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forever young

From habitat magazine - issue 35, feature house

An interior designer has decorated her glamorous villa with love – and Resene paints – from floor to ceiling.

Amber and John Hamilton’s Christchurch home has a youthful glow. The 114-year-old double-bay villa is resplendent with thistle-detailed cornices and blooming ceiling roses, a timeless quality not lost on the couple. The home has had only four owners since its original build in 1907, including the Hamiltons, who bought it in 2000. There’s something about the building that makes its owners kick up their feet for a decade or three, whether inside by the fire or outside in the poolside cabana.

Villa master bedroom

An elegant bedroom in a villa

The walls of the master bedroom in Amber and John Hamilton’s home are Resene Double Parchment and the ceiling is Resene Baltic Sea – these colours accentuate the ornate cornices and ceiling rose which is painted in Resene Quarter Parchment. Amber also used a chandelier and headboard from French Country Collections, bedlinen from Bianca Lorenne and black and white velvet cushions from St Barts in Australia to create a comfortable, yet glam space. 

Not that this renovation power couple does a lot of resting – John is a Registered Master Builder and Amber is an interior designer and won a Resene Total Colour Residential Interior Colour Maestro Award for their home. Between them, they have built, renovated and styled more than 100 homes in the past 20 years. But from the moment they saw the handmade ‘For Sale’ sign on its lawn, they knew there was something special about this villa, which they have gone on to lovingly restore with Resene paint.

“We just fell in love with the house; it had a really happy vibe. The previous owners had lived there for 30 years and had raised four boys in the home, and funnily, after buying this house, I went on to have three boys myself,” says Amber.

Historic villa bedroom

A regal red villa hallway

Bedroom: Amber and John’s son Marcus has a bedroom decorated with the same colours as the master bedroom except “in reverse” with walls in Resene Baltic Sea, ceiling in Resene Double Parchment and ceiling rose and cornices in Resene Quarter Parchment. The cornices in this room have a thistle design and were recreated from moulds in the hallway. The deer antler chandelier is from Halo and the wool plaid drapes are from Unique Textiles.  Hallway: The ceiling of the hallway is painted in regal Resene Pohutukawa with walls in Resene Double Parchment and trims and cornices in Resene Quarter Thorndon Cream. The original hardwood flooring was polished by a flooring contractor, but when she’s doing it herself Amber uses Resene Qristal Clear Poly-Gloss for a glossy finish.

“There’s something about this house that’s very special, and we love coming home to our character house.”

When Amber and John moved in, the home had been well cared for. Its original plasterwork was still intact, but it was tired, featuring 1970s wallpaper and carpet. Yet, with colour enthusiasts and proud maximalists Amber and John as the bandmasters, this grand old villa quickly had its dancing shoes on again. They replaced the 70s vibe with a sumptuous Resene colour scheme, including Resene Double Canterbury Clay, Resene Baltic Sea, Resene Double Parchment, Resene Quarter Thorndon Cream, Resene Pohutukawa and Resene Quarter Craigieburn. Amber gave the 3.5-metre ceilings in the kitchen the royal treatment – with Resene Cafe Royale, her favourite colour in the home.

Villa ceiling accentuated in Resene Cafe Royale

The kitchen ceiling is accentuated in creamy coffee colour Resene Cafe Royale. The walls are Resene Quarter Craigieburn and the trims, skirting, ceiling rose and cornices are Resene Quarter Thorndon Cream.  Alternative solutions:  › Luxe living  › Simple and calm

“My colour choices were all chosen because they have a lovely, rich depth of pigment to them. Even the lighter Resene Double Parchment on the master bedroom walls has that depth of base without being too dark. It’s like having soft natural linen on the walls.”

Amber, who says she has a “more is always more” philosophy, says she wanted to create a restful home that was classic but not boring. John’s building company specialises in restoring and renovating heritage and character homes. He fell in love with the craftsmanship of heritage buildings when he did his training in the United States, working on California bungalows and Hamptons-style homes with their shutters, shingles and character elements. Amber, a former graphic artist with a background in fashion, works on character and contemporary homes. She loves the flourishes and detail in period homes.

A natural palette features in the villa's lounge

Amber Hamilton on creating comfort in interiors

Living room: Amber used warm neutral Resene Double Canterbury Clay on the walls of the living room which contrast with the ceiling in Resene Bokara Grey and architraves and trim details in Resene Quarter Thorndon Cream. This neutral palette is accentuated with lots of texture, including cushions from House of Hackney and Andrew Martin and the orange ottoman from David Shaw.  Amber: Amber says the key to creating comfort is through texture and layers of colour. The walls of the kitchen are Resene Quarter Craigieburn and the skirting is Resene Quarter Thorndon Cream, the perfect neutral backdrop for the drapery from Warwick and artwork. The chairs, cushion and sheepskin are from French Country Collections.

“I love villas. I enjoy a bit of glamour and the grandness of higher ceilings and detailed features like wainscotting,” says Amber.

“A lot of people choose to do white-on-white-on-white in heritage homes. I do love that look, but it doesn’t quite bring out some of the craftsmanship details in these old homes. We went for darker ceilings in many rooms as we wanted to accentuate the beautiful cornices, ceiling roses and plasterwork. It’s an easy mistake to think a dark ceiling will close a room in, but in an older home like this with high ceilings, it does the opposite; it draws the eye up,” she adds.

When John built an extension on the house in 2006, creating a new kitchen and living room and extra bedrooms for their three sons, he took great care to ensure the new build was still era appropriate. Dry rot and borer on the southern side of the house were repaired or banished, and building piles and bearers were reinforced and strengthened. Thankfully, these repairs meant that when the Christchurch earthquakes rattled the Garden City, the villa was damaged but not irreparable.

The family moved out for six months while John stripped and relined the walls with plywood and plasterboard. Plaster specialists Plastercraft took mouldings of the original cornices and ceiling roses in the hallway, and these were used in other rooms for the rebuild. These beautiful period details are accentuated with Resene colours throughout the house, particularly in the master bedroom where the trims, cornices and ceiling rose are Resene Quarter Parchment, contrasted with Resene Baltic Sea on the ceiling and Resene Double Parchment on the walls. Plastercraft took master moulds of the cornices to add to its collection. The moulds have been used for other post-earthquake repair jobs.

“It’s lovely to think the heritage of our home has been shared around other homes in Christchurch, she says. “As Christchurch rebuilds itself, it’s heartening to see villas like this still going strong.”


Taking villa style to the max

As an interior designer, Amber has worked on many homes – heritage and contemporary. She enjoys working on a myriad of new home projects with her clients as well as character villas and cottages.

She says the key to creating a beautiful home is with layers of texture, remembering that good things take time. “It takes quite a while to bring a home together with styling elements, personal pieces and careful planning – it doesn’t happen overnight. Take the time to get to know your house – where the sun rises and observe how you use it – to create an inviting space.”

Amber’s tips


Paint it right

Choose the right Resene colours and paints for the job.

A weatherboard villa exterior

Pool cabana house

The weatherboards of Amber and John’s double-bay villa are painted in Resene Tapa with Resene Black Haze trims and Resene Fuscous Grey on the foundation and veranda decking. The roof is COLORSTEEL® Ironsand. The roses at the front of the house are classic ‘Iceberg’ and the luscious lavender is ‘Hidcote’, an English variety.  The pool cabana house has matching colours to the main house with Resene Black Haze on the interior and beams. The roof is COLORSTEEL® Ironsand. Amber picked up the decorative apple from Terra Viva Home & Garden, the outdoor sofa is from CC Interiors and the stools are from French Country Collections.

Oh what a ceiling

Amber used Resene SpaceCote Flat to accentuate the colour of her ceilings. For the cornices and ceiling roses she used Resene Lustacryl semi-gloss waterborne enamel as well as Resene Room Velvet, a fast-drying hybrid waterborne-alkyd paint which gives a beautiful, even, silky low sheen finish.

Wonderful for weatherboards

Resene Lumbersider is a tough waterborne paint which provides maximum durability in all exposed conditions. This low sheen formula is easily washable and is ideal for both weatherboards and fences.

Don't fret on the fretwork

Resene has a range of tough finishes which are ideal for fretwork, trims and doors. Try Resene Lustacryl semi-gloss waterborne enamel or Resene Enamacryl gloss waterborne enamel.

luxury built through texture and sheen

Designer Kate Gardham of Sticks + Stones suggests an alternative scheme:

Kate Gardham, Designer
Kate Gardham

In this luxe design, I've transformed the kitchen island into a sculptural statement piece with curved reeded panelling painted in Resene Quarter Merino and rounded brass legs which gives old villa-style a modern twist. The Shaker-style cabinetry is painted in Resene Rivergum, using Resene AquaLAQ, crucial to get a true Resene colour with a durable finish that withstands bumps and knocks. A combination steam oven is hidden behind the pocket cabinets for a seamless look. The ceiling painted in Resene Gold adds a touch of glam and this is carried through with brass tapware and veined marble, which gives the benchtop a striking look. When the living space is open plan, I like to put sinks in the island as this means whoever is cooking is part of the social gatherings and conversations.

email:   web:

A luxe look for this kitchen and dining room
Kate's kitchen/dining room mixes sheen and texture to create a luxe look. The cabinetry and walls are both matte finish – the cabinetry is painted in Resene AquaLAQ tinted to Resene Rivergum and the walls and island bench are in Resene Quarter Merino using Resene SpaceCote Flat. These contrast with the glimmering ceiling in Resene Gold metallic, the metallic details on the Max Gimblett artwork and chairs from Smith & Caughey. The floor is stained in Resene Colorwood Natural, the light is from zlights and the glassware and ceramics are from A&C Homestore.  Illustration: Malcolm White

Top tip: The Resene Kitchen & Bathroom range contains anti-bacterial silver and MoulDefender for extra protection for your kitchen surfaces. It's available in flat, low sheen and semi-gloss and can be used in all wet areas of your home, such as kitchens, bathrooms and laundries.

Ossa Ribbed Oval Dining Table
Ossa Ribbed Oval Dining Table; Soren Liv
Broste Smoke Martini Glass
Broste Smoke Martini Glass; A&C Homestore
Astra Walker Spout in Urban Brass
Astra Walker Spout in Urban Brass; The Kitchen Hub
Quatrefoils, The Golden Trail by Max Gimblett
Quatrefoils, The Golden Trail by Max Gimblett; Gow Langsford Gallery
Combination Steam Oven, Fisher & Paykel
Combination Steam Oven; Fisher & Paykel

a calming space with soft natural hues

Designer Jenny Saggers of Collaborate suggests an alternative scheme:

Jenny Saggers, Designer
Jenny Saggers

With this design I wanted to create a relaxed, calming, natural feel and create harmony through a simplified look. The major change I have made to the kitchen is the cabinetry and island colour. I wanted to add more depth to the space and create contrast with the walls. I chose Resene Bluff, a moody sky-grey blue. This pairs particularly well with light timber. Floating oak shelves display beautiful ceramics and add texture and colour to the space. Further texture is added through tongue-and-groove panelling on the island.

The walls are Resene Half Bianca and the ceiling is Resene Quarter Bianca as I want to draw the eye to the kitchen. I particularly love using these whites as they have warmth to them and are not too stark.

email:   web:

A simple and calm look for a a kitchen and dining room
Jenny used Resene AquaLAQ in Resene Bluff to achieve a professional finish on the kitchen cabinetry and island. The walls are Resene Half Bianca and the ceiling is in Resene Quarter Bianca. The floor is Resene Colorwood Matai which ties in with wooden features in the room including the console and table from Hawthorne Collections and dining chairs from Loft Furniture. Bar stools from Cintesi, white vase and mirror from Ned Collections and ceramics from Thread Design.  Illustration: Malcolmn White

Top tip: Resene AquaLAQ Clear Coat is recommended applied over cabinetry painted in Resene AquaLAQ Colour Coat to provide a durable finish with excellent UV resistance. This waterborne clear coat is available in matte, satin, gloss and soft feel and is ideal for 'push to open' cabinet doors and drawers, as well as large cabinetry surfaces.

Cape Cod Lamp Base
Cape Cod Lamp Base; Leopold Hall
Ankara Dining Chair
Ankara Dining Chair in Copper; Loft Furniture
Kevin Reilly Gem Cylinder Pendant Light
Kevin Reilly Gem Cylinder Pendant Light; ECC
Holt Armchair
Holt Armchair; St Clements
Poet's Dream Jug
Poet's Dream Jug; Thread Design

Design: Amber Hamilton
Build: John Hamilton Construction
Words: Emma Rawson
Images: Kate Claridge, Jane Ussher


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