Life in the Old Girl
If this smart black and white Californian bungalow near Hamilton could speak, her first words might be something along the lines of "Not bad for an old girl".
And never a truer word would be said. The mid-1920s weatherboard house is queening it in a serene, green, rural setting at Matangi. At first glance, as you crunch up the tree-lined driveway, it has the look of a story-book cottage.
In fact, it is much more substantial than a cottage, with solid wooden bones that have seen it through several rounds of reconstructive surgery. Over the years it has been cut in half, moved off its perch (twice), turned sideways and extended. Now, dressed to the nines, it's in excellent form.
It's the home of Melanie and David Heald and their children Saskia, five, and Finn, four. The family have lived here since they moved from Waiheke Island in 2006, just before Saskia was born. When Melanie and David found it, the bungalow already had an interesting history. It had been part of the residential enclave at Hamilton�s Ruakura Agricultural Research Centre and was sold and trucked to Matangi in the early 1990s.
The Healds are both from the Waikato and when Melanie was pregnant with Saskia she had a hankering to return to her family connections. Her sister saw an ad for the bungalow on a 1.1ha section and persuaded Melanie and David to have a look. They loved it. As Melanie says, "It all fell into place", and over the next few years they embarked on an ambitious makeover.
The Healds are both in their mid-30s. Melanie is a florist with a history degree and David is an accountant. Melanie loves colour, form and design; David's a details man. And they both have sound research skills.
David does admit to having been dubious at times about Melanie's colour choices but, "I've come to trust her". For her part, Melanie admires the thoroughness with which David has searched out cornices, beams, skirtings, coloured and textured glass, copper pieces, timber joinery and wall panelling to match existing fittings. Authenticity has prevailed on this project.
The Healds initially thought they'd just put in a new kitchen and family room. Hamilton firm Antanas Procuta Architects was consulted and a "fabulous" plan evolved to build new wings to the north and south and expand at the back, with French doors opening to paved terraces. Sadly, according to local body regulations the house was too close to the rear boundary to allow an enlarged footprint. So Melanie and David made the bold decision to move the building forward on the section. And, while they were at it, they turned it sideways to ensure all-day sun and create a new front entrance facing the driveway.
The previous owners had developed two attic bedrooms in the roof space, accessed by tight, steep stairs. These were replaced by a graceful new staircase built off the reconfigured hallway.
Melanie and David have done a lot of the finishing work themselves and now have the pleasure of living in a commodious, colourful family home where every room exudes personality and a playful attitude. Melanie describes her decorating style as "trad with a twist - we like colour, pattern and texture".
She and David are great believers in the virtue of patience - "You wait till you find the perfect thing for the perfect place". So artwork by New Zealand artists such as Richard Killeen, Bill Hammond, Andrew McLeod, Georgie Hill and Saskia Leek now hangs alongside a mix of perfectly placed old and new items.
The generous farmhouse-style kitchen and dining area lie at the heart of the bungalow, with a smaller reading room and a new living room opening off it. Melanie�s first decorating purchase was a stunning Sanderson floral curtain fabric for the living room in deep wine, rose and greens. These colours are subtly echoed elsewhere.
She has also made good use of soft blue hues, plus various paint effects, patterned wallpapers and vintage furnishings. Ask canny Melanie where a particular item came from and she's almost bound to reply, �TradeMe�. The handsome cream retro-style Rangemaster stove is new, though - an English import from the same company that makes the famous Aga range. It was delivered to David's father, who lives in the UK, and he shipped it on to New Zealand.
Their robust kitchen cabinetry was custom-made by Hamilton craftsman Scott Woolston. They found the perfect paint for it - Porter's 'Blackheath' (a deep sage green) - and it works beautifully with the rustic polished concrete benchtops and a cream and sage French dresser Melanie spotted in an Auckland collectables shop.
In the black and silver master bedroom, Melanie started with another good find, a massive silver-framed mirror. Everything else flowed from this, including a bold black and silver paisley-patterned wallpaper, lavish curtaining and silver side tables.
The children�s attic rooms are a delight, a mix of old and new fittings and furnishings, with cunningly concealed wardrobes and storage. Saskia's room is pastel, with butterfly decorations. Finn�s is in bold red and blue, with a red bed made by his dad.
The Healds have developed the grounds, adding decking, pergolas, paving, flower beds, trees, a playhouse for the kids and a massive potager. During the renovation, the bungalow's original front porch was rebuilt as a gazebo and it is now a special feature of the garden, sitting at the end of an avenue of tilia lime trees.
When they�re all outdoors, says David, and the kids are running around in the big garden, riding their bikes, playing imaginary games, he thinks to himself, "This is why we're here. It's a lovely place to be". You can almost see their charming old bungalow nodding in agreement.For more images including web-exclusive images click on the "photo gallery" link above.