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This family rescued a crumbling bungalow and made it their dream home

It took a team effort for this family to relocate a seriously neglected bungalow from Taranaki to New Plymouth and make it their own. Discover how they managed to breathe life back into the home on a tight budget

This family rescued a crumbling bungalow and made it their dream home

Phil Gard, project manager, Shelley Gard, sales merchandiser and student, Chelsea, 18 (design student), Jordan, 15, and Joshua, 11, plus puss Molly.


+ Initially, the relocated house had no garage or storage.
+ The elevated location exposed the house to the wind.
+ The tiny kitchen had been untouched since 1928 and was separated from the living area.


+ An extension delivered a double garage, a front entrance, office/spare room, bedroom, bathroom and laundry, all equipped with storage.
+ Before renovating, the family established a garden and planted a good wind-blocking hedge.
+ Major renovations included a new open-plan kitchen positioned at the heart of the family living areas.

Where have you saved money?
Shelley: We were lucky to have wonderful friends who generously gave up their time to help us paint the interior, which was days and days of hard work. Family helped us initially when we moved in; the house was very raw and in need of a thorough clean – both mums were fantastic at helping us with this job.

+ Phil, who used to be an electrician, spent hours rewiring, saving us hundreds.
+ My job has been to paint the exterior, which was hard labour as the old weatherboards had layers and layers of paint that needed stripping. Even though this has been time-consuming, it has saved us money.
+ Family friends who were renovating at the same time gave us their wooden windows.
+ A close and talented friend gave up her valuable time as an interior designer (see contact list, left) to help us tweak our vision.
+ We also picked up some wonderful antique furniture from Trade Me. Our 1930s armchairs in the lounge cost 75 cents each.
+ Our builder, Dave, was very reasonably priced. He became part of the family.
+ Chelsea, our eldest child, has produced some wonderful pieces of art and photography.

Any splurges?
The kitchen by Elite Kitchens in New Plymouth was a good-quality investment. Located in the centre of the house, it has sustained us through many years of robust family living.

What was your best buy?
When Phil was renovating an old gentlemen’s club, he brought home a rather large wooden fire surround. I retained the cigarette marks on the mantel, where the men would have stood, talking over a pint, many years ago.

Best memory in your home?
Tearing down the borer-ridden cupboard in the old kitchen, as it was the first sign that we were starting our renovation five years after we moved in. A very happy time for us.

What would you never do again?
Relocate and renovate a home with three young children, all living in one room!

Best lesson learned?
Midway through our renovation we had a lot of open walls covered in tarpaulin. One windy night, the tarpaulin was particularly noisy. By this time the whole family had had enough of living in a dusty building site, so halfway through the night we decided to jump in the car and go to a nice hotel. They were so accommodating – I think they could see we were a family on the brink! That night felt so luxurious, with long hot baths, separate bedrooms and a glass of wine. After that one night, we went home happy and finished the house. The lesson we learned was to remove ourselves from the situation and re-energise.

Also, don’t agonise over wall colours too much; your first choice is usually right. And never cure your own hide! I have a cowhide on the floor that I laboured over for months and months, providing much amusement for my family along the way. Unlike other hides, mine has ridges and valleys and crunches as you walk on it. I have even tripped on the edges. Determined to prove my family wrong, the hide is still on the hallway floor, and has even flattened a little over time.

Shelley’s tips for renovating and decorating

  1. Trust your instincts, never waver from your vision, but also take advice from a trusted designer. Their expertise is invaluable.
  2. Our bungalow has history and we wanted to honour that by keeping her integrity intact. We used fittings from the era whenever we could, but have introduced many modern touches, too. We’ve balanced the strong masculine lines of the house with lighter feminine elements such as plants, ornaments and light, modern pieces.
  3. Have fun and tell your story. Your choices reflect who you are.

Words by: Annick Larkin. Photography by: Jane Dove Juneau.

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