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the eight year itch

From Habitat magazine - issue 15

It took eight years not seven for Nicole McKenzie to feel in need of change. That’s when she fell back in love with her paint colours.

It’s testament to the timeless quality of Resene paint colours that when Nicole McKenzie renovated her eight-year-old house, she only changed one wall colour. “I was still in love with the original colours I had chosen,” she says, looking around the light and airy Auckland home.

Outdoor pool
Bedroom butterfly decorations
Pool: Resene Foggy Grey creates a demur exterior to complement the sky and pool.  Bedroom: Butterflies dance across a wall of Resene Tasman in the main bedroom.

Soft greens, blues and palest stone flow in a cohesive but interesting colour palette throughout the house. Nicole’s desire for a casual and beachy, “but not twee”, scheme is given life through colours such as Resene Tasman, Resene Foggy Grey, Resene Pewter, Resene Tana and Resene Zen. Each of the bedrooms and the lower living area is given a distinct colour, while the main living rooms and transition areas are in Resene Half Tea.

Nicole concentrated her efforts on new upholstery and artworks, some new furniture and accessories, helped by her staff at Trinity Interior Design. Trinity had also helped design the original interiors and Nicole liked the company so much, she bought it.

The former IT consultant has always loved architecture and interior design, finding an outlet for the passion in various residential developments and renovations. In 2001, she and her former partner bought a subdividable section with a small 1950s cottage in the middle. They had a month to shift the cottage (fondly dubbed ‘the two-bed shed’) to the rear of the section, make it habitable and move in. They then had the luxury of time – time to see how the section was during all seasons, time to plan and refine the new house, and time to build it exactly as they wanted. Once the house was designed in collaboration with architectural draughtsman Grant McIntyre, they then mulled over and perfected those plans for six months. “We put a huge amount of thought into it. The actual building phase was a fantastic experience. It went without a hitch. Living on site meant we could see it every day.”

Living room
Dining/living rooms - partition wall
Living room: The main living area features walls in Resene Half Tea, a fireplace, window seat and carpet by Sallee. Get the look with Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen tinted to Resene Tana.  Dining room: The partition wall between the dining area and main living room is repainted in Resene Tana. The artwork is by Hope Gibbons, made from old beehive timbers.

The main living areas of the house are on the second floor to take advantage of harbour views, with a pool and garden on the northern side for sun. “We wanted a spacious house but not one with big soulless rooms. The interiors needed to be calm. We were both travelling a lot so wanted to come home and relax.”

With travel and a building project taking up her time, Nicole commissioned Trinity Interior Design to interpret her vision for the interiors. She wanted colour, but subtle colour which flew in the face of the then fashion for all-white walls. “I wanted soft natural colours, then used white in the furniture and accessories. I also think black is underrated as an accent colour. It gives a room punch.”

In the recent renovations, the only colour change was for the partition wall between the dining and living areas. Once different colours on each side, it is now a uniform Resene Tana.

Green bedroom
Resene Zen is a restful green for the guest bedroom.

A window seat was built into the living room, a sofa recovered and the older white furniture replaced with pieces in rich walnut-toned timber. New cushions and artworks gave the finishing touches.

While the work could be seen more as a refinement than a full-on renovation, the decision to make changes and devise a plan was critical for Nicole. While many of us may tinker with our interiors, adding a cushion here or a vase there, she believes that by critiquing the entire house and creating a plan of changes to achieve over a certain time frame, this gives in a more cohesive result.

'In my head I had a checklist of things to achieve over a period of time, something I could work progressively towards. It's the same with our clients. We give them a plan and they work away at it depending on the time and budget available'.

Modern kitchen
Nicole McKenzie
Kitchen: Resene Wan White cabinets are offset by an engineered stone island bench. Get the kitchen cabinetry look with tough Resene ArmourCat tinted to Resene Wan White. Couch: Nicole McKenzie’s eclectic style supports her desire for a casual, beachy home.

'If you have that overview, if you then find things along the way that you like but which aren't on the plan, it's much easier to slot them in. It means you don’t have to second guess yourself or do things in isolation.' It's a method that’s certainly worked for Nicole.

The interiors now have a subtle retro flavour, almost in honour of the property’s original cottage. The Eames dining chairs are a 1950s classic, as are the Anna D chairs. Fun, screen-printed cushions mix with more traditional striped velvet and the new timber sideboard in the living room has quirky detailing and modernist lines.

It's an eclectic mix which works because it's borne of one person's vision. 'I think it';s important to not get too hung up on a style, but to incorporate those things that you really love and make your home yours,' Nicole explains. 'I know what I like, but it's not something you can describe in one sentence or phrase.'

To offset the angular lines of the modern house, much of the furniture has curved elements. Nicole has chosen good quality, classic furniture that can be reupholstered. “I hate the idea of throwing things out, the waste. I like the idea of recycling.'

With such a strong vision for both the here and now, and the future, perhaps those paint colours will last another 10 years.

Did you know... If you’re stuck for inspiration for your next colour scheme, try out the free Resene EzyPaint virtual painting software. You can test-run an infinite range of colour options quickly and easily. Free from

Accessories: Hall table designed by Trinity Interior Design and made by Freshwood Furniture. Dining chair: classic Eames chair. Architectural designer: Grant McIntyre. Cushions in Mokum and Textilia fabrics.

Alternative solution – sweet simplicity

a calming scheme inspired by Scandinavian design

Wellington designer Charlotte Minty suggests this alternative scheme:

Alternative solution 1

The bedroom is a haven – a space where you sleep, reflect and contemplate. This scheme is influenced by a modern Scandinavian look, which creates a calm sanctuary with the use of soft colours, natural materials and small quirky details. The pale feathery grey of Resene Quarter Taupe Grey on the walls is the backdrop for pale timber and white furniture as well as off-beat artworks based on beach-combing finds and a reindeer photograph. The oak timber floor has a whitewash finish using Resene Qristal ClearFloor 1K blended with Resene Colorwood Enhance White and is topped with a carpet rug edged in jute.

Soft feathery grey walls in Resene Quarter Taupe Grey and ceilings and trims in Resene Half Alabaster are a restful backdrop. Aside from the products shown at right, the room uses Country Road Clementine bedlinen, a Emeco 111 Navy Chair in white from Thonet, a Father Rabbit stool and Original BTC wall lights from ECC.

mob 021 741 701   email

Accessories: Curtains in Kravet Griffith Fog 816, from Warwick Fabrics. 25mm aluminium venetian blinds in Cool White, from WeatherMaster. Beachcombing artwork by Quercus Design, from Etsy. Double Oak Halford Bed, from Simon James Concept Store. Bianca Lorenne Lorenzo bedspread, from Father Rabbit.

Alternative solution – industrial luxe

luxury is given an edge in this welcoming room

Interior Designer Shelleece Stanaway suggests this alternative scheme:

Alternative solution 2

To create a bedroom full of soul and personality, I have given this an industrial/eclectic edge but have softened that with gorgeous, lush, ‘sink into me’ bed linen and quirky modern lights. The paint palette tells its own story – Resene Ashen Lavender from the Karen Walker Paints collection on the walls is restful and inviting, while the contrasting soft Resene Half Alabaster on the trims and ceiling adds freshness. The rug anchors the furniture and frames the bed while the two comfy, cute ottomans at the end of the bed provide extra seating and add to the extra luxe feel.

Resene Ashen Lavender walls and Resene Half Alabaster trims give a feminine twist to this eclectic room.

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Accessories: Deep Buttoned Ottoman, from David Shaw Furniture. Octo Seppo Koho pendants lights in White, from Simon James Concept Store. ’Mission Bay’ rug by Max Gimlett, Kiwi Icon Range, from Designer Rugs. Amarento White Bedspread + Rose Walnut and Velluto cushions and pillowshams, from Bianca Lorenne.

words: Sharon Newey
pictures: Jeff Brass
illustration: Malcolm White

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