CHANGE OF HEART

Once a tired ren­tal, now a lux­u­ri­ously lay­ered home

NZ House & Garden - - CONTENTS - WORDS SUE HOFFART / PHOTOGR APHS JANE USSHER

In a previous ca­reer, Me­gan Ek­dahl dished out pills for a liv­ing. Now, the former phar­macy tech­ni­cian makes her clients feel bet­ter about their houses by dis­pens­ing de­sign ad­vice and cush­ions. She’s tak­ing her own medicine at home, too. “I’m a bit ob­ses­sive with cush­ions,” the New Ply­mouth in­te­rior de­signer says. “I think they dress a room and peo­ple un­der­es­ti­mate the im­pact they can have. If you take a lot of care choos­ing a cush­ion you love, it be­comes like a piece of art.”

Me­gan has largely with­stood the protests of prop­erty man­ager hus­band Mike and Otago Uni­ver­sity stu­dent son Ben, who begged for a bare sofa they could eas­ily lounge on. No, she told them; it won’t look right. She ad­vises her clients to re­main firm on this point, too. “Men tend to hate cush­ions, or at least see them as un­nec­es­sary.” >

“THEY SAID, WOULD YOU SELL? LES SAID WHY NOT SHOW THEM THROUGH? THEY NAMED A GOOD PRICE... I’M IN REAL ESTATE...”

That’s why the males in her house­hold have staged a man cave re­bel­lion. The prop­erty’s four-car garage, which houses Mike’s beloved clas­sic cars, is fre­quently used for en­ter­tain­ing and con­tains a sec­ond kitchen, gym equip­ment, large tele­vi­sion and one stub­bornly un­adorned leather sofa. The of­fend­ing item of fur­ni­ture was in­her­ited from Me­gan’s fa­ther and has never seen a dec­o­ra­tive cush­ion.

Mike is oth­er­wise con­tent to con­cede that his wife is the in­te­ri­ors expert in their house. For­tu­nately, they both saw the po­ten­tial when they first viewed the run­down ren­tal prop­erty en route to East End beach. The three-bed­room bun­ga­low was in­hab­ited by six teenage rugby play­ers with three beer fridges, and a rust­ing car body on the front lawn. Every bed­room was painted a dif­fer­ent colour, the kitchen was pink and the car­pet mint green. For years after mov­ing into the house, the Ek­dahls heard tales of wild par­ties hosted by the previous oc­cu­pants.

But it was just up the road from the then newly built coastal walk­way, an easy stroll to down­town New Ply­mouth. And it quickly be­came the place their friends vis­ited for a cof­fee en route to the beach, or for a wine after a swim.

Ini­tially, the cou­ple wanted to move the house off site and com­mis­sioned plans for a new, ar­chi­tec­turally de­signed home. Then, when Me­gan fell ill, they opted to de­lay the building project and re­duce stress lev­els by ren­o­vat­ing and mov­ing in for a cou­ple of years. That was 12 years and sev­eral ren­o­va­tion projects ago, and the con­tented home­own­ers have long since aban­doned their new-build plans.

“We just kept do­ing new things to it, more and more, and I fell more and more in love with it,” says Me­gan. “It’s just a re­ally restful, peace­ful house and be­cause we do all our liv­ing out the back, it’s re­ally pri­vate. We don’t have a sea view from our house but every day as I drive home, I see the sea. It’s just so beau­ti­ful.”

The house has dou­bled in size to 250sqm and been re­plumbed, rewired and in­su­lated. A bath­room, fam­ily room, garag­ing and both kitchens have been added, along with an out­door fire­place and deck­ing that can eas­ily ac­com­mo­date 90 guests. >

“WE JUST KEPT DO­ING NEW THINGS TO IT… AND I FELL MORE AND MORE IN LOVE WITH IT”

Each room has been metic­u­lously planned and decked out by Me­gan, who was fuss­ing over home de­tails long be­fore it be­came her vo­ca­tion. “Even when I rented, I’d al­ways change the cur­tains and put new gar­dens in… what­ever I could.”

She ac­cepted her first in­te­rior de­sign com­mis­sion at age 21, when a friend asked her to help him choose colours for his house and her rep­u­ta­tion spread through­out her home town and be­yond. These days, she as­sists with com­mer­cial fit-outs for her hus­band’s com­pany as well as tack­ling res­i­den­tial jobs. Two years ago, she helped Mike cre­ate a bou­tique ho­tel in New Ply­mouth that features an ever-chang­ing art col­lec­tion and of­fers another ex­cuse to scour an­tiques and sec­ond-hand stores.

Although a big fan of shop­ping lo­cally, Me­gan some­times ac­com­pa­nies clients on buy­ing trips. It was dur­ing one of these trips, in China, that she came across her most trea­sured pos­ses­sion.

The bronze statue was bought in me­mory of her brother, who was killed in a car ac­ci­dent at age 21. “He was tall and quite slen­der, into surf­ing and snow­board­ing and it just re­minded me of him. It sits on my cof­fee ta­ble and, if I had a fire, that’s the thing I’d grab. Though I might take a few cush­ions, too.”

THIS PAGE An over­sized “E” for Ek­dahl hangs along­side a Mon­go­lian wooden cabi­net; a cou­ple of Kartell Ghost chairs and trans­par­ent bar stools cre­ate an il­lu­sion of space in what is not a large din­ing room.

OP­PO­SITE (clock­wise from top left) A tele­vi­sion is hid­den in the dark wooden cabi­net in the front liv­ing room. A metal and leather mir­ror in the din­ing room is de­signed to open up the room. The paint­ing by Taranaki artist Jor­dan Barnes features Mike and son Ben’s faces in the deep-sea div­ing suits. Me­gan in the sun-soaked din­ing area; Mike came up with the idea of a wrought-iron gate as an in­ter­nal door to the newer area of the house.

THIS PAGE (from top) A new liv­ing area and out­door space with a fire were added be­side the garage; the eight-seater ta­ble fre­quently hosts larger par­ties. The front en­trance area has been re­painted and land­scaped, with new fenc­ing and French doors, but it still of­fers few clues to the spa­cious liv­ing ar­eas be­yond.

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