SUR PR ISE PACK AGE
Tucked away in the heart of hectic commercial Newmarket is this serene little cottage
Jo nicholls has heard the whispers – “What’s behind that gate?” – as she sits in her lush Newmarket, Auckland backyard. Passers-by are intrigued by the black painted gate down an alleyway nestled between the towering concrete buildings of commercial Newmarket. Open that solid gate and you’ll find a tidy little formal garden, a black and white cottage with striped awnings and a friendly golden retriever, Tully, looking for a pat. Step inside and you’ll discover a newly renovated, serenely monochrome interior.
It’s the home of beauty therapist Jo Nicholls, who moved in a year ago. Her daughters Aimee, 32, and Alice, 29, had left home, so Jo decided it was “time for change and to move on”.
Parting with her large family home of 20 years wasn’t easy, but it felt as if fate was giving her a nod of encouragement when a week after Jo sold, she found the little cottage tucked away in Newmarket. Although her first reaction to the listing was, “No, I don’t think that’s me,” something made her go to the next day’s viewing regardless.
“It was pouring with rain and I had 20 minutes in between clients to view it,” says Jo. She didn’t even notice that there was no proper front door and she barely had time to glance at the garden, but she couldn’t get it out of her head. The next day she bought it. “It was an emotional buy,” she admits.
Jo’s been dubbed by her family a “restless relaxer”, someone who just can’t sit down and read a book or watch television. She does own a TV, but it’s tucked away in the corner like a naughty child, clearly not used often. >
So this little cottage with heaps of potential but what Jo calls some “nightmarish qualities” was the perfect project to get stuck into. The whole house needed rewiring. “It was basically a ticking time bomb,” she says. The home was also on a slight slant and needed to be re-roofed. “It was just about to cave in.”
But when these pressing problems were seen to, thanks to the help of Jo’s partner Andy Pope, a builder, Jo set to work giving it her signature touch – a black and white palette.
Much to Jo’s distaste, the inside was like “Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat”, with gingery floors, sequinned cushions, embellished curtains and lavish chandeliers left behind by previous owners.
“I ripped out everything,” she says. She was surprised to find after it was stripped back to its bones that the chandelier and draped curtains were beautiful pieces. She was happy to be able to reuse them.
Painting the floors white transformed the house, she says, and was also budget-friendly. “It gives it a peacefulness, which I love.”
Jo’s not the least bit precious about scuff marks: “It’s a home, a real home, so I never ask people to take their shoes off. I mean, I have a dog.” If they get marked, it’s easy to touch them up. “I’ve never had so much paint on my hands in my life,” she says. >
Black and white was the colour scheme of her previous home too. “It’s just me,” she says. “Black gives it a smartness and edginess and white is so peaceful.”
Downsizing meant getting rid of a lot of clutter, but she still has a large storage unit filled with the things she couldn’t bear to part with.
Baskets scattered around the house have become indispensable for storage within the tiny home. “It’s amazing how many things you can put in them,” says Jo. Three large outdoor cushion boxes have also been a saving grace, housing Jo’s gardening tools, firewood and dog paraphernalia.
Much to Jo’s delight, when she finally took a good look at the garden after she had bought the cottage it turned out to be just what she was after. Just like the house, it had great structure, with existing topiary that just needed a little bit of love.
Jo got rid of the overgrown vegetable garden and put in some synthetic turf. “It was the best thing I did, it just created a whole other room out there,” she says.
In the long term, Jo thinks the cottage’s days are numbered and it will swallowed up at some stage by a commercial development. “It will eventually be bowled, which is why I did it on a budget. Why spend 30 grand on a kitchen when its future is to be demolished? But as long as I’m here it will stay standing, and I don’t plan on moving out any time soon.”
(clockwise from top left) Jo Nicholls says golden retriever Tully fits perfectly with the decor. The photograph on the far wall in the dining area is by her nephew Tom Gould, now based in New York; the couch below it is from St Clements in Eden Terrace; it has a white cover in summer when Jo wants to brighten things up. The fork art is actually a table runner – Jo saw it in a shop and immediately knew she wanted to hang it up. The dining room table has been through a few different looks (at one stage it was completely white); at the moment the top is painted with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in ‘French Linen’.
Jo painted the guest bedroom wardrobe from Indie Home Collective because the previous brown was “too heavy”; the leopard print cushions are also from Indie Home Collective, one of Jo’s favourite shops and conveniently just around the corner.
(clockwise from top left) Jo had her parents’ antique armchair reupholstered in spotted fabric, which shocked the upholsterer; it still has the original horse hair stuffing. She couldn’t resist the wrought-iron detailing and the luxurious feel of the day bed in the master bedroom. White roses on a side table from French Country Collections; Andy often buys Jo flowers and knows to only choose pastels and lighter hues. Jo originally planned to hang the mirror from CC Interiors, but it looked so good on the floor she left it there. OPPOSITE
(from left) A statue once belonging to Jo’s grandmother stands in the fish pond, which was an unexpected find when Jo eventually took a look at the garden: “I’d always wanted a fish pond like my grandparent’s one, and here it was.” The lemon tree and topiaries were already in the garden; the striped awnings came from Canvas Concepts.
(from top) The home’s front door is actually around the back of the house – a previous owner closed over the original front entrance to create extra wardrobe space; the exterior of the house was clay brown so Jo painted it in Resene ‘Double Cod Grey’. She found this black door that’s used as the front gate at Burrell Demolition in Grey Lynn; it was the perfect fit: “It gives me total privacy – shut the door and you shut out the crazy city.” OPPOSITE