To stand the test of time

A tiny and dated cot­tage in Huntly is trans­formed into a mod­ern home

Your Home and Garden - - Contents - Text by An­nick Larkin. Pho­tog­ra­phy by He­len Bankers and Vanessa Lewis.


Back in 2011, Wendy and Alex Keir had been look­ing to pur­chase a life­style block for some time, but their search had proved fruit­less un­til a friend sug­gested they check out a lit­tle house in Huntly. “We took one look at the tiny and dated two-bed­room, one-bath­room 1960s brick cot­tage and didn’t say much; then we turned around and saw the spec­tac­u­lar views and said, ‘Sold!’” re­calls Wendy. “The house cer­tainly wasn’t much to look at but it had soul and a great vibe.” De­spite their new home’s mod­est size, it was all the cou­ple needed at the time, plus they could see it had the po­ten­tial to be­come a won­der­ful fam­ily home.


When the Keirs bought their house it was in a sorry state with peel­ing flo­ral wall­pa­per, tatty green car­pet and an out­house with a shower and loo which hadn’t been used in what looked like decades. The main bath­room had once been a bed­room and the orig­i­nal bath­room had been re­pur­posed as a store­room off the kitchen. There was an ad­di­tional room tacked onto the back of the garage which Wendy de­cided to use as a tem­po­rary de­sign stu­dio for her sta­tionery busi­ness, Fox and the Hare. But what the mod­est cot­tage lacked in beauty it made up for in good bones, a north-fac­ing as­pect and stun­ning views of the Kaimai Ranges. How­ever, it would be a fur­ther three years be­fore the home’s trans­for­ma­tion could be­gin.


The cou­ple planned a com­plete re­build which in­cluded ad­ding a new wing to the house to turn it into a four-bed­room, two-bath­room home. Builder Alex took time away from his job to work full time on the house and land­scap­ing. “The only ex­ist­ing el­e­ments that re­main from the old cot­tage are parts of the floor and two ex­ter­nal walls – ev­ery­thing else is new,” says Wendy.

The cou­ple lived on site for the first year be­fore mov­ing in with Alex’s mum, Claziena, for an­other year un­til their home was com­plete.

Alex did al­most all of the work him­self.

“He couldn’t bear the thought of some­one help­ing him on site and not do­ing it per­fectly,” says Wendy. “He had to get cre­ative with how to get things done with only one pair of hands.” Oc­ca­sion­ally Wendy would get called in to hold a truss or flick a chalk line, but it was the de­mo­li­tion she par­tic­u­larly en­joyed. “There’s noth­ing quite like putting a sledge­ham­mer through a wall for a bit of stress re­lief,” she says.

One of the tradies the cou­ple did choose to em­ploy was Greg Good­win, of Mata­mata, who painted the en­tire in­te­rior and ex­te­rior of the house. “Alex went the ex­tra mile with the struc­ture, mak­ing sure ev­ery­thing was su­per strong, so there was no point do­ing an av­er­age paint job on top,” ex­plains Wendy. Alex had in­side knowl­edge about the best tradies for spe­cialised jobs such as tiling, plas­ter­ing, elec­tri­cal work and roof­ing, which meant the cou­ple had a dream team for their pro­ject.

“The tradies all knew what a picky pro­ject man­ager Alex was,” says Wendy. “Noth­ing got past him, but he was as gen­er­ous as he was de­mand­ing and al­ways shouted beers at the end of the day.”

“It was im­por­tant to show­case the house and be re­minded of what an in­cred­i­ble jour­ney it has been for us to cre­ate this dream home to­gether”


Wendy’s role was to style and dec­o­rate the home’s in­te­rior. “I found it hugely sat­is­fy­ing and I learned a great deal,” she says. Hav­ing never been one for colour­ful paint or wall­pa­per, Wendy opted for an earthy, min­i­mal pal­ette and in­tro­duced colour in the form of in­door plants.

Her back­ground as a graphic de­signer, plus a keen eye for de­tail, saw her drawn to warm, min­i­mal, bal­anced spa­ces. “I wanted our home to be filled with the things we love and for it to have a soul,” ex­plains Wendy. “It was im­por­tant to show­case the house and be re­minded of what an in­cred­i­ble jour­ney it has been for us to cre­ate this dream home to­gether.”

In 2015, the cou­ple took a road trip across Amer­ica and came home with heads full of in­spi­ra­tion from the desert land­scapes, as well as a suit­case of an­tiques and a pair of old wooden skis that now adorn their house. But by far Wendy’s favourite decor el­e­ments are the ob­jects made by Alex. “He de­signed and crafted the din­ing ta­ble, cof­fee ta­bles, the tri­pod floor lamp

in our sit­ting room, the cur­tain rods, kitchen fea­ture lights, the wooden bath­room bench­tops and the scullery shelv­ing,” says Wendy. “I look around at what Alex has achieved and I just couldn’t be any prouder. He is the most hum­ble, gen­uine, hard-work­ing man I know.”


Wendy and Alex planned and built this home to see what they were made of and to stretch their cre­ative abil­i­ties. “We have grown as in­di­vid­u­als and as hus­band and wife. There were some tough times and we proved we could get through them all,” says Wendy. The hon­est, gen­uine love that went into this home is what makes it so spe­cial. Wendy and Alex haven’t cre­ated a whizz-bang house full of high-tech sound sys­tems and iPad-con­trolled cof­fee ma­chines, but a home that was built to last, with heart and soul and no corners cut, en­sur­ing that in 100 years it will still be stand­ing as strong as it does to­day.


Their Huntly house was in­tended to be Wendy and Alex’s for­ever home. Sell­ing it was never the plan. How­ever, when daugh­ter Indigo ar­rived last year, it be­came clear to the cou­ple how im­por­tant it was to have their fam­i­lies nearby. “We felt a great pull to be closer to our fam­i­lies, but we will leave here know­ing that we have built an in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful home for one spe­cial fam­ily,” says Wendy. •


1 drop­cap il mi, ea cus voluptu rerferum en­dan­dan­dion nes­ti­ate por­rum est volorepero is­tius se­quam do­lute non placea que se re­pe­lessim et mo tem quiaspe rnatatem facepe­rios aut ium MEET + GREET Wendy Keir, 33 (graphic de­signer), Alex Keir, 33 (builder), and Indigo, 1.

Wendy’s de­sign tips > Keep it min­i­mal and make sure ev­ery­thing in your home has a de­sign pur­pose.

> If you’re go­ing for an all-white look, add some colour with your fur­nish­ings and decor. > Mix­ing old with new makes a home feel both wel­com­ing and stylish. LIV­ING Although the pal­ette is muted, tim­ber tones, tex­tu­ral ac­cents and in­door green­ery cre­ate warmth in the liv­ing space.

OF­FICE Lay­ers of white and blonded wood cre­ate a calm and rest­ful work en­vi­ron­ment.

LIV­ING Large win­dows in the liv­ing room flood the open space with light, as well as al­low­ing stun­ning views over the Waikato coun­try­side. DIN­ING A se­lec­tion of mis­matched din­ing chairs – painted in white and pale pink – en­sures a co­he­sive look in the din­ing space while still pro­vid­ing vis­ual in­ter­est.

BED­ROOMS Beau­ti­ful hand­crafted tim­ber head­boards in the guest and mas­ter bed­rooms give each room a unique vibe. Indigo’s bed­room is whim­si­cal in white.

BATH­ROOMS Cir­cu­lar mir­rors set against sub­way tiles ar­ranged in a her­ring­bone pat­tern cre­ate a won­der­ful vis­ual con­trast in both the guest bath­room and en­suite. LAUN­DRY Leather door and drawer pulls add tex­ture to the clean space.

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