Renovating their seafront home room by room proved the solution for a Maraetai couple.

Moving from a dinky cottage they'd nicknamed the Gingerbread House to a spacious open-plan home on an elevated, 1ha section overlooking the sea was something of a culture shock for Tanya and Craig Strachan.

"It felt so open and roomy compared with our previous home," says Tanya.

But the couple now adore the bright airiness of the Maraetai home they share with their children Ellie-Mae, 6, and Bostyn, 4.

"The sea views and the big open entertaining spaces both indoors and outdoors really sold us," says Tanya. "Looking out our windows we see water, whether it's the sea or the pool."


But before they could enjoy relaxing by the pool there was plenty of work to be done. Although relatively contemporary in design, the house needed a bit of a makeover to bring it up-to-date.

"It looked like something from Miami Vice - think blue carpet with Air New Zealand-teal blue poles in the lounge, and cream walls," says Tanya. "But it was nothing a repaint couldn't fix."

Both keen renovators, Tanya and Craig set about transforming the home, tackling one room at a time so they could continue to live there throughout the project. "We work really well together," says Tanya. "Craig's a perfectionist, and we're both eager to get stuck in and get the job done."

"We'd use any spare time we had after work and on weekends to get all the painting done," says Craig, "which meant being up ladders three storeys high at times."

They chose a monochromatic palette, pairing white walls with the occasional black feature wall and a bold red wall in the stairwell. The soft furnishings, carpets and floor tiles continue the theme in shades of black and grey, enlivened by pops of colour in the dining chairs, cushions and in the children's bedrooms.

Searching endlessly for interesting floor coverings, Tanya discovered a gap in the market for good-quality, affordable cowhide rugs. "I ended up buying six hides from Argentina, keeping one and selling the rest. The demand was huge, so we started The Cowhide Company, with an online store and a gallery."

The large section and outdoor entertaining areas were also dated and rundown, so Tanya and Craig repainted the pale blue exterior, tidied up the overgrown and unkempt garden and revamped the pool and spa area with sculptural agave plants set against a black-stained fence that echoes the dark accents inside the house.

"It was the best money we ever spent," says Tanya. "We spend all our summer days out there."

Style tips
Tone on tone: Keep a monochromatic theme interesting by varying where and how the tones are used. In the hallway Tanya paired white walls with white floor tiles, whereas in the master bedroom a black feature wall is offset against a grey carpet and in the en suite white walls partner charcoal floor tiles.

Border line: Use darker grout to highlight the shape and pattern of white floor tiles.

Splash out: If you crave a shot of colour, the entranceway is a great place to experiment with bold feature walls. It's the first thing visitors see when they enter your home so it sets the tone for the rest of the house.

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