Char­ac­ter build­ing A de­sign-savvy cou­ple stamp their dis­tinc­tive retro style on their brand new Tau­ranga home

This quirky Tau­ranga new-build is proof that brand-new doesn’t have to be bor­ing

Your Home and Garden - - Contents - Text by Monique Balvert-O’Con­nor. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Rachel Dobbs.


Carly Ward, 37 (co-owner and man­ager of Nour­ish Cafe), Cameron Ward, 39 (gen­eral man­ager of cloth­ing com­pany You Know We Ain’t Ltd), Jack­son, 9, and Mia, 7, plus Bruce the cat and Bella the dog.


When Carly and Cam Ward first saw their Tau­ranga sec­tion in 2014 – just be­fore prop­erty prices soared – they were baf­fled. Why was the large, slop­ing par­cel of land, hugged by a lush re­serve and with views of Tau­ranga’s north­ern in­let, still avail­able, they won­dered.

“We couldn’t be­lieve the sec­tion hadn’t been snapped up,” says Carly. “But we could see its po­ten­tial straight away.”

The cou­ple and their two small chil­dren had out­grown a much-loved, char­ac­ter-filled 1950s bun­ga­low and were “re­ally wor­ried” about the prospect of build­ing new, even though it seemed like the right thing to do.

“I wanted to recre­ate the same feel [as the old house],” says Carly. “I like nooks and cran­nies, in­ter­est­ing spa­ces.” Her fears about not be­ing able to make a home with char­ac­ter wors­ened when the builders the cou­ple first ap­proached showed them stan­dard house plans, in­clud­ing brick-and-tile op­tions which were en­tirely alien to their taste.

Then the Wards dis­cov­ered Fed­er­a­tion Homes. “They didn’t come with any plans; in­stead they of­fered a lis­ten­ing ear, vis­ited our site and drew up plans,” says Carly. “They just got it and we love the re­sult” – a 160-squareme­tre home of white pine and weath­er­board.


> One large wardrobe di­vides the kids’ bed­rooms and can be opened on both sides to cre­ate one mas­sive play area (the shelves and rails run width­ways and only oc­cupy each end of the gi­ant wardrobe, leav­ing the mid­dle clear to walk through). “It’s pretty cool and takes up no more room than reg­u­lar wardrobes,” says Carly.

> The house may be new, but the front door is old. Carly and Cam found their 1930s villa door at a de­mo­li­tion yard, com­plete with kauri frame, dis­tressed paint, lead­lights and orig­i­nal door­bell. “It’s so pretty and I love the light it lets in. It pro­vides a point of dif­fer­ence as it con­trasts with the new­ness of the house,” says Carly. “The doorstep is also char­ac­ter­filled. We love to think of all the peo­ple who have stepped over it. Now our fam­ily and friends will be part of that door’s his­tory.”

> The din­ing room lights are a blast from the past. Carly spied them in an op-shop for $10 each and they are iden­ti­cal to the ones in her child­hood home.


The Wards moved into their new home early in Novem­ber 2015 and, boy, does it make the most of those views. The open-plan liv­ing area fea­tures large, stack­ing doors on one cor­ner that open up to a wrap­around deck and the glo­ri­ous view be­yond. There’s plenty to look at, with the re­serve below in­clud­ing lit­tle ponds, trib­u­taries and wet­lands, as well as board­walks. The scene is es­pe­cially gor­geous when the tide is in, Carly says, and the sun­sets are dreamy.

Their sec­tion in­cludes a fenced-off bank lead­ing down to the re­serve, which will soon be­come home to bee­hives (in­her­ited when Cam’s mum passed away), fruit trees and other ed­i­bles, and a pick­ing gar­den of flow­ers.


Mia and Jack­son both en­joy bed­rooms with loads of per­son­al­ity. Jack­son’s room is crea­ture-themed, with fish-iden­ti­fi­ca­tion charts, a vin­tage fish door knocker and a plas­tic griz­zly bear (an op-shop win) at his bed­side. He is the cre­ative force be­hind a cross-stitch shark which he made at school. The mes­sag­ing on the wall out­side his room reads: “All good things are wild and free.” Lego and crys­tals also have their spe­cial place in his room.

A hot pink desk and a four-poster bed are the he­roes in Mia’s room. Carly found Mia’s flo­ral du­vet cover in per­fect con­di­tion at a garage sale. Her fea­ture wall is cov­ered in fruit salad stick­ers and bunting pro­vides ad­di­tional quirk­i­ness. Both rooms have Hi­malayan salt lamps which emit a lovely soft light at bed­time.


Carly be­lieves her dec­o­ra­tive style is best de­scribed as “eclec­tic and pos­i­tive”. “I be­gan buy­ing things way be­fore we started build­ing,” she says. “I trawl vin­tage mar­kets and op-shops, as well as de­signer stores… I love any­thing quirky.

“I seem to have lots of pops of yel­low, which wasn’t my in­ten­tion, but maybe I’m just drawn to sunny items? I also have lots of green against white with all our plants – the great thing about white is that you can’t go wrong with other items. It all works.”

Cam plays an ac­tive role in decor choices, too, bring­ing back lit­tle items from his busi­ness trips through China and In­dia.

“We have quite a col­lec­tion of Chi­nese pro­pa­ganda posters now, and strange lit­tle stat­ues he finds at back-al­ley mar­kets. His other main in­put is Steve the stag, who now re­sides in our kitchen. He was a con­grat­u­la­tory gift from a friend af­ter Cam com­pleted his MBA last year – the high ceil­ings re­ally lend them­selves to some­thing big on that wall, and Steve is big!”

Cam’s mum was a col­lec­tor of beau­ti­ful things such as plates, vases, books and any­thing to do with bee­keep­ing and na­ture. “Many of our items have stemmed from her col­lec­tion,” Cam says.

Even though their home is new, the Wards have al­ready im­bued it with soul, and Carly likes to use pos­i­tive af­fir­ma­tions in art­work and sig­nage to in­spire her fam­ily and friends.

“We have a large ‘wel­come’ sign at the front and in­side is the mes­sage ‘All is well with my soul’. A cross-stitch in the master bed­room says ‘We rise by lift­ing oth­ers’ and the din­ing room art says ‘Live your life in colour’.” This is one fam­ily home with a colour­ful life ahead.


EN­TRY, DIN­ING, LOUNGE This new house was never go­ing to con­tain only new

ob­jects – the re­claimed lead­light front door (above) of­fers a hint of the eclec­tic vin­tage fur­nish­ings within.



KITCHEN CRUSH The kitchen is one of Carly’s favourite zones. “The black sink and tap add some­thing dif­fer­ent – add some drama. I think it looks very sexy,” Carly says.

TO­TALLY TUBU­LAR Carly loves cook­ing so she wanted her stove­top to face the room and the views be­yond. “We had to get a lit­tle cre­ative with the ex­trac­tor fan,” she says.


JACK­SON’S ROOM Bruce the cat is far from fazed by the wildlife in Jack­son’s room. The chil­dren en­joy their sep­a­rate spa­ces but also like the fact that their dou­ble wardrobes open up to cre­ate one big room.

MASTER BED­ROOM, BATH­ROOM A stan­dard bed­side ta­ble was never go­ing to cut the mus­tard in the master bed­room.

Left Carly found the retro bath­room mir­rors and a first-aid cab­i­net in op-shops.

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