This 1920s renovation is an art deco sanctuary

With major renovations already done, a floral artist and her family needed only to add personal flair to their 1920s Wellington home.

Carolyn Austin and her husband Damon came to house-hunting the second time around with very different ideas.

Damon, a Wellingtonian, liked more modern houses. Carolyn, who’s originally from Northern Ireland, favoured a home with oodles of character, overlaid with a Hamptons beachy-style vibe.

The couple, who met a week after Carolyn arrived in New Zealand in 2013, finally settled on this 1920s art deco house in the Wellington suburb of Seatoun. “We’d bought our first home, on the Seatoun hills, in 2014,” says Carolyn, a floral artist and the founder of Forever Floral Press. That 1950s house underwent a total renovation, a process the couple weren’t keen to repeat when they started looking for a bigger place for them and their sons – Micah, now seven, and Jack, four – who have since been joined by little sister Harper, now two. “Not only did we want something bigger, we also wanted a house on the flat because the hill to our previous home was a bit of a challenge with three kids.”

Carolyn Austin in a pink wrap top and floral pink skirt leaning against a door inside her wellington home

It’s a long way from Northern Ireland to Wellington, and Carolyn has brought an international sense of style to
her Seatoun house. IMAGE VIA BONNY BEATTIE

They started looking in 2018, and although Damon was leaning towards a more modern, open-plan space, they both fell for this five-bedroom 267sqm home set among mature trees. “It’s also got a bit of a sea view and is totally private,” says Carolyn.

Fortunately, the heavy lifting of renovating the three-storey house had been completed by the previous owners, who are friends of the couple. That includes a mud room, which leads from the garage. “The previous owners are Americans, who tend to like generous mud rooms, so they turned the space into one that also doubles as a laundry.”

Carolyn, who studied art at college in England and paints in her spare time, mixed two Resene paint colours to get the perfect shade of white for the mud room. She also added an art deco-style wallpaper she found online. “It’s such a restful space that I photograph a lot of my floral pressed work here,” says Carolyn, who started researching the ancient art of flower pressing after finding a vintage flower press in a Wellington op shop. Today, the bulk of her work entails preserving bridal bouquets and flowers from memorials.

Next door is the second living room/TV room, where Carolyn took a risk by buying a white sofa from Coastal at Home, an Auckland store. “Kids and white sofas don’t usually mix but thankfully this one has washable slip covers.” A gallery wall displays pictures of the children taken by local photographer Jenny Pochtarenko, who also worked on Carolyn’s website.

living room with white couch and gallery wall

Washable slip covers make a white sofa practical for a family with three small children. IMAGE VIA BONNY BEATTIE

It was the expansive kitchen and butler’s pantry that really sold Carolyn and Damon on this house. They both love to cook, so the workable layout and ample storage was always going to get the tick of approval.

white kitchen cabinets with spale stone benchtop

lenty of bench space and ample natural light make the renovated kitchen a joy to cook in. IMAGE VIA BONNY BEATTIE

Carolyn brought in her love of coastal style, painting the grey walls white and adding blush leather bar stools and dining chairs to go with an oak dining table she had shipped from the South Island. A window seat doubles as banquette seating along one length of the table.

wooden dining table with chair and a bench seat running under a window

“I’ve always had a thing about window seats,” she says, “so I found one on Trade Me for the dining room. Fortunately, it was the perfect fit. I painted it and changed the royal blue upholstery to a muted grey.” Carolyn also had a larger window seat built for the adjacent living room, which contains storage for kids’ toys and is a favourite spot in the mornings.

Most of the furniture from the couple’s previous home made the move, though Carolyn added a white cabinet to hold her coastal-inspired collection of shells and vases. An Indian bone-inlaid mirror was a birthday gift from Damon, which he found at one of his wife’s favourite shops, Annabelle’s in Havelock North.

living room with grey couch, wooden slatted coffee table and indian bone mirror on the wall

Go up the stairs and you’re in the generous main bedroom, which features a pitched ceiling that Carolyn fell in love with. Here, the couple painted over the previously grey walls and paid a local builder to make a curved bedhead when they couldn’t find one they wanted. Carolyn is a fan of the linen and cushions at design store Città, on which she splashed out for this room. A woven wall hanging came from the same store.

The en suite had been renovated prior to the couple buying the house, including the installation of a vanity that incorporates vintage art deco drawers.

Downstairs are four bedrooms, including the guest suite, where Carolyn added fitted wardrobes and commissioned Whangārei’s Little Leaf Florals to create a dried floral wall feature. “I like supporting local businesses I stumble across on Instagram.”

guest bedroom with white rattan headboard and dried floral arrangement above it.

A rattan headboard and dried flower arrangement provide a soothing palette. IMAGE VIA BONNY BEATTIE

Carolyn uses the smallest bedroom of the house as her home office – the headquarters for her floral business, which has taken off since she launched it in 2020. Down the hall is the boys’ room.

Boys kids room with timber bunk beds, and a small table and chairs

Damon, who owns an automative garage, added a dado rail on one wall so Carolyn could paint the top half white and mix two shades of Dulux paint on the bottom to create the perfect mint colour she was searching for. She repeated the dado rail in Harper’s room but added a blush wallpaper featuring rabbits and mushrooms, which she found online.

little girls room with a cot in the corner, a rattan cupboard, a large pink and grey rug covers the floor

For daughter Harper’s room, Carolyn sourced wallpaper from overseas to add interest, and Damon created a dado rail for structure. Much of the artwork in the children’s rooms was found online. IMAGE VIA BONNY BEATTIE

Though the family moved in only a year ago, they’ve already made the house their own. Future plans include landscaping the section and paving the outdoor dining area, which gets plenty of use year-round. “It’s a great, sunny, sheltered spot, and we often toast marshmallows for the kids in the outdoor fireplace.”

outdoor dining table with a bench seat and 4 rattan chairs

The outdoor dining area is a sun trap that gets a lot of use year-round. IMAGE VIA BONNY BEATTIE

They also want to turn the sun room, which is used as the kids’ playroom, into an entrance for the house, because access is currently via the garage. “They’re not major things and we can do them as our budget allows,” Carolyn says. “In the meantime, this is an incredibly liveable house and we’re very happy here.”

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