With their tried and true construction, ex-state houses are popular buys, but they don't always suit modern families, as one Auckland couple discovered.
Hazel and Hayden Doughty envisaged a house filled with light when they were house-hunting in 2009, but that's not quite what they ended up with.
"We wanted an ex-state house because we love the solid, simple and honest design of that type of house," says Hazel.
"Renovating wasn't our thing but when we looked at this house we fell in love with the classic 'Kiwi-ness' of the place - a box-shaped house on a large section with a garden path leading to a quaint garden shed and a lemon tree."
The layout was typical of state houses, with the lounge and fireplace in the centre of the home and no indoor/outdoor connection. At the back of the house, which got the most sun, was a jumble of rooms: an open porch, a large laundry and a narrow kitchen.
"We knocked out the fireplace and the lounge wall, which instantly let in a huge amount of light, then installed a large beam in the ceiling cavity to create one large, open, living space," says Hayden.
The kitchen was shifted back into the house, where the lounge had been, and the laundry and porch floors were levelled and laid with recycled rimu boards in keeping with the rest of the house. Bifold doors went into the rear wall to open the lounge up to the outdoors, something their 1-year-old daughter, Plum, will grow to appreciate.
Because of the home's modest floor area, Hayden and Hazel had to use their creativity to instil a sense of expansiveness. They painted the entire interior white and the window, door frames and skirting boards in gloss for a subtle contrast.
Hayden also whitewashed the floorboards, giving the home a Scandinavian look. After sanding the floors, he applied the whitewash stain then topped that with four water-based coats, with a small amount of white paint added to each coat. "This enhanced the whitewash by bringing up the intensity gradually," says Hayden, "and because the floors are heart rimu, we ended up with mushroom undertones."
To this neutral backdrop the couple added colour and personality with their art collection.
"We're always keen to discover up-and-coming artists, and enjoy going to galleries, auctions and exhibitions either at home or when we're away," says Hazel.
Inner space: If you are working within the footprint of a small home you need to think laterally about storage. The Doughtys' home has attic storage with pull-down ladder access and a cupboard laundry in the kitchen.
Original appeal: Retain character features in older homes. "We kept the interior doors and their Bakelite handles, the original windows, the front door and the terracotta tiles on the roof, as these features add character," says Hazel.
Hang time: "Don't be afraid to get some art on those newly plastered walls," she says. "It really adds life to a home and kids respond well to it."
* Leanne Moore is the editor of Your Home & Garden. For the full story on this house see the latest issue of the magazine.