Home Tours

This moody home is full of drama

A love for moody hues adds a heightened sense of drama to this Hastings home

Meet & greet

Kate Robinson (homeschool parent) and Tim Robinson (research company owner), and children Billy, 18, Finn, 16, and Theo, 10.

The property

A renovated period villa in Hawke’s Bay.

Kate and Tim Robinson’s house has been, and will always be, a family affair. Throughout a long and laborious renovation, brother-in-law Sam acted as builder and project manager while daughter Mollie kept the walls covered with her whimsical oil pastels and paintings. Yet, perhaps most importantly of all, their charming Hawke’s Bay villa was previously owned by Tim’s parents for more than 40 years.

Situated on 1.6 hectares in Hastings, the house was a beauty in its heyday, but had fallen into disrepair. For the couple, it was a great opportunity to refresh and inject their own aesthetic and personality into the home. “This home has been in the family for over 45 years so there’s many memories attached to it, from engagements, weddings, and epic parties,” says Kate. Most notably, granddaughter Marigold was born in the bathroom, to the surprise of parents and grandparents alike.

The tree-lined property also boasts an orchard, where the Robinsons run an agricultural research business, alongside a separate dwelling to host backpackers and boarders.

The renovation

Over the past six years, Kate and Tim have renovated the majority of the house, including the kitchen, dining and bedrooms. The couple got stuck into painting the interior themselves with the use of dark, moody colours to lend a touch of drama to the charming country home. The yellowing cork tiles and brown shagpile carpet hid original mataī floorboards, which were painstakingly restored back to their original glory. “Reintroducing the floorboards was the best day ever,” says Kate.

The kitchen

The kitchen is the hub of the home for the close-knit family, so it was important to have a large, open-plan style with plenty of bar seating, and a generous dining room to seat the clan. The kitchen design was undertaken by Sharon and the team at Rabbit Joinery, who created a modern take on a farmhouse kitchen, complete with gloss subway tiles and black cabinetry.

“We wanted the kitchen to be modern but in keeping with the era of our house,” says Kate, while incorporating the darker colours she loves. The renovation took four months, producing many an “interesting meal” while the family was left without kitchen facilities. But it was a kitchen worth waiting for. A happy marriage of rustic and glamour, the space becomes the focal point of the house, emphasised by monochromatic contrast and character pieces.

Admittedly painting the timber ceiling white was pretty brave; Tim’s parents had sanded back and varnished all of the ceilings over the 40-plus years they lived there, so painting over this work with white paint was a little hard to stomach.

“I felt pretty guilty undoing all of their good work, but they were really gracious about it,” Kate says. “It definitely helped to lighten up the space, which doesn’t get a lot of light.” Vintage upcycled furniture, such as the bar stools and wooden dining table enhance the lived-in era of the home.

The styling

A long-time lover of interior design, Kate used to work as a buyer and stylist for local Hastings homeware store Kindred Road. Her eye for design appears throughout the home, from well-stocked bookshelves to curated mantel shelves that teeter with memories of the past. “I love objects and furniture that bring history and subtle drama to our home. Both Tim and I tend to choose pieces that give us a sense of connection to places and people we love,” she says.

“We collect things that will last and grow more beautiful with time and would rather go without than have a piece we dislike or something that’s likely to date.”

Kate recalls the years that the couple used a painted beer crate as a side table while they saved up to buy their dream pair because they didn’t want to “compromise on something cheaper that wouldn’t last”.

Her style is the perfect combination of classic and eclectic, lending a light contemporary touch to her beloved moody spaces. Many of the artworks that decorate the walls are from daughter Mollie Howard, a local artist in Hawke’s Bay.

Tim and Kate have a penchant for also featuring random objects as artworks, from maps and rice baskets to timber water skis.

“We also have work from local photographers and a selection of vintage art pieces we’ve picked up over time,” says Kate. “I love nothing more than sitting with a drink at the end of the day and poring over some of my favourite interior designers and garnering inspiration from one of their beautiful books.

“I especially adore the writing and design ethos of Natalie Walton and Athena Calderone.”

It has been a big few years for the Robinson family, who have been busy working to re-establish a family business and settle into their new home. But all their hard work has paid off, and for now they are happy to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labour, with the next stage of the renovation planned for later this year. This will include moving the dining room to where the laundry is now, significantly reducing the size of the bathroom and moving the laundry into some of that space instead.


Words by: Holly Jean Brooker. Photography by: Florence Charvin

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