What do you do when you can’t find fur­ni­ture for your char­ac­ter coun­try home? Set up a busi­ness and im­port your own, of course.

Why must quirky yet clas­sic fur­ni­ture for a char­ac­ter home be so hard to find? This home­owner changes the rules


Here’s what usu­ally hap­pens when you can’t find the kind of cool, vin­tage fur­ni­ture you want in New Zealand: you whinge a lit­tle, be­fore spend­ing hours trawl­ing through over­seas web­sites, try­ing to ig­nore the crip­pling cost of ship­ping items across the globe.

Un­less your name is Kristyn Thomas, in which case you start a busi­ness im­port­ing highly cov­etable pieces from Europe.

Kristyn was in­spired to start The Sun­day So­ci­ety when she couldn’t find the kind of vin­tage pieces she wanted for the Waikato villa she and ar­chi­tect hus­band Sam ren­o­vated four years ago.

“We took a road trip through Hol­land, fill­ing a con­tainer with things that I like,” she says. “I figured that if I liked this stuff then oth­ers would too. And if they didn’t then I’d end up with a house full of gor­geous fur­ni­ture.” >

You can hardly fault her logic. And al­though cus­tomers have, thank­fully, fallen in love with the gra­cious French ar­moires and Dutch wooden seats Kristyn sources, a lot of it has also found its way into the cou­ple’s home.

Par­tic­u­larly their for­mer liv­ing room, which has been turned into a show­room that Kristyn opens to the pub­lic by ap­point­ment. “A lot of pieces cross over from the show­room into the house and never go back,” says Sam with a laugh.

Par­ents to Cooper, six, Ava, three, and 15-month-old An­gus, the cou­ple first spot­ted their 1919 villa a few months after re­turn­ing from five years in Syd­ney to be closer to fam­ily (Sam grew up just down the road). The 130sqm house still had the orig­i­nal scrim on the walls, no in­su­la­tion and the roof leaked like a sieve. But they loved its ru­ral lo­ca­tion, tucked among rolling dairy farms, and it had what real es­tate agents like to call good bones.

Four fran­tic months later, after ren­o­vat­ing and sell­ing two rental prop­er­ties to fi­nance the pur­chase, they set about turn­ing it into their dream home, in­clud­ing repil­ing, in­su­lat­ing and gib­bing the en­tire house, re­plac­ing the leaky roof and cov­er­ing ev­ery con­ceiv­able sur­face with litres of white paint.

“I like any colour as long as it’s white,” jokes Kristyn, who jug­gles her busi­ness with a full-time ac­count man­ager role.

There was, she ad­mits, some ro­bust de­bate about whether the orig­i­nal mataī floor­boards should be painted black or white. >

“I wanted black be­cause I thought with three kids we would be con­stantly clean­ing white floors,” ad­mits Sam. But his wife wanted white so he ex­per­i­mented with in­dus­trial and reg­u­lar paint un­til he got the colour and tex­ture right.

For­tu­nately, they didn’t have to make many struc­tural changes to their home. “The lay­out works amazingly well for our fam­ily, es­pe­cially the three cov­ered porches that give us shade in sum­mer and pro­tect us from the el­e­ments in win­ter,” says Sam. They did, how­ever, add a gen­er­ous deck that runs the length of the house and opens to both the kitchen and liv­ing room. They also moved two in­ter­nal doors to make the bed­rooms more ac­ces­si­ble and, some­what con­tro­ver­sially, de­cided not to make the func­tional ar­eas of the house into an open-plan space.

Says Sam: “I know the trend is to knock down walls to make these ar­eas open plan but we wanted to re­spect the house’s orig­i­nal struc­ture. And, ac­tu­ally, hav­ing sep­a­rate cook­ing, eat­ing and liv­ing ar­eas works for us as a fam­ily be­cause it pro­vides more room for us to spread out.”

When it came to dec­o­rat­ing, Kristyn was in her el­e­ment. She’d long trawled Trade Me for vin­tage wooden fil­ing cab­i­nets she could repur­pose as chests of draw­ers; the enor­mous rimu cab­i­net in the mas­ter bed­room came from a Dunedin fur­rier.

“I love the way it still has its orig­i­nal la­bels, show­ing which drawer held the er­mine skins and which the fox heads.”

Al­though this is the fourth house the cou­ple have ren­o­vated, they say they won’t be leav­ing any time soon.

“We both moved around a lot as kids so we wanted a house that would grow with our fam­ily, where our kids would spend their whole lives,” says Kristyn. “And that’s what we’ve found here.”


THIS PAGE Bent­wood chairs are paired with a colo­nial kauri turned-leg ta­ble; the large wo­ven bas­ket lids on the wall were a Trade Me find; Kristyn has used, Du­lux ‘Half An­tique White USA’ through­out the house. OP­PO­SITE (clock­wise from top) The two round art­works are by Ki­hik­ihi artist Claudia Aalderink and were made from old bee-keep­ing boxes; Kristyn says the cowhide rug is sur­pris­ingly child-friendly and doesn’t stain eas­ily. Kristyn in the kitchen; the Ge­orge and Willy pa­per roller is great for notes, re­minders, gro­cery lists and kids’ scrib­bles. The jade-green tiles on the hearth were hid­den un­der ugly 80s slate pavers and Kristyn says it was a “to­tal win” to find them un­dam­aged un­der­neath.

THIS PAGE (clock­wise from top) The villa had very lit­tle built-in stor­age, so Kristyn found the glass-fronted cab­i­net on Trade Me to store cut­lery and crock­ery; Sam in­stalled the black slid­ing barn door and the large Alex & Cor­ban mir­ror was one of the fam­ily’s few splurges. The box shelves keep trea­sures safe from small hands; the child-sized shoe lasts were found in an Am­s­ter­dam flea market and Kristyn col­lects a new ce­ramic wall tile ev­ery time she vis­its Hol­land. Kristyn had loved the Cole & Son Birches wall­pa­per for years and fi­nally got a chance to use it in son An­gus’ room; the cot was from Ikea, but the cou­ple added the carved wooden panel fea­tur­ing cock­atiels in a gum tree, which came from a vin­tage cab­i­net bought on eBay in Syd­ney.OP­PO­SITE The Sun­day So­ci­ety show­room, which used to be the cou­ple’s liv­ing room; the light fit­ting is from Mr Ralph.

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