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This family reveal the best lessons they’ve learnt from their five-year reno

During the extensive renovation of their Wellington villa, this family won some hard-earned lessons. They share their budget tips and what they’d never do again

Meet + greet

Kristin Carden (lawyer), Lucas, 13, Maya, 11, and Blake, 8, plus Smudge the cat.

Best lessons learned? Kristin: Concrete and poly-block additions take much longer than wooden ones and require more engineering and a lot of steel. When your design calls for new or unusual methods or products it can take longer for your team to figure out how they work together.

What would you never do again? Change the design of the outside fireplace, chimney, hearth and steps/seating partway through the build. This added a lot of time and cost, although I really like how it turned out.

DIY disasters? A DIY retaining wall fell over after the earthquake, due to insufficient drainage. The builders and landscaper had a good laugh and lots of advice after that.

What’s one thing you would change if you could? I would make the driveway shorter. It’s beautiful, but a long way to walk on rubbish collection day!

Most memorable experience you’ve had in your home? Cooking on the deck, drinking wine and toasting marshmallows over the fire, with the kids and their friends racing on the flying fox and playing spotlight in the bush.


$800-$900k spent across five years on multiple projects including glazing, landscaping and renovating a self-contained unit.

See more of the Wellington villa renovation below


Architect Craig & Coltart Architects

Builder Brent Sarten at Capital Builders

Interior designer Niki Bell, 0274 986 682

Electrician Theo Francis, Voltage Electrical

Painter Peter Geusebroek, 0274 438 920

Drainage and plumbing Paul Simpson, Plumb1

Landscaping Lloyd Moutter, 021 211 2997

Photography by: Nicola Edmonds.

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