A bungalow near the beach is an interior designer’s ever-evolving sanctuary
Meet & greet
Megan Ekdahl (interior designer) and Mike Ekdahl (commercial property developer) and Marlow the cavoodle.
When interior designer Megan Ekdahl and her husband Mike bought their Strandon property 16 years ago, they had no intention of living in it. Despite its location on a large, sunny section on a street leading to one of New Plymouth’s best beaches, the house had been rented to a group of rugby players who’d left it in bad shape. Megan set to work making it liveable so they could start making plans to remove the house and build new. After painting it white throughout, laying new carpet and installing a new kitchen, the couple and their son Ben moved in, the new building plans falling to the wayside. “After living in it and doing more to it, we started loving it more and more,” she says.
Eight years ago they built an extension out the back of the property so Megan could run her interior design studio from home. With furniture coming and going, she needed a sizeable storage solution and a powder room for clients. The long rear strip to the boundary was also used to build four-car garaging for Mike’s car collection. Megan has since moved into a studio in town, so the workroom has been transformed into a second living room that spills onto the deck.
“We call it the Sunday lounge and it’s baked in sun from 11 o’clock,” she says. “Every Sunday afternoon that’s where I hang out and read books or have a wine with the girls.”
Night and day
About four years ago Megan started fantasising about turning the light, bright character house into a moody sanctuary. “I’d come home and think, ‘I want a dark room’, and before you knew it, I’d have three.”
While it helps that sunlight pours in throughout the day, Megan’s ability to visualise, and her no-mucking-around policy means she hasn’t shied away from using darker Dulux paints, each room a slightly different shade. She has also lightened the carpet throughout, in order to offset the deeper hues.
“I love muddy, moody colours. I find them really calming.”
Despite the classic thinking that dark colours can make a room appear smaller, Megan says it was quite the opposite in the kitchen. Three years ago she transformed the white room with black cabinetry by Glen Johns and a darker floor, and was amazed how much bigger it looked.
“It’s because the black recedes,” she says. “Friends thought I’d done an extension.”
In the bathroom she changed what used to be a toilet and laundry into a glamorous haven with a bath. Her friend Blair from Company of Tiles put in the black marble tiles while the family were away in Bali. “No one wanted me to do a dark bathroom,” she says, “but I love everything about it.”
An eye for the eclectic
“I’m not a trends girl at all,” says Megan, who prefers to invest in quality pieces rather than buying new frequently. She has owned the linen-covered sofa in the Sunday lounge for 12 years and has recovered it twice.
“I change the cushions, bring rugs in and I might change a few accessories throughout the rooms. And a lot of my stuff has a story. My husband bought me a few pieces when we’ve been away, or I’ve gotten money from family for birthdays or Christmas. I’ve always tried to use it to buy something special.”
Pre-Covid, Megan and Mike would spend a month of each year in Bali, returning with several pieces of furniture and artworks they’d commissioned. “I love the people and the culture, the character of the pieces,” she says. “We try to support them as much as we can.”
Meanwhile, a striped couch provides a fun focal point in the living room, and is a favourite piece, after Megan spotted it at her friend Carol Thompson’s shop, Bijou Eliot. “It just fitted into the space so well.”
For art’s sake
Several pieces throughout the home are particularly meaningful to Megan and Mike. The bronze statue in the kitchen that Megan bought during a buying trip to China commemorates the death of her brother, who was killed in a car accident. And the family’s significant art collection includes two pieces by Taranaki artist John McLean, which they fell in love with when they visited his studio. They also own paintings by fellow local artist Jordan Barnes, including a portrait of son Ben that Megan commissioned for his 21st, and a bold jade painting of a deep-sea diver depicting the faces of both Ben and Mike. Megan says clients who visit her home often ask her to buy artworks on their behalf, but she always advises them to choose pieces they feel drawn to, without worrying about whether they’ll fit with the decor. “If you really love a piece, you can always get it to work in your room.”
Other than the extension at the rear of the house, the couple haven’t altered the layout much, but they have flipped the bedrooms around. The main bedroom was at the front of the house but has now become a spare room (where son Ben sleeps when he stays). What used to be Ben’s room was expanded by removing the wardrobe and the office at the end of the passage – this became a walk-in wardrobe. French doors open the bedroom onto the deck.
“My husband was overseas and I just thought I’d do it while he was away,” Megan laughs of the bedroom flip, although she adds Mike has always been open to her making changes. Now that they’ve finally finished, their plans to build new – on the next-door section they ended up buying – are finally underway.
It’s a bittersweet time, as the bungalow Megan says has slowly become a “fabulous” family home is now on the market. “We’ve been wanting to do a new build for so many years, and we’re ready for a change,” she says.
Words by: Carrie Bell. Photography by: Gina Fabish.