This beloved home is in­spired by French pro­vin­cial style

Fate played its hand when an Auck­land cou­ple chanced upon the home of their dreams while out walk­ing one Sun­day

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

Af­ter a fruit­less search that seemed to go on for an eter­nity, it was as if di­vine in­ter­ven­tion played a part when Reuben and Fiona La­mont bought their char­ac­ter villa in Re­muera, Auck­land, in mid-2014. “When Reuben was a boy he lived in the same neigh­bour­hood and my grand­mother lived just up the road when she was a child,” re­calls Fiona. “It was as if fate brought us here.” The cou­ple just hap­pened to be pass­ing one Sun­day, spot­ted the open home sign, walked through and be­fore they knew it, they had made an of­fer that was ac­cepted later that af­ter­noon.

Typ­i­cal of its era, the villa had a beau­ti­ful char­ac­ter fa­cade com­plete with a large bay win­dow and a quaint front gar­den. The in­te­rior was as you would ex­pect from a turn-of-the-cen­tury villa – lots of small rooms ac­cessed by a long, cen­tral hall­way. Although the lay­out wasn’t per­fect, the home’s lo­ca­tion and the thought of what could be achieved by ren­o­vat­ing it sealed the deal for the cou­ple.

TRA­DI­TIONS

Christ­mas is a time for fam­ily, friends and tra­di­tions – fol­low­ing the old and creat­ing the new. Fiona has at­tended a vigil mass on Christ­mas Eve with her fam­ily since she was a child. “It’s ab­so­lutely my favourite fes­tive tra­di­tion,” she ex­plains. “All the aunts and un­cles, grand­par­ents and grand­chil­dren, great-aunts and cousins come to­gether. It’s a won­der­ful way to start the cel­e­bra­tion of Christ­mas.” A more re­cent tra­di­tion is ‘Elf on the Shelf’. “Our elf, ‘Ralph’, comes to stay on 1 De­cem­ber, the day we put up our tree,” ex­plains Fiona. “He moves around the house each night af­ter his visit back to Santa to re­port on the chil­dren’s be­hav­iour for the day,” says Fiona. If you’re un­fa­mil­iar with the con­cept, ‘Elf on the Shelf’ is a de­light­ful and mag­i­cal way of en­cour­ag­ing good be­hav­iour, although it’s not al­ways po­tent enough to get ex­cited chil­dren into bed on Christ­mas Eve.

TRY AND TRY AGAIN

Af­ter liv­ing in the house for nearly two years, it be­came ap­par­ent that the gor­geous old villa was not de­signed for mod­ern fam­ily life. “Un­for­tu­nately, all the liv­ing was sit­u­ated on the south side of the house so it of­ten felt cool and un­invit­ing,” says Fiona.

Recog­nis­ing that a ren­o­va­tion would fix the prob­lem and open up all sorts of other pos­si­bil­i­ties, the pair spent al­most a year draw­ing, cri­tiquing, scrap­ping and re-draw­ing un­til they came up with a new floor­plan. They sought help from friend and re­al­tor Roy Champ­taloup to en­sure their ideas would work for them and would pro­vide a re­turn on their in­vest­ment should they de­cide to sell.

“Roy came over with an ar­chi­tect friend to view our plans and they were com­pletely on­board with our ideas,” says Fiona. Re­as­sured that their ideas were sound, Reuben and Fiona went ahead and em­ployed sub­con­trac­tors to man­age the draft­ing, con­sent and build­ing process.

CHANGE AROUND

Un­der the ren­o­va­tion, three be­d­rooms were trans­formed into an open-plan din­ing room, lounge and kitchen. The space where the old kitchen once stood is now the fam­ily room and the old stair­well has been re­pur­posed as a scullery and of­fice. An ex­ten­sion at the rear of the prop­erty houses two large kids’ be­d­rooms, com­plete with a whim­si­cal se­cret pas­sage that is ac­cessed via their sep­a­rate wardrobes.

With the liv­ing spa­ces now sit­u­ated on the sunny side of the house, large French doors were in­stalled to cre­ate that all-im­por­tant in­door-out­door flow, with ac­cess to the new deck, swim­ming pool and spa.

NEW-FOUND SKILLS

While work­ing on their floor­plan, Fiona dis­cov­ered a pas­sion for in­te­rior de­sign so she en­rolled at the Nanette Cameron School of In­te­rior De­sign. “The mod­ules helped me de­sign the kitchen, choose a colour pal­ette and map out a light­ing plan,” she says.

Although the in­te­rior has a strong French pro­vin­cial feel, the cou­ple have clev­erly paired an­tiques with more con­tem­po­rary pieces, lend­ing fresh­ness to the tra­di­tional look. “We have re­painted nu­mer­ous old pieces of fur­ni­ture, giv­ing them a new look,” says Fiona, “but they still work with our tra­di­tional decor.”

AF­TER THE HARD WORK…

While Fiona was dis­cov­er­ing a love for in­te­rior de­sign, Reuben found a knack for all things DIY. He mod­i­fied the man­tel­piece and cre­ated the hearth, wall­pa­pered the chil­dren’s rooms, laun­dry and stair­case (oh, how we love those stairs!), built and fit­ted out the wardrobes and cre­ated the canopy in the mas­ter bed­room.

Now all the hard work is over, the La­monts are look­ing for­ward to a re­lax­ing sum­mer in their beau­ti­ful home. The ren­o­va­tion has only re­cently been com­pleted and, although the fam­ily had Christ­mas in the house last year, it was slightly sham­bolic as the builders were still on site. This year’s fes­tiv­i­ties will be the fam­ily’s first ‘proper’ Christ­mas in their fin­ished home, with many more to look for­ward to.•

Reuben La­mont, 44, Fiona La­mont, 41, Har­riet, 4, and Teddy, 2.

MEET + GREET

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HALL­WAY The strik­ing light­shades are from Light­house and the clear glass con­sole is from Har­vey Nor­man. A square car­pet was up­cy­cled to cre­ate the cowhideshaped rug. Above and left

Two ma­jes­tic an­tique can­dle­sticks make a state­ment on the Early Set­tler din­ing ta­ble. The gold can­dle­hold­ers, plates and nap­kins are from Free­dom.

Use dif­fer­ent shades of grey for a co­he­sive look, but in­tro­duce a splash of colour with a con­trast­ing win­dow

dress­ing.

BE­D­ROOMS Fur cush­ions from We’ar pro­vide an in­ter­est­ing con­trast to the leafy bed­li­nen (from Spot­light) in the guest bed­room. Har­riet’s soft pink bed­li­nen and a pretty canopy (both from Har­vey Nor­man) hung with tas­sels chime softly with the cur­tains with­out com­pet­ing with them. In Teddy’s room the scheme is clean and sim­ple, al­low­ing the Cole & Son wall­pa­per to be the fo­cus.

Cole & Son

‘Woods’

$265 a roll, from The Pa­per

Room. Ghost con­sole, $449,

from Free­dom.

wall­pa­per, Cross bar

stool, $299, from Danske

Mobler.

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