Home Tours

Seasoned renovators share their top tips, and their latest transformation

Saving a crumbling Palmerston North villa was a labour of love for this pair of professional renovators who had a clear vision for their heritage home. See their renovating and budget tips below

Meet + Greet

Blair and Rebecca McDonald, 38 and 35 (co-owners of Blair McDonald Building), Ryder, 8, Indy, 5, and Tilly, 3, plus cat Mimi and Flemish giant rabbits Poppy and Daisy.

Rebecca’s reno advice

If you can, live in the unrenovated space for a while and get a feel for it. Often, what you think a space might need can change dramatically once you’ve lived in it.

Renovations can take over your life. Give yourself permission to have time off or, even better, time away.

Spend some money where you can see and appreciate it. A few fancy extras can make a huge difference, and add a ton of value, eg a fancy sink mixer in an otherwise standard-spec kitchen can lift the whole space. So go ahead and buy that designer pendant!

Don’t underestimate the finishing touch of landscaping (and employing a great landscape designer). It’s the icing on the renovation cake.

Have fun. You might think you can’t wait for it all to be over and that you’ll never, ever put yourself through that again. But renos are a bit like babies. You miss them when they’re gone and, before you know it, you’re pining to do it all over again!


Becs: Being in the trade and also having done a great deal of the work ourselves and in our own time, it is really hard to give a realistic reno cost and, if I am perfectly honest, I stopped keeping track a long time ago. I do know that we spent about $180,000 on materials alone. Obviously that’s not including all those hours we worked, or the blood, sweat and tears involved.

One thing I can tell you with certainty is that the old saying about ‘a villa renovation taking twice as long and costing twice as much as you think’ is true, even though we have years of experience under our belts!

All-white tips

The 90/10 rule 
If you love lots of white, a ratio of 90 percent white to 10 percent colour will prevent your space from looking too fridge-like.

Cool it down
Soothe the vibrant red tones in native timber floors with a cool white on the walls. Go for a grey- or green-based shade of white.

Warm it up
Does your room face south or absorb lots of reflected green light from the garden? Whites with a yellow base will stop it feeling chilly.

See more of the New Plymouth renovation below



Landscaping Kathy Bills, kathybills.co.nz.

Architect Bruce Barry, brucebarryarchitects.co.nz

Words by: Tina Stephen. Photography by: The Virtue.

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