The coming of age of this 1890s Victorian workingman's cottage is the story of sisters Bridie and Clare O'Shea and their first renovation project together.

They pooled their finances and dove-tailed their talents with those of their enthusiastic family to give this solid kauri home a hand up into the 21st century.

The motivation for Bridie, a teacher, and Clare, a Melbourne-based lawyer, was simple.

"We wanted to be paying our own mortgages rather than someone else's," says Bridie.


They expected to be looking further west for an affordable project until Bridie discovered this cottage in mid-2010, near where she had been flatting.

The extent of the remedial work this cottage was crying out for had put off other prospective buyers, but not the tight five that is this resourceful family.

The sisters talked to their parents, Frances and John O'Shea, who had restored their historic family home in Te Awamutu.

Frances brought her design eye into the project, John his "how to" knowledge and nous for sourcing demolition materials and the girls' older brother David for painting skills.

Together, they added a new kitchen and living area into a rear extension and skilfully slipped modern amenities into a home that has its cottage style defined by the pit-sawn kauri weatherboards and slender architectural features.

"I trusted mum and Clare with the design," says Bridie. "Dad has the knowledge on how to do things - he pulled down walls and put up walls - and I'm good at organising. If I'm not sure, I'd say 'What shall we do here?' And we'd go from there. It's in our blood."

They renovated the bathroom before Bridie and her flatmates moved in, only because they couldn't bear the prospect of bucketing water into the unworkable copper toilet cistern.

Beneath a new board and batten ceiling, they installed new fixtures and painted the feet of the claw foot bath that sits beneath its original harlequin leadlight window.

They then turned their attention to the lounge with its old fireplace and the original wooden bay seat and leadlight windows built into the exterior wall.

They've kept the window seat in what is now a bedroom but removed the fireplace to create space for their second bathroom, with its blue and white tiled floor and tongue and groove replica panelling.

Original kauri floors, board and batten ceilings, leadlight windows, the slender french doors and fanlight windows off the two front bedrooms confirm this home's integrity in a neighbourhood of similarly renovated homes.

At the back of the house, Bridie and Clare moved the original back door to the rear open living and dining area that opens to a deck-side faux lawn and perimeter hedging.

They specified made-to-measure rear picture windows because they couldn't find demolition windows that would maximise the garden connection.

Elsewhere, it was John who sourced the demolition kauri flooring for the extension, the double-hung window for the study/fourth bedroom and who found the ideal panelled door for their first bathroom, underneath his house.

This house with its former multi-coloured interior used to be mint green on the outside.

When Bridie told a friend to "look out for the mint house", her friend roared with laughter and said "It really is mint! I thought I was looking for a 'cool' house."

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