A grand villa ticks all the boxes for this Oa­maru fam­ily

The lines be­tween work and home life blur beau­ti­fully in this cre­ative fam­ily’s 100-year-old Oa­maru villa

Your Home and Garden - - Contents - Text by Kelda Hunter. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Kate Clar­idge.

Lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion – this mantra is gospel for many home buy­ers. But this is the story of a cou­ple who had their hearts stolen by a grand old villa in a town they weren’t even look­ing to buy in. It was 2015 and He­len Ri­ley-Dud­din and Michael Dud­din had reached a low ebb in their search for the per­fect, fam­ily-friendly, work-from-home dream house in Dunedin. “We started look­ing fur­ther out, never in­tend­ing to go as far as Oa­maru,” says He­len. “Then this house popped up in our in­ter­net search. It was an un­likely fan­tasy, but worth a Sun­day drive for fun. We walked in and just… wow. The first thing I no­ticed was the stair­case. It felt fa­mil­iar, ex­actly like a stair­case I’d re­cently dreamed about.”

The house didn’t tick all their boxes but both He­len and Michael were taken with the light­filled rooms, grand win­dows, cot­tage gar­den and ro­man­tic dou­ble bal­cony. Sud­denly it was

the only place they could vi­su­alise them­selves liv­ing in and the more they thought about it, the more they re­alised it wasn’t that crazy. Oa­maru is He­len’s home town, she has fam­ily there, and the tim­ing was per­fect as Michael was about to start work­ing from home, too.

The cou­ple made a pact not to think of the hour-long drive to Dunedin as a prob­lem and, two years on, this has held true. He­len still drives into the city to work a reg­u­lar shift and man­age cu­ra­tion at Guild, a de­sign store run by a group of lo­cal de­sign­ers who sell their work as well as staffing the shop. “By keep­ing our con­nec­tion with Dunedin, we get the best of both worlds,” she says.

OLD CHARMER Walk­ing into this pic­turesque white villa on a quar­ter-acre sec­tion dot­ted with fruit trees and chick­ens, it’s easy to see why He­len and Michael fell for the prop­erty. It’s not an open-plan home that re­veals ev­ery­thing at once – around ev­ery cor­ner is a new dis­cov­ery to cap­ture your heart, such as the grand, stained-glass win­dow in the stair­well, or the top-floor view of the ocean to the east and snow-capped South­ern Alps to the west, or the way step­ping out onto the bal­cony feels like a scene from Gone With the Wind.

Even now, the fam­ily are still dis­cov­er­ing things about their home. “The or­nate Ital­ian plas­ter ceil­ings and cor­nices in ev­ery room all tell their own story and ev­ery time you look at them you see some­thing new,” says He­len.

This year the house turns 100 and the cou­ple have made ev­ery ef­fort to re­search its his­tory, even though doc­u­ments re­lat­ing to the home were de­stroyed by fire and wa­ter decades ago. Their best guess is that the house was once a doc­tor’s surgery – a small con­ser­va­tory up­stairs (ideal for grow­ing toma­toes) looks likely to have been a re­cov­ery room.

MAK­ING IT ‘US’ The first thing Michael and He­len did was to re­wire the en­tire two-storey, 300-square-me­tre house. It was a ma­jor project but gave them peace of mind that the electrics were ro­bust. It also al­lowed them to up­date all the light­ing. “We sourced mod­ern light fit­tings for al­most ev­ery room and, once they were in­stalled, the place felt so dif­fer­ent… it was sud­denly ‘us’,” says He­len. “The house it­self has such in­tegrity and charm, we wanted to com­ple­ment and con­trast its fea­tures with mod­ern light­ing.”

Happy with the home’s lay­out, struc­ture and a 10-year-old, ar­chi­tect-de­signed kitchen that still felt con­tem­po­rary, the cou­ple’s only other changes were su­per­fi­cial. They up­lifted car­pet in the of­fice and mas­ter bed­room, painted, re­placed loud 1980s wall­pa­per with a de­sign more to their taste, and chose the large light­filled front liv­ing room for their home stu­dio. “It still has the orig­i­nal wall­pa­per – a large-scale, anaglyp­tic, art nou­veau-type mo­tif. It’s stun­ning. The pre­vi­ous own­ers painted the walls a lovely Du­lux ‘Manor­burn Dou­ble’ so it feels re­mark­ably con­tem­po­rary,” says He­len.

In a bold move, they also in­stalled a clus­ter of black pen­dant lights. “The light out­put is prac­ti­cal for the work­room,” says He­len. The work space gets messy so the car­pet had to go. “One day it’ll prob­a­bly re­turn to be­ing a lounge but for now the bare floor­boards are gor­geous.” They have been told the jar­rah tim­ber used for the floor was most likely sourced from a ship­wreck in Oa­maru Har­bour around the time the house was built.

MASTERING THE SPACE Orig­i­nally the mas­ter bed­room was cov­ered in very pale cream wall­pa­per, but as a re­sult the large-scale room just felt too vast. “We chose Re­sene Karen Walker ‘Fus­cous Grey’ for its co­coon­ing ef­fect. It now feels cosy and in­ti­mate, and not at all too dark with the amaz­ing morn­ing light that streams in from the hori­zon,” says He­len.

The dark walls off­set the or­nate white cor­nices and de­tailed ceil­ings, mak­ing them stand out so much more. Serendip­i­tously, af­ter re­paint­ing the room He­len re­called a land­scape she had painted of the view from their pre­vi­ous home. It was painted us­ing test­pots of the same Karen Walker colour and it works per­fectly hung above their dresser.

Polyester car­pet was cov­er­ing the floor be­fore they ripped it up, re­veal­ing golden, pol­ished kauri floor­boards. “I felt like Char­lie from Char­lie and the Choco­late Fac­tory find­ing the golden ticket,” laughs Michael.

Like many old homes, the bed­room lacked stor­age. Michael and He­len solved this by sim­ply di­vid­ing the space with an Ikea shelv­ing unit. It zones the cor­ner area, mak­ing it func­tion like a walk-in dresser. The clever cou­ple then added a wooden rod and shelf for a wardrobe so­lu­tion un­der $20.


> If you’re in a space you love and feel com­fort­able in, your pro­duc­tiv­ity will be boosted.

> Hav­ing some sort of ded­i­cated, sep­a­rate space is es­sen­tial. If it’s in­side the home, an en­tire room with a door that can hide mess and block out noise and dis­trac­tions is ideal.

> Light­ing is so im­por­tant. Task light­ing de­fines func­tional work spa­ces and is es­sen­tial when you work late at night.

> Go for en­ergy-ef­fi­cient lights such as LED bulbs. > Wifi deadspots are a real thing. Add wifi ex­ten­ders and HomePlug to get around lim­i­ta­tions. > Fol­low the sun with your lap­top! Sun­beams are en­er­gis­ing and help you stay pro­duc­tive.

DE­SIGN FOR LIFE He­len is the cre­ative force be­hind Tinch De­sign, a col­lec­tion of “wallscapes halfway be­tween art and play”. The busi­ness started in 2010 af­ter He­len had her el­dest daugh­ter, Jemima, and was look­ing for a cre­ative out­let she could pur­sue from home. “Tinch” is a word from He­len’s child­hood used to de­scribe an in­tu­itive mea­sure­ment.

He­len ad­mits work­ing from home with young chil­dren has draw­backs such as in­ter­rup­tions and, at times, iso­la­tion. But ul­ti­mately the good out­weighs the bad. “We love where we live, which means we also love where we work. We’re mo­ti­vated here. It’s a pro­duc­tive and in­spir­ing en­vi­ron­ment,” she says.

The way their home nur­tures and in­spires this fam­ily is clear to see. Tinch De­sign spills out of its front-room HQ and all over the home, with an im­pro­vised pho­tog­ra­phy area on the up­stairs land­ing and the kids fre­quently act­ing as guinea pigs for new prod­ucts. This grand old home­stead has pro­vided a tem­plate for a way of life that’s just right for this fam­ily. Who needs a cen­tral-city lo­ca­tion when ev­ery­thing you need is right here at home? •

KITCHEN The kitchen strad­dles the bound­ary be­tween the orig­i­nal house and an ex­ten­sion, which has cre­ated in­ter­est­ing beam an­gles and ceil­ing heights. Splashes of bright colour and play­ful­ness are found through­out the home.

Give an up­stairs land­ing a per­son­al­ity of its own with vi­brant wall­pa­per. The origami flow­ers on this Oilily de­sign look three­d­i­men­sional up close.

HOME STU­DIO The large, light-filled front liv­ing room makes an ideal stu­dio. Built-in cab­i­nets at the back store He­len’s stash of fab­ric sam­ples.

Get cre­ative with bunting, bed canopies

and drift­wood to cre­ate car­ni­valin­spired kids’


MAS­TER BED­ROOM Ex­ist­ing cream wall­pa­per made the mas­ter bed­room feel too big and un­wel­com­ing but the ad­di­tion of dark paint, new light­ing and cre­ative fur­ni­ture place­ment (which zones the space) solved the prob­lem.

“Eclec­tic, colour­ful, fam­ily-friendly and a bit chameleonic” is how He­len de­scribes her style. Most of the art and light­ing in the home is from Guild and Vull De­sign in Dunedin as lo­cal de­sign is her par­tic­u­lar pas­sion.

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