A coastal farmhouse-style renovation gave this Taranaki cottage a fresh look to suit its pasture-to-sea outlook
Jane loves the textural contrast of the brick fireplace in this white-painted space, but added a new wood burner. The dining suite is from Danske Mobler. “I have always longed for a French farmhouse table and iron cross-back chairs,” she says. The wire pendant light is from Willo in New Plymouth.
Meet & greet: Jane Allerton-Browne (sales and marketing specialist for Stonebaths), her children, Chloe, 12, and Max, 10, cats Chad and Lady Maumau, pet lamb Sunshine, calf Woops, and chickens Henrietta, Ginger and Lady Clucksalot.
The property: Renovated 1940s farmhouse in Urenui, northern Taranaki.
For a self-confessed city girl like Jane Allerton-Browne, swapping red traffic lights for Red Bands and starry skies was not without its challenges. But, she says, she wouldn’t ever trade her family’s years in this rural corner of Taranaki. “I’ve lived in Urenui for nine years and love living out here. It’s the most beautiful community and a beautiful lifestyle for the kids,” she says. The farmhouse cottage shared by Jane and her two children, Chloe and Max, captures an idyllic vision of a rural Kiwi lifestyle – harvesting home-grown vegetables from the garden, children running barefoot in the paddocks, and the occasional chicken clucking through the house. But it’s taken a fair amount of work to build this bucolic vision.
Homeowner Jane Allerton-Browne, pictured with her children Max and Chloe, designed the kitchen island. “I took inspiration from a lot of the big American homesteads and the Hamptons look,” she says. The paint colour is Dulux Mayor Island.
Though adorable now, this farmhouse’s appeal was well disguised when Jane and her family first took possession of it. “It’s an original 1940s farmhouse, built by local brothers who lived there for about 30 years,” says Jane. She initially fell in love with the home’s generous proportions – including high ceilings, a wide hallway and an enormous kitchen – and glimpses of heritage charm peeping through an overlay of dodgy updates.
“There was a lot of history to the house. It had been updated in the ’80s, but you could still see parts of the original house,” she says. Renovating meant uncovering the odd horror tale too.
“When we took some of the scrim and plasterboard off the walls, there were generations of mummified rats and mice in layers going up the walls,” says Jane, who was equally horrified by the stained and stinky orange floral carpet. But beyond these frightful discoveries lay treasure – the carpets (ripped up within an hour of receiving the keys) hid mataī floorboards, a wall added to the living room in the ’80s was demolished to allow stunning views across farmland to the sea, and behind the rodent graveyard in the walls were notes from the original owners.
The print to the left of the mirror is from Blacklist Studio and the small ceramic artwork is by Jai Vasicek. “I gave myself my dream bedroom,” says Jane, who painted the floorboards white and layered the space with luxurious bedlinen from Society of Wanderers.
Respect for the home’s history was reason enough to preserve as many of the 1940s features as possible, but it was also a budget-savvy move. The original fluted glass doors were saved – one of them was remounted on barn door hardware to make it fit with the new bathroom, but there was no salvaging the original bathroom or the kitchen either.
“The kitchen was this old ’80s wooden pine kitchen with doors falling off. I wouldn’t want to put my plates in there, it was just disgusting,” says Jane. To replace the kitchen within a tight budget, they needed to get creative, finding the solution in a secondhand kitchen, bought on Trade Me. “We drove to Wellington and bought that – it came out of a beautiful waterfront house and was actually quite a new kitchen.”
They repainted all the kitchen cabinet fronts, then added concrete benchtops and a timber bench and shelves, milled from a tree felled nearby, which completed the room’s farmhouse look and added a local element.
Alternative wall treatments were another wallet-friendly move. The 80-year-old walls had bumps and blemishes that paint could never hide, but rather than wearing the expense of putting in new Gib board and plastering, they chose wallpaper instead. Resene’s range of plain wallpapers look just like a flat painted wall, but works like a filter over imperfections.
Max’s striped bedlinen is from Ikea and the canopy was made from a linen sheet from Sheet Society.
The house that Jane built
No renovation is without a few curveballs, but Jane was thrown a doozy with the breakdown of her relationship partway through the makeover process. Being left in a half-finished house with no bathroom added insult to injury, but Jane reacted by rolling up her sleeves and finishing the job herself, treating the renovation as a form of practical therapy.
“It was kind of like a healing journey. I put on my overalls and ended up doing it all myself – I was hanging wallpaper on Christmas morning,” she says. Tradie friends were called in when a professional touch was needed, but otherwise Jane tackled it all herself, moving from room to room, painting and wallpapering on weekends, and in between work and family commitments. “It was all learning how to wallpaper off YouTube and a hell of a lot of painting.”
On the plus side, there was no need to ask anyone’s opinion or permission for her design plans, including painting the floorboards in the hallway a Scandi-inspired white. “I’ve always wanted a house with white-painted timber floors and, all of a sudden, I had no one to tell me I couldn’t do it.”
She put just as much energy into the just under a hectare of land, finding it soothing and challenging. “This was the first time I’ve had chickens and beefies [cattle], plus raising lambs for the school pet day. Doing all of that has certainly been a learning curve.”
From feeding stock in winter to monitoring the water levels of their tanks in summer, there’s been plenty of difficulties, but just as many rewards. “I spend a lot of time in the garden and it’s a great place for the kids and I to hang out.”
Between the garden harvest, eggs from the chickens and freezer full of home-kill, they could be basically self-sufficient over summer.
The bathroom was completely gutted and reconfigured, borrowing space from an adjoining room for a shower. The star of the show is the Olivier bath from Stonebaths, which is paired with tapware in a brushed gunmetal finish, also from Stonebaths.
From land to sea
Having a strong vision for the space helped bring it all together, and the home’s rural surroundings and epic outlook gave Jane all the inspiration she needed. Perched atop a hill, the home has stunning views across rolling pastures to the sparkle of the sea, inspiring a farmhouse feel with a liberal dash of coastal style. “It’s very curated towards country living, but also very beachy – shoes off, sandy feet. Lots of blends of natural textures, lots of white walls with indoor plants and nautical stripes.”
“It’s a dream house for my kids as well,” says Jane. It’s a space for home-cooked meals and afternoons spent baking with her daughter, a space where her son can bounce a ball, and where friends – including the feathered and furry variety – can wander through and make themselves at home.
“I wanted the kids to have memories of home, and to me home is warmth and music and smells and textures. It’s a feeling.”
Jane recounts a stranger coming through recently and saying the house felt like a hug. If the goal was to create a home that’s warm, casually elegant and, above all, welcoming, she should consider her mission accomplished.
What areas of your renovation did you save on?
The kitchen cabinetry was bought on Trade Me from a beautiful old waterfront bungalow in Lyall Bay, Wellington. I repainted the fronts using Resene Smooth Surface Sealer followed by Resene Half Alabaster. For the benchtops, we poured concrete and polished it, and used locally felled timber for the other bench and shelving.
The vintage-shaped Olivier bath from Stonebaths was an investment piece. It makes the bathroom feel so luxurious and is used nearly every day by one of us.
Best lessons learned?
Be prepared to spend a lot of money on things you can’t see. As someone who wants to just do the “pretty things” it is frustrating forking out cash, but it’s necessary. It can be easy to forget to budget for things like insulation, wiring etc.
What would you never do again?
Wallpaper. Just because it is my pet hate.
Any renovation or DIY disasters?
During the second lockdown, my former partner tried to DIY the concrete benches, but he forgot to put the cement mix in. The crumbly dried mess didn’t turn out as planned and we had to wait quite some time to get the real deal made.
What’s one thing you’d change about your home if you could?
The location. The setting is picturesque, like sitting on top of the world looking down onto bushland, ocean and amazing sunsets. However, the sacrifice is being almost a 100km round trip to town each day, sometimes twice. I wish I could pick my house up
and relocate it to New Plymouth.
What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had in your home (good or bad)?
Sunday afternoons pottering in my kitchen listening to Billie Holiday, a roast in the oven, fresh baking for the week done, kids sitting at the bench and the sunset out every window over the hills and out to sea.
Text Shelley Tustin Photography The Virtue
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