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How this stylish new-build avoided the cookie-cutter look

Hopping straight from one new-build to another has given this family an instant upgrade and the chance to experiment with finishes

Shaye and Blair Woolford didn’t have to venture far to find the perfect site to build their family home on. In 2016, on an evening stroll around their Pyes Pa, Tauranga, neighbourhood, they stumbled across a newly released section that was a step up from the one they’d just built on.

“The section was bigger and north-facing, it had a playground and reserve directly across the road and – with a growing family – it gave us the opportunity to add another living area and bedroom. It was the chance for us to upgrade, essentially,” Shaye recounts. A chat with the building company in charge of the site and the couple were sold – literally. In spring the following year, the family moved in.

Design Choices

For Shaye and Blair, it was important to create a family home that would be relaxing and comfortable for themselves and their two boys, Hunter, 10, and George, 8. They decided on four bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living areas and a big deck for all their summer living and entertaining. The must-haves on their list were quality bathrooms and solid flooring.

“I feel like you should think carefully about those two things because they make such a difference to the feel of the home. I’m really pleased with our flooring choice. We weren’t keen on vinyl planking or tiles, but with four rooms to cover we couldn’t afford hardwood flooring,” says Shaye. “Blair’s mum is an interior designer and she suggested we opt for bamboo flooring which ‘walks’ like hardwood. At the time, bamboo was a tiny bit more than vinyl but well under the cost of hardwood flooring, and it’s a sustainable product, too.”

This isn’t the only material in the home that’s a little different to the standard finishes you might expect, and these have helped the Woolfords’ home shake off the new-build, cookie-cutter look. The elongated, bevel-edged bathroom wall tiles are another example.

“I love that they’re a new take on the classic subway tile and that the lavender grey suits the rest of that side of the house. When I found them they were end-of-line so we got them a lot cheaper,” Shaye says.

For the kitchen splashback, she wanted texture but also something neutral that would work with the stone benchtop. “I can’t stand a plain glass splashback and we had already done white subway tiles in the last house we built. Then I found these ones, which look like a rough white brick wall, in my tile travels and didn’t look back.”

The couple also decided to add a fireplace to their formal lounge; in a bold black setting, the natural focal point adds a cosy, hunker-down vibe. “With the fire, raked ceiling and pendant lights, that lounge quickly became one of our favourite rooms for hanging out with friends in, and having a wine in winter,” says Shaye.

The decor

Shaye loves mid-century modern style and most of their furniture recalls that simple, pared-down aesthetic.“I love to mix and match – I can’t stand everything being new. I’ve collected bits over the years from secondhand stores and incorporated them into our home and I always buy something when we travel. A cowhide rug, a vase, a piece of art. We thrive on change and that goes for our home, too.”

The couple commissioned Paul Mossong of Hanlon & Howe to make their family dining table. “I asked him to create one that would stand the test of time and see us through our life. He built it out of steel and London pine and the tabletop ‘floats’ upon the legs – it’s so cool.”

To allow their art and furniture to stand out, Shaye chose a neutral, earthy palette for the interior: soft, warm-tinted Resene ‘Half Rice Cake’ on the walls, cool brown bamboo floors and a black chimney breast and kitchen cabinetry. As a result, the home has a calm vibe, with colour added through furniture and plants. “I tend to lean towards accents of blue, orange and green – quite a bit of green, actually, with all my plants!”

I tend to lean towards accents of blue, orange and green

– quite a bit of green, actually, with all my plants!

Almost every room has a potted plant, or two – or five. “I love the calming influence of being surrounded by nature,” says Shaye, a florist who is renowned for her floral work and incredible wedding bouquets. “I try to bring nature in however I can – indoor plants, vases of flowers and glimpses of my garden outside.”

The garden

Shaye’s garden is a prime example of good things coming in small packages. There’s not much room on the 577-square-metre section, but she’s made it work hard with clever planting. Surrounding the house are different outdoor zones, designed so that, no matter which window you look out of, you’ll have a pleasing view (“In time, anyway – it still needs a few years’ growth!”).

She planted a pumice and stone area outside the family lounge with silver birch, Boston ivy, Virginia creeper and ornamental grasses. There’s also a fernery in the outdoor niche between the lounge and main bedroom – as well as providing a tranquil outlook for both rooms, this feature acts as a noise barrier. The space doesn’t get much sun and can get cold, so Shaye planted ferns, a ribbonwood tree, various types of moss, hostas and ornamental grasses.

At the front is a picking garden, which Shaye has filled with blooms to use in her floral work: perennials, roses, sweet peas, love-in-a-mist, ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas, magnolia and mock orange. “I love to use interesting stems from the garden in my wedding bouquets.”

She planted a hedge of non-invasive, slender-stemmed fairy bamboo by the deck and outdoor dining area for screening. “It was the best decision I ever made. It’s three metres high now and, while delicate, it still provides privacy from our neighbours.”

After planting the garden only 18 months ago, Shaye loves watching the changes each season brings. “The magnolias are beautiful in winter, the flower garden is gorgeous in spring, and the movement of the green natives and grasses looks good all year round.”

The section is elevated, so to camouflage the extensive retaining walls and fences, Shaye has planted Boston ivy, Virginia creeper and creeping fig which will continue to clamber and sprawl, softening all the hard edges. If they planned on living in the house forever, they’d get stuck into the expensive task of transforming the clay into rich soil, says Shaye, but at this point they feel it would be overcapitalising.

Instead, she decided to fill her low garden beds with plants that grow like weeds. The pratia, star jasmine, rose geranium, apple mint and regular mint she chose are all thriving, despite the less-than-ideal conditions.

The future

The garden’s growing – and so are the kids. While Shaye and Blair have no immediate plans to move, they do have dreams of embarking on a new project one day, which will include a pool for the boys. Let the neighbourhood strolls begin.

Words by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Alice Veysey.

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