Listening to advice from an award-winning architect

By Leanne Moore

Opening up a Herne Bay home and enlarging its small rooms created the perfect space.

Colourful decor adds spark to Smith’s pale painted walls. Photo / Your Home & Garden
Colourful decor adds spark to Smith’s pale painted walls. Photo / Your Home & Garden

When it came time to renovate her Auckland home, Liz Smith was lucky enough to snare the services of award-winning architect Daniel Marshall, who had just started his own practice.

The 1940s home that Smith bought in 1996 was one of the worst on a good street in Herne Bay but it was cheap, had all-day sun, a rear garden and a nice outlook.
"It was split into two flats, one of which had a resident rat," she says of the home she shares with her partner, Rob Hutchison. "It was pretty awful and my flatmate at the time thought I'd really lost my marbles."

The home was also divided into small rooms, so Smith took action to rectify that.
"I immediately knocked down some of the walls upstairs and the door that separated the two flats, so we had more of an open-plan arrangement. This let in a lot of light. I lived with a few holes in the walls and a dodgy staircase while the architect's plans were drawn up.

"I basically gutted both levels, so upstairs is now one big space and there are three decent-sized bedrooms downstairs, along with two bathrooms and my office.

"The stairs were moved to make the space work better, a skylight was installed and the roofline was improved. The only remaining elements of the original house are part of the board and batten cladding and the gorgeous rimu floorboards."

And Smith couldn't be happier with Marshall's advice. The architect had just returned from overseas and was setting up on his own.

"Thanks to him, the house still looks current nearly 15 years later. We worked really well together. I had some quite fixed ideas but fortunately I agreed with everything he suggested. Now he's an award-winning genius and I'd never be able to afford him."

Despite the rationalisation of the spaces, there never seems to be enough room in the house, as two of the bedrooms have been completely taken over by Smith's collection of tapestry canvas, fabric, wool, along with cutting and ironing boards. It may seem like clutter but it's all a vital part of the work she does from home as director of The Stitchsmith, for which she designs needlepoint and cross-stitch kits.

To update the home's decor, Smith regularly moves the furniture around and adds new cushions, rugs and affordable accessories.

"Oddly, I don't have a lot of my own work in the house," she says. "Once I've stitched up a design, I'd rather have it in one of my retailers' shops so other people can see what the finished product is like, than have it where only we can see it."

Style tips

Long game: Smith likes to collect long-lasting, quality objects. "We all have our own unique pieces that we've collected along the way, and the key is to mix these with current colour palettes."

Strong accent: If, like Smith, you prefer pale walls, use art, ornaments or accessories to add colour.

To the point: If you are new to needlework, visit your local embroidery or quilting shop where the knowledgeable staff will help get you started. The internet is also a great resource with many websites featuring helpful hints and tutorials.

Leanne Moore is the editor of Your Home & Garden. For the full story on this house see the latest issue of the magazine.

- NZ Herald

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