Bibby Master Extension Project

This blog post has been a long time in the making and, just a warning, it is quite a long post! The building process took a good five months (including a 3 week break by the builders over Christmas), so I took many, many progress photos. I also took a few videos to document the process, so if you haven’t followed along with us on our Instagram stories, go check them out after you’ve read the blog.

It all began back in June 2017 when I contacted Tracey Thompson-Gray, a senior architect at Architecture HDT. With three teenage daughters we were fast out-growing our modest little three bedroom/one bathroom bungalow. Mark and I had spent months searching for a bigger house, but didn’t find anything that ticked all our boxes. We had been spoilt by our current location, where we had lived for 11 years, with it’s corner site, all day sun, views over the Botanical Gardens and out to sea, and close proximity to work, school, family & friends. We finally decided to stay put and to add a master extension onto our existing home, which meant all three girls would finally have their own bedroom, and Mark and I would have our own bathroom - Hallelujah!

The original floor plan, the blue indicates where the extension would go.

The plan for the master extension.

We worked with Tracey and Courtney at Architecture HDT. Our brief was to retain the view out over the Gardens, and I wanted a walk-in wardrobe. We didn’t have a lot of room to play with as the extension took the house right out to our fence and boundary, but the large window and French doors opening onto our deck give the small room a light, airy feeling despite the lack of space. We were very happy with Tracey and Courtney’s plan, which involved stealing a bit of room from our old bedroom for the shower, and losing a small portion of our deck.

A visual by Architecture HDT of how our home would look with the master extension to the left.

Anyone that has built or renovated a home will know how much waiting time is involved before you start actually building. Once the plans were drawn up, submitted to Council, approved, the builder was chosen (after receiving several quotes), it was November 2018 before demo began. The boarded up window (below) was our old bedroom, and the extension would push straight out to the fence in front.

Boys seem to love demolition but it was my least favourite time. Lot of destruction, mess and noise! But it wasn’t long before piles, bearers and floor went down.

The old front door would become the doorway into our new bedroom.

We came home after a weekend in Taupo to find half the house gone!

It starts to get exciting when the framing goes up and you can see rooms start to form.

Our builder, Paul of Bay Carpenters, worked alongside a small team from Davcon, who were brilliant. It was awesome coming home at the end of the day to see what they’d achieved. Once the weatherboards started going on and the doors and windows installed we could see Tracey and Courtney’s drawings coming to life.

After the framing goes up the electrician and plumber get to work. It’s really important to be super organised and have your bathroom fittings and fixtures ahead of time so your plumber knows where everything will go. Also, in our case we were having a hidden toilet cistern, so our builder needed to put the wall studs etc in.

You’ll also need to know what kind of lighting you want and where. We were having wall lights either side of the vanity mirror, so I needed to know the size of my mirror and where my vanity would be so we could get the wiring in the right spot. In the wardrobe I had worked out where I wanted plugs for the iron, hairdryer, electric toothbrush well before the framing went in.

I designed the custom vanity and the walk-in wardrobe and printed out copies for all the tradies.

We made a few small tweaks to the design once it was at the joiners, but this is the basic wardrobe design.

HOT TIP: Let your builder know if you have want any extra dwangs (a horizontal bracing piece used between wall studs or floor joists) put in before the gib goes on. This is so when you’re hanging heavy mirrors or art you know there will be something solid to nail/drill into. We also add dwangs for curtain rod fixings when we want the curtains hung extra high. Take a photo with your measuring tape so you can refer back to it when the walls are up.

We clad the back bedroom wall in HardieGroove™ Lining and wrapped it around to the wardrobe/ensuite entrance. I love the subtle texture it adds and it’s in keeping with other areas of our bungalow home.

Two of my favourite things in the extension can be found in the ensuite. I knew I wanted a built-in shelf in the shower, as opposed to a shower niche. It was only a slight headache for the builder who had to make sure it was strong enough for use without jeopardising the waterproofing and tiles.

The other thing was our decision to install a skylight over the shower. This is a game-changer, as far as I’m concerned, and I will now want to put one in every shower I design. Natural light is an interior designer’s best friend but you don’t necessarily want windows in a shower for obvious privacy reasons.

Another thing we always try to do when designing bathrooms is to position the toilet in a discreet area so it’s not on display as you enter the room. In our ensuite we have a nib wall and the toilet is hidden behind it.

Mark did all the painting himself. My father-n-law, Peter, is a retired painter so Mark has learnt from the best.

Because we were putting carpet in the new bedroom we made the decision to re-carpet the whole house while we were at it with beautiful Cavalier Bremworth wool carpet from Hutchinsons. The old carpet was 10 years old and had lived through our kids’ toddler years - it was time! But, although we knew we wanted to carpet the hall and bedrooms we loved the idea of exposing the beautiful original floorboards in the living areas. It’s the Northern side of the house and the family room has large bi-fold doors meaning it gets a lot of sun and indoor/outdoor foot traffic. The only problem was a square of particle board smack bang in the middle of the two living rooms where an old fireplace had once been.

Luckily for us, Nick from Davcon, is an absolute craftsman! Paul had removed some floorboards from our old bedroom right back at the demo stage in preparation for this. Nick spent two days meticulously laying these boards into that square, staggering them so they merged seamlessly with the existing boards.

Nick did the most amazing job, we can’t see where the square of particle board used to be. Both rooms have large rugs in them so the only exposed part of flooring is where he worked.

I’ll take you through a few ‘before & afters’ now so you can see the finished extension, and give a few ‘shout outs’ to those who helped us.

Bedding is from Foxtrot Home, Citta Design, and French Country. The art is by Andrew O’Brien.

The headboard is from Bibby + Brady; the lights are from Monmouth Glass Studio; I imported the bone inlay furniture several years ago; the seascape painting was found on TradeMe and I re-framed it.

I designed the bookshelf at the entrance of our room and Sydaz joiners made it for me. The handles are from Archant.

The wardrobe was also designed by me and built by Sydaz joinery.

Vanity designed by me, made by Sydaz; handles from Archant; sink and tap ware from The Kitchen Hub; sink originally from Nood Co; Caesarstone bench top; splash back tile from Tile Depot.

The gorgeous navy hex tiles are from Tile Depot, as are the large marble tiles I used on the shower shelf and vanity splash back; antique brass shower fixtures are from The Kitchen Hub; vanity lights from The Clever Design Store.

The Catherine Martin by Mokum wallpaper is from James Dunlop, expertly hung by Claire Condon.

This extension has made a massive difference to our family and how we live. We don’t have a huge house, but now, it’s just right. Everyone has their own space and two bathrooms between the five of us is so much better than one. Thank you so much to everyone who has been a part of this project. Phase two will be the deck outside our bedroom, so watch out for that mini makeover come Summer time.

Adding Character to a New Build

Building or moving into a brand new home is an exciting time, and there are so many advantages over an older home. But unless you're lucky enough to have had it architecturally designed, a new house can sometimes feel a little plain, lacking in charm, or, dare I say, soulless. At our recent styling evening in Havelock North, I was asked if I had any tips on how to add character and interest to a newly built house, so I have put together this blog post with some of our ideas.

There are actually plenty of ways to inject interesting elements that will add depth and interest to your new home, one of them is to add panelling to your walls. There are a number of ways to do this and it's amazing how quickly it will elevate a room with it's subtle layer of texture. Vertical panelling is a classic look that can be made to look both traditional or contemporary depending on how it's executed. Pictured above with lovely thick skirting boards, this panelling creates a classic look. Another fun way to use it is to run it part way up the wall, top with a dado rail, and either paint or wallpaper above. The powder room below has turned what was a small, plain room into a fun, personality-filled space. The thinner panelling is a nice contrast to the door and works well in a smaller space.

By square setting the panelling from the ceiling to the floor without any skirts or architraves, you create a contemporary look for your home. The entrance below has cleverly lined up the door and wall panelling for a clean, seamless look. This is trickier to execute, so although the first versions (above) are possible to DIY, I would recommend getting the experts to help you with this square set panelling. This look really needs to be decided on before the building stage, so talk to your builder early on in the process.

We often use vertical panelling in our kitchen designs. With very little fabric or furnishings in a kitchen, it's a nice way to introduce texture. The home below uses the panelling in quite a contemporary fashion, also running it up the walls and on the door in the hallway to create a sense of continuity.

Below are more examples of vertical panelling, this time using it in natural wood for a hit of warmth as well as texture. This sort of application doesn't have to be used everywhere in your house, instead use it to create a feature in key areas.

Another form of wall panelling that you're probably familiar with is board and batten. It features wide boards covered by long flat strips (battens) about 5cm wide. This is one of the oldest, most traditional style of panelling and is often used on the exterior of houses. If using it on the interior of your house you can create the same look by just attaching the thin strips over a conventional wall. I love the character it adds, and it can also be used on just the lower half of your wall with paint or wallpaper above.

One of my favourite wall features is box moulding. This is something you can do yourself if you're a clever 'diy-er', or have a handy man in the house. Keeping it white adds subtle texture, or paint it dark to make more of a statement.

Built-in furniture pieces are not for the faint hearted, as they become a semi-permanent part of your home once installed, but they help to add that architectural detail that may be lacking in your new build. If well designed and built they will be a fantastic addition to your home and are often great for utilising otherwise unused or awkward spaces. Built-in bookshelves are the most common piece we're asked for by our clients. The one below is so handy for storage and display, and they've included box moulding - win, win!

When you're installing a new kitchen, the cabinets are custom made to fit. But there's nothing to stop you fitting cupboards similar to the ones below along a hallway, in an entrance, or a kids' play room for valuable extra storage. If possible, take them to the ceiling so they look like they're supposed to be there and not an after thought that has just been tacked on.

The bookshelf below is our ideal living room built-in piece. Open storage for books and favourite pieces, closed storage at the bottom for things you don't want on display, and a space for the TV. This setup is also great for ensuring that the television is disguised a bit and not the centre of attention in your living room.

One of our most favourite ways to add interest to, and elevate a space, is wallpaper. Powder rooms, laundries, and entrances are great spaces for wallpaper. Because you don't spend a lot of time in any of the rooms you can get really brave, go bold and wallpaper every wall. Of course, if you're open to wallpapering all four walls of your living or dining room we applaud you, but even a single wall, like the bedroom below will create a lovely feature. This grasscloth wallpaper provides beautiful texture but is otherwise quite subtle.

If pattern is your thing there are a multitude of gorgeous wallpapers to choose from and we're more than happy to help you choose - patterned or plain.

In any good design, contrast is a key component. When you have a brand new home, we like to add some vintage or antique pieces to give the place some depth. I love this little vintage table (below) against the crisp, new white walls. Have fun hunting on TradeMe or your local second hand shops, or if you're really lucky you may have one or two special pieces you've inherited from your parents or grandparents. 

The antique dresser below has been repurposed into a vanity adding some weight and character to the brand new bathroom.

Interesting tiles in your kitchen and bathroom will instantly add character and style. I would strongly urge you to choose a beautifully tiled splash back over a coloured glass one. There are so many shiny, hard surfaces in a kitchen, and a glass splash back is just one more. Tiles can add texture and pattern, even a plain subway will be so much more interesting than flat glass.

The kitchen below belongs to our clients, and although they didn't build it, the house was still very new when they bought it. Because the kitchen was so new they didn't feel the need to rip it out and start again, but they did want to breathe a bit of life into it, and stamp their own mark on it. It was as simple as replacing the handles on the bottom cabinets with a more contemporary matt black version, and removing the top ones altogether for a cleaner look. We then replaced the glass splash back with the soft green subway tiles, and added the gorgeous fish scale tiles under the breakfast bar. You can see before photos in our previous blog post.


Below is the view from the above kitchen, where I can illustrate two more simple ways we added some character to the simple white interior. Other than the furniture and accessories, the two things we love about this space are the curtains and the chandelier. There were initially plain white roller blinds over the large bi-fold doors, but by replacing these with beautiful linen curtains it helped to soften the room and add texture. Fixtures like lights are a brilliant way to spice up a simple interior. We used the stunning chandelier to do just this, as well as to help zone the living room in the open plan space. A similar light was used over the breakfast bar above.

Lastly, paint is an oldie but a goodie... it is by far the quickest and most cost-effective way to change and lift a room. A simple colour can make the world of difference! The use of the multi colours below creates the illusion of an architectural feature.

In conclusion, not everything above will appeal to everyone, and you obviously don't have to include each tip into your new build. But we do hope that you have gained some inspiration to take your shiny new house up to the next level.

We always love your feedback, so feel free to comment below on ways you have added interest to a new build. And if there is anything you would like our advice on, let us know, it could be the next blog post we write.

Belmont Home Design

We hit the client jackpot when we got an email back in 2016 from an awesome young couple, Emma and Ian. They had just bought a new family home in Belmont, Auckland that they felt had great bones but lacked personality, and they wanted our help. Of course we love these kind of projects, as we relish any opportunity to bring a home to life and help it to reflect the people that live there.

Emma and Ian had only some very minor structural renovations in mind, but wanted nearly a full fit-out of new furniture, window treatments and accessories. Their brief was to create a home that had a holiday vibe - "a sub tropical deluxe retreat with an edge" were Emma's exact words.

The back of the house is beautiful, light and airy with a high vaulted ceiling and large french doors opening out onto the back lawn. It contains the kitchen, dining area, and a living room which was zoned by a rectangular piece of in-laid carpet.

A coat of fresh, white paint, and swapping the roller blinds out for beautiful linen curtains created a timeless base to work with. The curtains add a softness, and when pulled the gentle folds add lovely texture to the room. Removing the carpet and replacing the floorboards was a rather costly option, so we got a rug custom made to cover the carpet, and because it was a bit larger, it gave the living area a bit more breathing room. The beautiful large chandelier also helps to zone the living room in the open plan space.

We chose a large four seater sofa that can withstand a couple of boisterous (and adorable) young children, it's super comfy and very cool - for that edginess that Emma wanted. It's long and low profile hunkers down into the room allowing the view outside to be accessible from throughout the room, and the back creates a clear divide between the living and dining areas.

To fit the space between the kitchen and living area, the dining table is long and narrow. We used a bench seat on one side, which is perfect for kids, and it helps to keep it from looking cluttered - which is key in an open plan room. When not in use it can tuck under the table discreetly. Roman blinds in a blue and white batik fabric replaced the original roller blinds.

The wall between the two smaller windows was a great spot for some art, so the wall light was removed and we anchored the large print with the wooden bench below.

photo: Florence Charvin

We kept the colour palette to shades of blue, green and white to create the tropical feel, with wood and brass accents for warmth. We also wanted to reflect Emma and Ian's love of travel by using pieces they've collected over the years, and by introducing new pieces with a global influence. The large stool in the corner is a vintage Indian grinder table picked up in Hawke's Bay when we took the couple shopping in some of our favourite shops.

The kitchen was quite new and Emma and Ian didn't feel the need to replace it, so we had some simple solutions to help them update it.

The original kitchen had a lot of silver handles everywhere. We replaced the ones on the lower cabinets with the same size handle but in a beautiful matt black. The upper cabinets had their handles completely removed and a push-to-open mechanism was installed inside, giving a cleaner, more contemporary look. The light over the breakfast bar echoes the one in the living area and helps to zone the kitchen area.

We replaced the painted glass splash back with gorgeous soft green subway tiles to add texture and interest.

For another layer the scallop tiles were added to the front of the breakfast bar. They compliment the subway tiles beautifully and continue the tropical holiday vibe without being too literal. A strip of LED lighting runs along under the bench to subtly highlight the tiles. The bar stools are low in profile so they can also tuck away when not in use, keeping the look unfussy.

Emma and Ian picked up the 'lady with the green lips' while they were in Bali, and she works so well in this space. We commissioned the small resin planes from Michele Bryant, each has an international destination on it  - cities or provinces that Ian has worked with Air New Zealand.

We chose the large marble and metal coffee table for it's scale as we wanted a piece big enough to work with the sofa. A pair of rattan armchairs face the sofa and can also be pulled outside for extra seating when needed.

The master bedroom is off the living room and has large bi-fold windows that open onto the back garden. We wanted the room to have a sophisticated holiday vibe, and to be a place of calm and quiet for Emma and Ian to retreat to.

We chose a deep teal blue for the walls, fresh white linen bedding and a quilted blue throw to ground the end of the bed. We had the green velvet headboard custom made, and also made the pink & gold cushion and bedside lampshades specially. The palm tree lamp bases, scalloped bedside tables, and fish trap pendant light all continue the tropical theme.

The light oak drawers compliment the blue walls and pick up the tones in the artwork by Chris Sisarich.

The bathrooms were similar to the kitchen - Emma and Ian chose not to completely replace the fittings and fixtures, but instead to simply 'zshush' them up.

The shell mirror was bought on Emma and Ian's shopping trip with us in Hawke's Bay, and it instantly updates the room. The walls were freshened up again with a bright white, and we bought a little rustic wooden stool in to add some warmth and texture.

The seperate toilet room got a similar treatment with the mirror replaced and some beautiful wallpaper added. Little touches like a colourful hand towel and pretty soaps are so simple to add and can make all the difference.

photo: Florence Charvin

Blake and Isla share a bedroom and Emma wanted us to give it a whimsical, playful makeover.

We defined each child's side of the room with their own wallpaper. Blake's is blue and white with a striped linen duvet and denim pillowcase.

photo: Florence Charvin

Isla's side of the room is in soft peaches and dusty pinks, and her wallpaper has the same sense of whimsy as her brother's but in a much more girly way.

The front living room was lacking the natural light that the main living space had, so we removed the door frame and opened it right up, replacing the door with an internal slider. The walls were painted and the furniture was updated.

A pair of vintage armchairs were screaming out for some love, so we recovered them in one of our favourite kilim fabrics giving them that global vibe we love so much.

The linen slipcover sofa is another favourite of ours and perfect for a family with kids. All of the covers can be easily removed and thrown in the wash whenever necessary. The larger door opening lets in much more light during the day, and can be closed up in the evenings if the kids are sleeping.

The entranceway was another area that just needed tweaking. The little built-in box was removed and replaced with a bench seat. A piece of art was hung above it and an antique runner was introduced to lead you down into the heart of the home.

It was an absolute pleasure working with these guys, and seeing their home come to life, we will miss them terribly. Make sure you come back to Hawke's Bay for some more shopping trips, Emma and Ian :)