes to Love

Smoke stained walls, holes in the floor and no kitchen didn’t discourage Jess Britten and Warren Durling from seeing what Ponsonby’s old Masonic hall could be: their future family home

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For the first of our series INSIDE, Jess Britten from Hall We Need takes us inside her stylishly renovated home: Ponsonby’s old Masonic Hall

“It feels like we’re in a perpetual state of renovation,” says Jess Britten, who, along with her partner Warren Durling, has slowly been converting a historic hall in Ponsonby into their family home.

They bought the hall in 2016, got the keys on a Friday and moved in on the Saturday.


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“It was very much a hall at that stage,” she says. “There were mummified rats in the cupboard, 100 years of grime on the walls, holes in the floor, holes in the walls and broken windows. It felt like we had an endless to-do list.”

It took six months for the hands-on duo to bring the hall back to a “neutral state”.

“We didn’t have children so we would just come home, chuck on our Warehouse trackies and spend our nights working on it.”

Three years on and one adorable baby later, the hall is unrecognisable. Bright white walls, clever styling and a whole lot of DIY have transformed a once dark and cavernous space into a cosy, welcoming home for the family of three.

Jess Britten, Hall We NeedPhoto by: Jess Britten, @hallweneed

What DIY projects have you tackled so far?

I love a good DIY, much to Warren’s dismay. He’s the tools guy. I come up with the ideas and then poor Warren has to execute them with me, I won’t say barking orders, but I am very specific with what I want.

One of the big ones was solving our problem of storage. Because it’s a hall, we have no garage and no off-street parking, so we needed somewhere to keep our camping gear and Warren’s kite-surfing gear. We solved that by getting some big storage racks from Bunnings and attaching some beautiful panelling to one side. They’re all on castor wheels so we can move them around and use them as room dividers.


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What do you love about DIY and buying second hand?

I love things with a story, it’s what makes it special. You can buy really beautiful new things, and certainly if you have endless budget you can buy really beautiful new things. But, if you’re trying to do things on a budget, I think the best way to get a beautiful result that has depth and character is to get something that has had a story and put your own twist on it that way.

How did you find furnishing a space with such high ceilings?

The challenge was creating comfort in these spaces. Because the ceilings are so high, it’s difficult to make the room feel cosy, secure and homely. We’ve always had that “wow” factor because it’s so big, but to actually live in and be comfortable in is an interesting balance to find that and I think we’re still chasing it.


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When did the hall start to feel like a home?

It always felt like our home, but the paint job made the biggest difference. We painted inside and out and it completely transformed the place. It was a real milestone for me, it gave it a breath of fresh air.

Why did you paint the entrance blue?

I’m a stickler for white. I paint everything white, which I know is really boring, but I just love it. So I thought the entrance needed a bit of personality. The whole hall is pretty interesting, but it’s just blanket white. It’s a super matt Dulux Chalk Effect paint, which is great because I’m not much of a shine girl. We decided to paint the skirtings blue too, so it’s blue from ceiling to the floor, which gave it a bit more of a contemporary feel.

How important is it to maintain heritage?

It’s really important. These buildings anchor our heritage. They have stories that go with them. I’ll meet people through all sorts of different ways; a taxi driver recently said to me, “I went to a wedding here 60 years ago” and that to me is why you preserve heritage, because it brings ties to the community that otherwise get lost.

What’s your favourite part of the hall?

My favourite part of the hall is that it has become our family home. It’s a really interesting building with lots of character but it’s also our home and I think that’s a result of having Stevie in here and creating some family memories.

Words by: Bea Taylor. Video by: Lana Byrne. Photos by: Bea Taylor and Jess Britten.

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