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country classic

From Habitat magazine - issue 08

A neglected farm cottage is transformed into a comfortable yet sophisticated family home.

Leonie and Dave Jamieson bought a neglected farm cottage in Karaka and within six months they’d transformed it into a stylish and comfortable family home.

Country home exterior

When the couple first met, Leonie was working in Auckland and Dave was based in Hamilton. “We chose Karaka [a rural area south of Auckland] because it was about halfway between the two cities,” Leonie explains.

It’s a very pretty area, the tone of which is set by the various stud farms surrounding the Jamieson’s property – notably Eric Watson’s 37ha stud, called Westbury, across the road.

Leonie, an experienced home renovator, has always loved old houses. “Their history and design details – like the high battened ceilings and wooden floors – mean that old houses always have a special feel to them. One of my favourite things is to take an old unloved building and bring it back to life with a renewed sense of purpose.”

Renovated country bathroom
Country dining room
Get the interior look with Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen tinted to Resene Half Tea and Resene Black White on walls and Resene Lustacryl in Resene Fuscous Grey on doors and trim.

“Some people did think we were mad taking the project on,” Leonie says. “But it’s what I love to do, so I didn’t see it as stressful at all. Well, the re-piling did turn out to be a bit of a drama, and we’ve sworn never to do that again!

“Was it worth it? Absolutely – we love the result.”

Builders worked on the house from top to bottom for six months, effectively stripping it to its bare bones, and then re-building it again. Internal walls were moved and removed, and tiny windows replaced with expansive bifolding doors and windows to let in sunlight and fresh air. And to achieve the easy flow between inside and out which never concerned our forebears, but which has become an essential part of contemporary living.

Renovated bedroom
Master bedroom
Get the bedroom look with Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen tinted to a blend of Resene Grey Olive and Resene Sisal. Get Campbell’s bedroom look with Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen tinted to Resene Coastal Blue from the Karen Walker range.

Both David and Leonie work from home. Leonie runs her kitchen and bathroom design consultancy von Sturmer Design; Dave, a former DJ and TV personality, now concentrates on voice-overs and corporate videos for his company Mediactive. They have two children, daughter Morgan-Skye (6) and son Campbell (2).

A new wing containing a studio, office and guest suite was added at a right angle to the main house. Expansive decking links the new wing to the main house, creating a north-facing outdoor living area that’s sheltered from the prevailing wind by the now L-shaped house. This area is perfect for the children to play in and for alfresco dining, with bifolding windows from the kitchen making entertaining easy. On a clear day, there’s a view of the Manukau Harbour, and by night the city lights, most notably those on the Sky Tower, take centre stage.

The interior is a gracious blend of traditional and contemporary styles. The walls in the guest ensuite, for example, are lined with traditional-look tongue and groove panels, to match the original lining in the main bathroom.

Child's room
Renovated kitchen
Kitchen benchtop: Stonex and stainless steel. Kitchen cabinets: stained oak and lacquer.

The floorboards in the main house are original – because there was a lot of variety amongst them, according to when they were installed, they’re all stained a rich chocolate hue. This serves to unite the various types of flooring, and provides a warm base for the interiors.

Leonie chose paint colours which were sophisticated and would complement, rather than overpower, the leafy rural views which the property enjoys in every direction.

Ensuite: Kaldewai bath, Paini Cox tapware, Duravit Starck II toilet.

“In every aspect of the design, I’ve gone for a balance of city chic and country style. I definitely didn’t want a cottagey look. We love living in the country, but we still enjoy the benefits of a city lifestyle too, and my design reflects that blend of lifestyles.” She chose Resene Half Tea and Resene Black White for the walls of much of the main house, with Resene Eighth Masala in the office wing, and a special blend of Resene Grey Olive and Resene Sisal in the master bedroom. Campbell’s room has Resene Coastal Blue from the Resene Karen Walker range, and the 3m-high ceilings and trims throughout are Resene Black White.

On the exterior, Resene Eighth Stonewall is used on the weatherboards, with Resene Black White window surrounds, french doors and pergolas. Resene Fuscous Grey is used on the doors and trims.

Leonie describes her design style as “classic with a twist”.

“The house needs to look great, of course, but it also needs to work really well as a home, especially with children, so practicality and flow are also very important.”

Two of the practical aspects incorporated into the renovation are in the master ensuite: a double shower means that one can be left at the right height for the children, and a bath that’s accessible from both sides makes easy work of bathing small children.

In the kitchen, Leonie – who began her career as a kitchen designer – included no cupboards in the design, opting instead for banks of large drawers (17 in all) because they’re so much more practical and easy to use.

Country home deck and garden
Get the exterior look with Resene Sonyx 101 semi-gloss tinted to Resene Eighth Stonewall. Flooring: original floorboards, dark stained.

She also loves her butler’s pantry, “for everything you want to be able to close the door on!” As well as an extra sink, the pantry stores small appliances, bulk food items and large serving dishes.

Once the house itself was renovated, Leonie and Dave turned their attention to landscaping the 1ha property. They’ve planted a shelter belt of cypress lealandii along the two back boundaries, and are pleased to see it growing at an impressive rate. The property was already fenced with the same classy black post-and-rail fencing used at Westbury. Red robin hedges, also used at Westbury, have been added. The rest of the planting is a dynamic mix of natives and lush evergreens, many of them subtropicals.

Dining room
Deck chairs

“I particularly like the look of big-leaved plants like pukas,” says Leonie.

The family has lived here for four years now. The children attend the nearby private school (and preschool) Strathallan and are thriving on their country lifestyle – with fields on every side of the house, and a view of the neighbours’ mares and newborn foals from the living room window.

“We were visiting some friends in St Heliers the other day and I said to Morgan, ‘We could live in the city, you know.’ She reacted quite strongly and said it was much too noisy and busy in the city!”

Alternative solution

moody yet feminine touches are used to make this bedroom a romantic space

Annette Larsen, interior designer for Rose & Heather, suggests this alternative scheme:

Alternative 1

This classic yet contemporary look uses a background of warm neutrals on the walls (Resene Kubrick) and floors and silver and white bed linen. A splash of quirky colour is added with the pink chair fabric and pink detailing on the cushions. The clean architectural lines of the Newport range of furniture from Rose & Heather gives a modern look, while playful and romantic elements are bought through in the sheer black fabric of the pendant lampshade chandeliers and the stylised floral motif of the fabric. In any bedroom scheme, the bed is the largest element so has to be the ‘hero’; here that has been accentuated by bringing the light down low to effectively frame the bed.

mobile: 021 621 373   email:

Accessories: Cushion, from Seneca - with frabric in Raviola Frambrosia and Mimi Fuschia from Atelier. Trenail Timberside chair, Newport queen-sized bed (dark), black lampshade chandelier, from Rose & Heather. Amalfi Stormcloud carpet, from Sallee.

Alternative solution

soft colours and fabrics give this bedroom a breezy, romantic feel

Ali Thornicroft, interior consultant for Maclean Design Studio, Dunedin, suggests this alternative solution:

Alternative 2

When creating an interior scheme I like to use an item as inspiration for the colours and textures. Here, the colour choices flow from the bedspread fabric. Wallpaper is making a comeback and is very practical, giving a robust surface for wear and tear and, if textured, disguising any irregularities in the wall finish. Here it is used as a feature wall behind the bedhead to give depth to the colour scheme and complement the other walls in Resene Double Tea and Resene Periglacial Blue. For added warmth and texture, a luxurious faux fur throw has been draped on the bed. Hard flooring and the pale furniture add to the breezy, fresh feel of the room.

phone: 03 477 5111   email:   web:

Accessories: Throwover bedspread: Jack Pine, colour Misty, from Unique Fabrics. Tiffany Chair with natural timber legs: in Chivasso Hot Spots, from Forma and Unique Fabrics. Five-drawer chest in Limewax Cream, from Virtue Furniture. Wallpaper: Flaxweave 21909, from Vision Wallcoverings Premium Textures book. Queen-size bedhead and low tailend in Limewax Cream, small bedside cabinets withone drawer in Limewax Cream, from Virtue Furniture. Bunting Delta voile, from James Dunlop Textiles. Bedside lamps: 43BC/beech, TL/Shade in Stone Linen, from Mayfield.

words: Alice Leonard
pictures: Mark Heaslip

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