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Retirees’ renovation project

When Neil and Susan Alexander decided it was time to retire from their busy Melbourne lives, they chose to make the sunny Bay of Plenty home.



With plenty of time on their hands, a home renovation seemed like a great way to truly make a home their own.

Neil and Susan purchased their 1960s Judea home and rented it out for three years before they finally retired and moved to back to New Zealand in May 2017. They got stuck into work right away with their “fastidious” builder Ken from Mainly Maintenance.

“We were looking to come back to New Zealand and retire. I have a sister in Tauranga and we have grandchildren in New Zealand, so it was an obvious place for us to come and live. The climate suited us and we came across this property, so I flew across to look at it,” says Neil.

“It was a 1960s Huntly brick house. Nothing had really been done to it. The house needed a re-work, but we were prepared to do that because we needed to make a home our own anyway.”

Having pre-planned where they wanted to settle, Neil and Susan had plenty of time while still living in Melbourne to decide how they wanted the house laid out and to purchase things such as tapware. They visited countless showhomes and read magazines to get an idea of what they liked and how they wanted the finished product to look.

“We spent 18 months in Melbourne planning how we wanted it. This was a three-bedroom home and we knew that we wanted to turn it into a two-bedroom,” explains Susan. “We knew what configuration we wanted. We arrived May 18 last year and then on the Monday morning we met our builder friend, and two hours later he was starting to strip the place. We were the subbies. We basically stripped the inside of the whole house,  re-wired and had all the windows replaced.”

Alongside their builder Ken and other contractors, the renovation took a total of five months, with the pair moving in during September 2017. All but two of the internal walls of the house were changed, all joinery was replaced, and the roof and entire exterior of the property were repainted. Insulation was added to even the internal walls to increase warmth and soundproofing.

“So really, we kept the same footprint, but juggled a few things.” says Susan.

The new, compact, yet surprisingly spacious, kitchen now stands where the old back porch would have been. Complete with top-of-the-line Neff appliances, soft close drawers and Franke sinkware and tapware from Europe, Neil and Susan have invested in quality. Art deco-inspired tiles provide a focal point for the splashback, breaking up the white walls. A well-planned walk-in pantry has been cleverly added to the side of the kitchen, giving additional storage space.

The kitchen flows into the open plan dining and living area. Original Matai floors have been sanded back and re-varnished, complementing the self-proclaimed ‘eclectic mix’ of furniture that provides a touch of the art deco era.



The walls are neutral colours. “We like plain, and then you can add colour with your accessories,” says Susan. “That way you can change them in a few years. We like clean-cut and fresh.”

Large French doors open out from the living area into a private garden and decking area, perfect for al fresco dining.

The outdoor area has been sculptured into somewhat of a haven, with a soothing steel blue tone being carried through the high fence and multi-level deck that was formerly a brown colour.

The blueish tone contrasts impeccably with the carefully selected greenery in the raised garden that surrounds the whole area. A winding flower and vegetable garden has been added where it used to be a lawn, giving Neil, who is fond of cooking, easy access to fresh herbs right outside the kitchen door.

“We’ve certainly learned that everything in Tauranga grows instantly – its gone berserk!” says Susan.

The bedroom and bathroom area are tidily concealed from the living room by a hallway. A compact European-style laundry has been added for ease of access so the pair don’t have to walk up and down the stairs to access the washing, complete with a condenser drier which extracts all the water so that steam isn’t an issue in the small room.

A quaint, spacious guest bedroom features both a wardrobe and an extra-deep linen cupboard.



“Storage space is really important. I like to have everything stowed away,” says Susan. Across the hallway is a modern bathroom, which has been designed for access and to maximise the space. The bathroom features a walk-in rain shower and is decorated with a tile that has a raw concrete aesthetic that complements the oak-coloured cabinetry.

At the end of the hall is a spacious French-inspired master bedroom, complete with a huge walk-in wardrobe. The room has windows on all three external walls, giving plenty of natural light and all-day sunshine. The walk-in wardrobe provides ample space for all their personal belongings.

While they had a budget they extended three times, Neil and Susan are extremely pleased with the home they have created. “We’ve future-proofed it and made it ours”.