This Auckland couple gave their designer free rein to overhaul a run-down heritage villa and make it ready for modern living discovers Debbie Harrison.
Meet and greet
Eden Houlihan, company director, Lisa Houlihan, 38 owner of Tattoo Removals Ponsonby, Daniel, 29 (now flatting), Brooklyn, 14, and Harrison, 4, plus dog Hugo and cats Barbie and Louie.
A rundown villa in Ponsonby gets an expert makeover
When interior designer Katie Scott asked homeowners Eden and Lisa Houlihan what style they wanted for their just-purchased Ponsonby home, they had one word for her: moody. “It’s only a little house so we wanted it to be dark, classic, sophisticated and moody – a bit like my wife,” laughs Eden. The couple followed that up with a little more detail: they were after a slightly luxurious, ‘boutique hotel’ feel. Then they left Katie to it, putting her pretty much in charge of the renovation project while they checked in remotely from their Pauanui bach, where they lived during the renovation.
The couple had good reason to trust Katie’s taste – they’d been through the stunning Mt Eden home she’d designed for Adam Thomson and her style immediately appealed. “We were blown away by it. She has a classic style, uses quality products and has the talent to make a real home,” explains Eden. She was the ideal choice to whip their villa (which had its front veranda removed back in the 1940s) into a stylish abode fit for a modern family. Surprise us,” Eden and Lisa said.
The reno plan
It would be months before Katie could put her design skills into practice, however. Her first priority was to get the layout sorted and make the house liveable. It was a “very plain, run-down three-and-a-half-bedroom house” with an interior like a rabbit warren, so Katie opened it up by removing walls to make the living, dining and kitchen area into a single space.
Then, to make better use of the living area, she flipped the kitchen and lounge around and changed the stand-alone laundry into a spacious combined scullery and laundry, hiding the whiteware out of sight. She also sacrificed the small fourth bedroom to create a wardrobe and ensuite for the master bedroom. Only then, once the layout was sorted, did Katie set to work reinstalling the classic touches you’d expect to see in a home of this era.
The striking floral Designers Guild wallpaper feature in the master bedroom was a gamble on Katie’s part – the first time the Houlihans saw it was after it had been installed. Thankfully it turned out to be Lisa’s favourite part of the house. Katie strategically bought the wallpaper at the start of the project to ensure she had her show-stopper sorted no matter what happened with the reno (and the budget).
She also had the velvet headboard and some scatter cushions custom-made to match the tones in the wallpaper. Having turned the fourth bedroom into a crisp white ensuite and slick black walk-in wardrobe, Katie hid both behind a custom-made, full-height sliding door.
Having started out as a kitchen designer, Katie knows how to make a statement in this part of the house. For the Houlihans she chose bold, dark cabinetry with a stunning marble waterfall benchtop and a chevron tiled splashback, and tied it all together with a clever lighting plan. To create the moody look her clients wanted, Katie used LEDs under the kitchen bench, under the top cabinet in the scullery and hidden among the rafters. She also added a track of spotlights on the top wall and aimed them in different directions to add subtle feature lighting. “Everyone thinks they need pendant lights in a kitchen but it’s not always necessary. There was enough happening here,” Katie explains.
Rather than disguising the scullery, Katie instead made a feature of it, painting it the same striking shade of Resene ‘Nocturnal’ as the kitchen to create a visual link and make the kitchen seem bigger than it is. Another clever move was putting an external door in the scullery to allow easy access between the laundry and the washing line. “She didn’t just make things look cool – she made the house work,” says Eden.
A touch of tradition
Gorgeous plaster domes were added to the hallway ceiling to create a grand first impression and were emphasised by oversized glass pendants. Katie, Eden, and Lisa also decided to add traditional wall panelling to the hallway to give it a sense of history as well as a homely feel.
The most time-consuming and costly task was searching for recycled kauri to match the existing flooring. “I’m so pleased Katie pushed for it,” says Eden. “It was a massive cost and huge work to get the floorboards straight and matching, but the end result is that the house is good for another 20-30 years and it looks amazing. I might have been tempted to just lay down laminate flooring like everyone else but Katie definitely did it the right way. With features like the hallway and flooring, she just brought the house back to where it should have been,” says Eden.
They also kept the original stained-glass windows, which had caught Katie’s eye right from day one. Katie is pleased with the final balance between classic villa and contemporary home. “I like that the style is vibrant and contemporary yet in keeping with what you’d expect from a home of this age – the decor isn’t plain and boring but it’s also not at odds with the style of the house.”
Nothing says ‘boutique hotel’ like a bathroom with wow factor so Katie brought the glam to this space with floor-to-ceiling concrete tiles, a black, white and grey palette and touch-me texture via pressed tin tiles. She changed the layout of the master bathroom, making the far end into a wet area for the bath and shower.
“It was a way of adding a bath without making it feel jammed in next to a glass shower unit,” she says. “Making it all one bathing zone means it’s not a biggie if a few splashes of water get on the bath from the shower.” Katie knew Lisa and Eden liked a bit of bling so she chose a glam Italian vanity, complete with a genuine Swarovski crystal for its handle. The ensuite also features pressed tin tiles and a narrow vanity to keep things streamlined.
The next step
Eden loves that Katie created a home with lots of surprises – but there was one more surprise to come. Despite this gorgeous house finally being ready for the family to move into, plans have changed for the Houlihans and their restored villa has been staged for sale. But this partnership isn’t over – Katie is creating something new for the family in another leafy suburb of Auckland.