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This creative family transformed a 130-year-old school for just $45,000

Disappointed with the lack of wedding options near them, this couple jumped at the chance to transform Port Molyneux school in South Otago into the ultimate venue and accommodation

Who lives here?

Jade McNab, 41 (owner of Port Molyneux School wedding venue), Lyndon McNab, 32 (farmer), Archie, 8, Marla, 5, and Hollie, 2.

Problems & solutions

1. A badly positioned bedroom door blocked sea views.
Solution: The door was moved to allow guests to lie in bed and look out to sea.

2. A rotten window prevented access to the outdoors.
Solution: A sliding door was installed to open onto a courtyard area.

3. No storage in the poky bathroom.
Solution: Space was reclaimed from an adjacent linen cupboard to create a more functional bathroom.

Best lessons learned?

Jade: Offer to clean up for tradies, as it saves a lot of money. Add a hardener to paint in busy rooms. Paint everything white – it hides the imperfections in old buildings.

DIY disasters?

All the plants we planted in the garden were killed by the easterly storms! It took a bit of time to figure out what grows well so close to the ocean – natives are always a winner.

Reno tips

  • To keep costs down we shopped secondhand and kept an eye on Trade Me for signature pieces. We combined these with items found at Kmart and The Warehouse to create a mix that was ‘us’.
  • Keeping the walls white made the rooms brighter and meant we could add colour through furnishings, including our favourite old green sofa.
  • We used Annie Sloan chalk paint in ‘French Linen’ on many items of furniture bought in op-shops. There are so many good-quality pieces in secondhand stores that just need freshening up. It’s a way to keep costs down while ensuring your furniture won’t fall apart after a few months.
  • We quickly learned it wasn’t worth trying to save money on outdoor fixings. Stainless steel is a must-have when living so close to the sea. Replacing rusted items and fixing rust stains will quickly add up to what you would have paid if you’d bought stainless steel in the first place.
  • In the bathroom, I knew I wanted an open shelving unit but couldn’t find what I wanted. Asking a local cabinetmaker to make us one was a great way to get exactly what we wanted and wasn’t as expensive as we’d thought.


Exterior and structural work $20K
Bathroom $10K
Kitchen $5K
Carpet and flooring $3K
Interior decor and furnishings $7K

Total $45K

Scroll down to see the before & after’s

Builder Regan Maze Builders, 027 203 7168
Painter Rex Brumby, 03 412 8272

Photography by: Guy Frederick.

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