A few final flourishes and personal touches was all that was needed to make this Wellington home the perfect fit for the Steven’s family
Meet and greet
Amanda Stevens, Ben Stevens, both real-estate agents, Matilda, 7, Cecelia, 5, and Charlotte, 3, plus Tallulah Bear the black Labrador.
Why this sunny Wellington home on a flat section was too good pass on
Sometimes the best opportunities arise when you’re least expecting them, which is what happened to real-estate agents Amanda and Ben Stevens.Back in 2011, the couple and daughter Matilda (before Cecelia and little Lottie came along) were living in a neighbouring Wellington suburb when Ben sold a 101-year-old Ngaio home to renovators looking for a property to do up. “It was in a bit of a state, split into two flats with a dingy 1970s addition,” recalls Ben.
The buyers undertook a thorough renovation, opening up the back of the house and replumbing, repiling and rewiring, but then decided to move to Christchurch in 2013.“We weren’t really looking to move but when the owners asked me if I knew of any interested buyers, I realised this house would be perfect for us,” says Ben.
It’s no surprise the couple, who met at Massey University, were captivated by the 150-square-metre home: it has four bedrooms, a light-filled living space and the kind of sunny, flat section that can be hard to find in Wellington.
“We love the space, the natural light and the flow from the house to the garden, which means I’m able to supervise the kids while I’m cooking,” says Amanda. “It was the back of the house that really won us over.”
Although the previous owners had completed the bulk of the renovation, there was still ample room for the couple to add their own touches.The first thing they did was get Wellington architect Tim Lovell to create a front porch, which not only offers shelter from howling southerly gales but also provides privacy from the neighbouring house (which the couple recently bought to use as an office).
They also added a two-square-metre wall between the dining and living areas. “I wanted to create different zones in the large, open-plan space,” says Amanda. Not only does the wall add greater definition, it also provides floor-to-ceiling shelving for Amanda’s many cookbooks and the jugs she’s collected over the years.
In the adjacent children’s area, Amanda had a concealed cabinet built to hide the TV and the children’s toys and, on the opposite wall, added doors to a recess (once a built-in wardrobe) which is now used as a crafting space. The pair also reroofed the house and had the American oak floorboards repolished.
Amanda loves to cook, so having a generous space to work in was important to her. The 3.7-metre-long bench was made by the previous owner’s father from off-cuts of various timbers, including matai and rimu, and provides ample room for food-preparation and storage.
“We had it sanded back and polyurethaned to make it more user-friendly for a family of five,” says Ben. Although not initially a fan of the red grout used for the splashback tiles, Amanda has since been won over. “The grout was imported from Italy and I love the way it provides a pop of colour.”
The fun really kicked into high gear when it came to decorating, says Amanda. Although she trained as a food technologist, Amanda has always loved interiors and often helps to dress and style the houses the couple sell.
Her style is to mix old and new, with an emphasis on textures and fabric. In the living room, for instance, the new grey sofa and grey and white rug contrast with a 1950s leather club chair (imported from France by French Revolution in Wellington) and a small wooden suitcase (which belonged to Ben’s great-grandmother) used as a side table. Amanda was lucky enough to inherit several large cupboards and chairs from her godmother who brought them back from Wales, including the 1950s chair in the children’s area which Amanda recently had re-covered in pink Warwick velvet.
The plush blue velvet sofa, also in the girls’ zone, comes from Wellington store The Axe. It’s a perfect foil for the floral wallpaper which, if you stand back, comes to form a skull.
“I found the wallpaper online from Scandinavian company Mr Perswall and had it made to fit this space,” says Amanda. “Even though it’s the kids’ area, it makes it more sophisticated and somewhere they enjoy bringing their friends.” In the large family bathroom, Amanda added a wall of the dramatic black-and-white-striped wallpaper she had used in her previous home.
The couple’s eclectic art collection includes pieces found on overseas trips as well as those bought from Wellington artist Judith Royal, whom they met when they sold her house.
The over-sized marquee ‘S’ light was sourced from Etsy’s US site. “It was wired up for American voltage, so I had to get an electrician to rewire it,” says Amanda.
Words by: Sharon Stephenson. Photography by: Nicola Edmonds.