A New Plymouth home that could be in Bali
Meet & greet
Ginny Niwa (former nurse, now stay-at-home mum and interior design student) and Chad Niwa (builder, Chad Niwa Building), Indi, two, and Billy the English bulldog.
Ginny and Chad Niwa have always been on the same page, and things were no different when the couple embarked on the renovation of their New Plymouth villa. But Ginny is the first to admit she experienced a moment of panic when she turned up to the site one day to see her builder husband in demolition mode.
The couple had been meticulous with their planning but they couldn’t have predicted they’d knock out almost every wall – something that proved confronting to witness. “But that’s the beauty of old houses, right?” she laughs. “You never really know what you’re going to get into until you start.”
Chad agrees. “We discovered a fair amount that needed to be replaced so we thought, ‘we’ve come this far, let’s do this properly.’”
Ginny and Chad bought the three-bedroom former railway cottage in 2017, drawn to its location in the middle of town. While they didn’t want to change the layout too dramatically, many of the rooms felt poky, the bathroom was only accessible via a porch and there was little indoor-outdoor flow.
“It was very much in its original state with a tacked-on addition,” Ginny explains of the conservatory-kitchen tucked off to the side.
“Nothing had been touched since, so it was falling apart, really.”
Far from its derelict state putting them off, with Chad’s building background and Ginny an interior design student (who appeared on renovation series The Block NZ in 2012), the prospect of a project excited them. The couple lived in the house for a year with daughter Indi, and eventually enlisted the help of a local draughtsman to draw up plans.
The idea was to open up the house, improve the flow and create a better space for entertaining by adding a 70sqm extension out the back.
Preserving the home’s facade, Chad and his building company rebuilt the interior in keeping with its colonial heritage, replicating its original architraves, skirting, 3m stud and rusticated weatherboards. Cedar along the back of the house gives it a more modern feel.
“It ended up being quite a major,” says Chad. “Sometimes it’s easier to get rid of something and start again than to try and make it work.”
Timing is everything
Fortunately, the couple managed to get the house finished before the national lockdown in 2020, allowing them to hunker down in their new home with Indi, who was only a baby at the time.
“We were going to start later but then an opportunity came up in the schedule,” says Ginny. “We weren’t super ready but we thought, we have this opportunity to do it now and if we don’t jump at it we’ll have to wait another 12-18 months.”
Chad and his team “threw everything at it” and got the job done in just four months. The couple also engaged kitchen designer Annika Rowson of Rowson Kitchens who helped them come up with their practical yet lovely cooking space, complete with an island hob and a drinks station.
“It’s quite an entertainers’ house,” explains Chad. “So, if someone’s in the kitchen it’s good to be able to face your guests rather than being tucked away out the back.”
While the front of the house has largely retained its original footprint with the bedrooms and study coming off the hall, the family are relishing their serene, open-plan living space that flows on to to a 20m alfresco area via stacked sliding doors.
“When they’re open on a sunny day,” he says, “it’s like an extension of the house.”
Delighting in the decor
“From the get-go, we knew we wanted to keep it very light, bright and clean,” says Ginny. Due to the size of the extension, they couldn’t continue the original rimu floors, opting to overlay them instead with engineered oak throughout.
Along with the timber elements in the alfresco area, they add a warmth to the contrasting white, with Resene Alabaster on the interior walls and Resene Sea Fog on the exterior. Resene Shabby Chic, a dusky natural hue, is on a feature wall in the main bedroom.
Elsewhere the aim was to create a holiday-at-home vibe, which they’ve achieved by incorporating cane and rattan through pendant lampshades, their bedhead, tropical landscaping and art prints that remind them of their travels. One is of Monaco, where they’d visited on their OE just before moving in.
Ginny charts much of her design inspiration on her Instagram page, @the_homecollective, and was in charge of the interior styling; however Chad also helped to make some furnishing selections, something he’s grown accustomed to doing quickly on the job.
“If I was feeling unsure about something I would present him with a couple of options and he’d be very decisive,” she says. “So we worked quite well together in that sense.”
Subtropical state of mind
As soon as the main renovation was complete, the family moved in. They then spent the next year chipping away at the landscaping, with help from their landscape architect friend Sean Parker.
Star jasmine lines the entranceway and is alluringly fragrant when in bloom, and a couple of large kentia palms make a welcoming statement. Tractor seat plants (Ligularia reniformis) and Costa Rican bamboo palms screen the neighbours, and there’s a magnificent copper beech with distinctive red leaves to the side of the house. Two-year-old daughter Indi loves to get out in the backyard, run around and kick a ball.
“It’s such an easy house to live in,” says Ginny. “It’s nice and warm and sunny and because we’ve been able to design it for us and our lifestyle, it has everything we need.”
“It’s just a really functional house,” adds Chad. “Everything just flows.”
Words by: Carrie Bell Photography: Gina Fabish