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When classic meets contemporary

When the land that housed Vanessa Harmen’s grandmother’s farmhouse was to be developed, Vanessa and partner Sasho jumped at the opportunity to relocate the home to Matapihi where it will become their family home for generations to come.



The house, built in 1914 and then purchased by Vanessa’s grandparents, holds a special place in her heart. Growing up with fond memories of the then Greerton-based home, Vanessa couldn’t let the house be burned down to make way for new developments.

“We were here every second weekend. We were really close with our nana, and my dad grew up in it, so it’s been in our family forever, and it will be because we will pass it on to our children,” says Vanessa.

It took just one year to find the perfect piece of land with no covenants for the home to be relocated to – a picturesque flat section in Matapihi with views of Mount Maunganui.

The 214sqm house was relocated in two pieces, sustaining minimal damage during the move. They then set about renovating the home before their second child was born, completing a lot of the work themselves.

“We started renovating in March 2015 and moved in during September 2015. I was pregnant with Lola. My partner did a lot of the work himself with the help of our friends and then we got painters in to finish it when we realised we weren’t going to finish it in time on our own,” says Vanessa.

Facing northwest, the house fits perfectly into its new surroundings; the lush green lawns contrasting beautifully with the Mount Hikurangi exterior colour of the home. A large, welcoming porch leads to an original door with stained glass, opening out into a wide re-carpeted hallway that accesses all living and bedroom areas.

“We placed it the same way as it was placed at Nana’s and it still sometimes feels like we are at Nana’s house in Greerton,” says Vanessa.

Vanessa wanted to maintain the classic charm and integrity of the home, so nothing structural was changed. The bathroomware has been left in its former glory, alongside tasteful modern elements of colour and stripped-back flooring.

“I wanted to keep everything original and let the features speak for themselves –you just can’t get that kind of thing anymore. The black was to modernise it a wee bit more to my taste,” says Vanessa.

There is no shortage of living space in the home, with two separate lounges and a sunroom which is destined to be a dining room. Large original windows let plenty of light into the crisp, white room, contrasted by the original timber floors and subtle black window frames.



The sunroom features some of the home’s original furniture, such as Vanessa’s grandmother’s piano that was shipped from England, and a rustic armchair that blends beautifully into the space. “I really love old pieces because I love the history and stories that go with them,” says Vanessa.

Before the renovation, the sunroom featured “a hideous lino colour. We’ve stripped it back and re-gibbed the walls,” says Vanessa.

Vanessa boldly chose black as the colour for the doors and window frames which contrasts tastefully with the Okapito White walls and accentuates the natural woodgrain tones, in keeping with the original character of the home.

“We had a painter do that [the window frames] and at first he wouldn’t paint them or the doors black but, in the end, reluctantly agreed and actually surprised himself by liking it,” says Vanessa.

Soft furnishings with hints of mustard yellow add pops of colour that can be easily changed in future and matched with the timeless monochromatic colour palette. Vanessa is a firm believer in “following your gut” with style and has opened a home decor store with her sister Dana called Kowhai Interiors after struggling to find “something a little different” for her home.

The store stocks one-off furniture pieces, original art and a range of beautiful homewares that are exclusive to Kowhai.

Insulation has been added in the ceiling of this home, with the addition of a heat transfer system that takes excess heat from the new fireplace to the four bedrooms. The rooms have been left in their original glory with a new coat of white paint on the walls and black doors added to modernise.

 “The room where I grew up with my sister is now my son and daughter’s room – we have just painted it,” says Vanessa.

The master bedroom features original farmhouse double doors which allow half of the wall to be opened to maximise airflow. They offer the choice of just the top half being opened, much like a stable door.

Sasho and Vanessa believe they were lucky the bones of their home were so solid, meaning they had no major issues.

An unexpected bonus was finding some cigarette packets and old newspaper clippings, which will be framed and put up in the house.

The next projects include the kitchen, which has only had a new benchtop and tapware added, and some more landscaping which will include some kiwifruit bin vegetable gardens.