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The style transformation for this Mount Maunganui beach house is all about embracing its coastal environment

Imagination and professional expertise were required to completely transform this coastal house into a beachy-cool family home

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Amy Fowler (registered nurse), Ash Donkersley (construction business owner), Millie, seven, Bobby, three, Jack, 10 months, Luna, the English Staffordshire dog and Rosie the Tonkinese cat.

For Mount Maunganui born and raised Amy Fowler, the attraction of coastal living and the Kiwi outdoors has never faded. When her British partner, Ash Donkersley made the move to the southern hemisphere nine years ago, the love affair continued.

The couple built a home in Mount Maunganui a few years ago, but with two children and a third on the way, they decided to search for a home with a bigger section and a little more living space for the family to spread out. They didn’t need to look far, coming across a home a few streets away that was close to the beach and schools.

But it wasn’t a case of love at first sight for Amy. “It was a private sale, and while Ash was keen on it, I wasn’t,” she says. “It took some convincing for me to have a look but once I caught the vision that Ash had, we purchased the house.”

With the sale completed in September 2019, they set about renovating immediately, gutting the house from top to bottom. The couple got stuck in and the Christmas period and lockdowns of 2020 gave them extra time at home to get the demolition work nailed.

They stripped off all the wallpaper and coving in the four-bedroom home, removed the floor tiles and carpet throughout the house, replaced internal doors and removed 50sqm of patio pavers.

All the windows and glass doors were also removed so double glazing could be installed, and wardrobes were taken away to make way for built-in wardrobes tailored to make the most of the available space.

“I’ve really enjoyed interiors ever since building our first house in Welcome Bay. Instagram and Pinterest are huge sources of inspiration,” she says.

From here on, however, they relied on the experts. “We believe you always get what you pay for regarding quality and finish,” Amy says. “All our contractors were amazing and we would highly recommend them.”

The places targeted for the most attention and investment were the kitchen area and bathrooms. These are where award-winning designer Annika Rowson created her magic.

“We knew we really wanted to work with Annika. Her kitchens are amazing and we knew we wanted the kitchen to be the focal point of the home. We are huge believers in, ‘If you’re going do it, do it right’.

“We changed the kitchen and dining area position so we could double the kitchen size – this was Annika’s idea, which we hadn’t even considered – and the open-plan living works brilliantly when we have friends and family over.”

Consent was needed to remove a load-bearing wall, to open up the kitchen and move the position for the TV, and extra sliders were added in the dining area to create outdoor flow.

Calling in the professionals paid off handsomely. A Corian splashback in the drinks area and a striking curved Corian island bench that’s perfectly fluted and has rebated electrical points, are just some of the features that stand out.

Landscaping was also given significant investment, with plans and ideas put into the capable green fingers of landscapers from Bay of Plenty-based Grassroots Landscaping & Maintenance. The team created an outdoor area where the kids play and the adults enjoy relaxing in all-day sun-drenched spaces.

“This is where we spend most of our time,” Amy says. “The kids are enjoying mini-golf on the artificial turf, little Jack’s in the swing and there’s loads of sunshine to relax in.”

In the main bedroom, the walk-in wardrobe was removed and a built-in shelving system was installed spanning a wall. This resulted in a larger ensuite and more useful space.

The Annika Rowson Design team incorporated the Corian design into the ensuite’s double vanity and added a terrazzo tiling pattern for texture. The reeded glass shower screen adds interest and the neutral palette ensures timelessness and a sense of serenity.

In the children’s bedrooms, old wardrobes were replaced with built-in ones that had clever storage solutions. These have streamlined the spaces and help keep on top of mess and toys.

Amy, with two young children and pregnant with a third, was responsible for organising the tradies while Ash was holding down a full-time job. “It was an exhausting time, but we tried to make it fun for the kids,” she admits. “I enjoyed running the project, and the kids loved helping out, especially Bobby with his tool belt and pretend drills.”

The renovation was completed in 2020 and went as smoothly as it could. “Living without a kitchen for six weeks was pretty challenging, but it could of been a lot longer,” says Amy.

“The day of installation was the day Jacinda [Ardern, the Prime Minister] announced there would be a lockdown. Luckily Annika worked her magic to get all the tradies on site to complete the install before the deadline. We were so grateful.”

Words by: Holly Jean Brooker. Photography by: Alice Veysey.

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