CHANGE OF HEART
Once a tired rental, now a luxuriously layered home
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.