A previously stark contemporary home is given a lively makeover with bold colour, fearless pattern and travel treasures on display.
You could never accuse Emily Hunt of being afraid of a challenge. Move to New Zealand from Australia? Channel a love of interiors into a design business? Take on a major renovation that others might find too hard? Tick, tick and tick.
Sydney-born Emily and her Kiwi husband Ollie had been living on the Kāpiti Coast for four years but with two young children were looking for a bigger home. In 2018, after four years of looking, Emily stumbled upon this 250sqm house in Raumati Beach.
And although she was daunted by the work that needed to be done so the 2001-built home could obtain a Code of Compliance Certificate, Emily fell in love with the four bedrooms, two bathrooms and garage.
Another plus was the two-storey house’s location near the beach and schools for daughter Indiana and son Eddison.
“I’m used to older, character houses but fell in love with the open-plan layout, polished concrete floors and the banks of windows that make it so light and airy,” says Emily.
Ollie, who owns his own building firm, says a major hurdle was the work that had to be done so their home could obtain a Code of Compliance.
“That mainly involved lowering the level of a paved courtyard area on one side of the house to ensure better drainage and bringing the interior staircase up to code,” says Ollie.
To do this they had to remove an enormous water feature but the pay-off is a generous outdoor space sheltered from the wind where the family now spends much of their time.
It was an easier story with the interior. Because the layout worked so well for the family, they didn’t need to make any structural changes.
“But the house felt a bit clinical and minimalist for us,” says Emily. “We wanted to bring in some colour and warmth.”
One of the first things Ollie did was install wooden shelves in the alcoves next to the fireplace. It’s the perfect place to house the couple’s many collectables, including art they bought after meeting in London and travelling through Africa.
Emily also made good use of bright aquatic-themed wallpaper in the downstairs toilet. That wallpaper now makes a striking statement on one wall, while she painted the other walls pink and green, and added vintage brass bubble lights.
Emily’s a big fan of art deco style, especially the era’s architecture and extravagant colours. It was the inspiration for daughter Indiana’s bedroom, including the sorbet and navy colour-blocked wall, which Emily has paired with a pink velvet headboard and vintage gold starburst mirror.
“To complete the old-style glamorous look, above Indiana’s bed we’ve hung four plates featuring old Hollywood icons.”
The inspiration for Eddison’s room came from three colourful oars on his walls. “I wanted to use colour blocking again, but this time using the striking mustard triangle going up and over his roof that mirrors the design in the oars. The pale blue walls and the green of his headboard were also picked out from the oars.”
When it came to the main bedroom, Emily was all about her love of plants and greenery. That includes the bright living wall wallpaper mural behind the bed that she imported from the UK.
What do you do if you see a leather bedhead online that costs $2000 but can’t afford it? If you’re Emily, you make it yourself.
“I don’t sew so I couldn’t do that part of it but I designed a wall-hung leather-look bedhead for the main bedroom and found a local upholsterer who was willing to make it for $400.”
So pleased was Emily with the result, she did the same for her children’s rooms, tweaking the design as she went. She’s now doing the same for clients. “There’s always a cheaper option and, if you find a good upholsterer, it can look as good as the more expensive ones.”
Decorating on a budget meant it was cheaper to ship several pieces of furniture from Sydney than to start again, including the glass apothecary-style cabinet from Ikea, which now anchors one corner of the dining room and is the perfect place to display Emily’s collection of crockery.
But it’s the former sports locker that wins the most compliments. Emily found it locally on Trade Me and painted it in a bold orange chalk paint that really brightens the dining room.
As an interior designer, Emily knows a thing or two about mixing old treasures with new finds, and some of the spoils are dotted throughout the house. These include a globe that once belonged to Ollie’s parents and a ceramic doll, which started life with Emily’s grandmother.
She found the eye-catching gold toucan lamp in the UK but the shop wasn’t able to ship it to New Zealand. “Thankfully, my in-laws lugged it home in a gigantic, awkward box in their hand luggage for me.”
If it’s quirky, then it will probably catch Emily’s eye. “The Lina Cavalieri face plates in the kitchen are by a Canadian artist that I found on Etsy, while the resin abseiling men climbing the wall upstairs were also from Etsy. I like having things that are slightly different and unique.”
On the outside
The couple removed five large macrocarpa trees on the northern side of the property, which lets even more light into the living area. They also added retaining walls and landscaped the section, adding vegetable gardens and hardy perennials. Both Ollie and Emily have green fingers, he looks after the outside while she is responsible for the family’s many indoor plants.
Having seen how happy and settled the couple is, both Emily’s parents and her sister have followed in her footsteps and moved to Kāpiti from Australia. “It’s great that we can share our home with family and friends.”
Words by: Sharon Stephenson. Photography by: Anna Briggs