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Retro reno

A walk through Jo Dempsey's Mount Maunganui home is like stepping back into the 1950s - when Elvis was King, Aunt Daisy was on the radiogram, and milk was delivered to your front gate in glass bottles.



While the structure of the house is exactly the same as it was when Jo and her former husband bought the house together 17 years ago, she has recently painted the entire house from top to toe in a combination of retro 1950s colours.

"When we first bought the house we repainted everything but it’s pretty much been the same since then."

Jo had to have a retaining wall added to the front of the section a few years ago so had left the ground to settle before tackling the landscaping earlier this year. Her unintended interior renovation began with an exterior renovation. Her Dad built a fence for her, which was followed by some landscaping and the addition of a deck.

"I had absolutely no intention of renovating inside the house, but after looking at the outside of the house, where there was such a huge change, I thought the inside was looking a bit run down."

Jo had organised for a friend to repaint her internal doors and door trims but he let her down so she decided to take up a paintbrush herself.

"I thought, right I’m just going to do it myself and that’s pretty much how it started."

Sadly, Jo’s Dad passed away before the exterior renovation that he started was completed.

"I think the painting was my form of therapy. I painted literally every single day for six weeks."

Jo’s painting spree has included the exterior weatherboards, front and back steps, fences and outdoor furniture. Inside, only her flatmates’ rooms have been left untouched.

"I’ve done the walls, the windows, the skirting boards, the doors and door trims."

Jo has been collecting retro furniture for about 20 years, has tattoos of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Munroe and drives a 1963 EH Holden.

"I love anything old and I like keeping it original. I hate it when people buy an old weatherboard house and then redo all the gib and make it perfect, or buy an old car and put flash mags on it."

The kitchen was Jo’s first interior paint job and she wanted it to be "absolutely and utterly in-your-face retro".

"It’s a bright but pastel bluey minty green and it’s absolutely awesome. Everybody who walks into the house is just like ’wow’."

The lounge is apricot, the bathroom mint green, the laundry lemon and the toilet a combination of candy pink at the bottom and white at the top with a band of black-and-white checks in the middle.

"It’s a real retro diner kind of look."

With the painting now finished, Jo has brought out all of the retro treasures she has collected over the years and decorated both her lounge and kitchen with them.

"I’ve got nothing new. Even my TV is an old VidMatic. It’s a unique kind of style and I can’t stop collecting."

Among the treasures are a four-seater couch, a three-seater couch and five chairs, as well as a retro dining suite with formica dining table and vinyl chairs.

There are old tea trolleys, radiograms, Singer sewing machines, cameras, roller skates, lamps, vinyl records on the walls, mirrors, magazine racks and an old fashioned child’s trolley, tricycle and scooter.

The exterior of the house is a combination of weatherboards and stucco and the interior walls are made of pinex covered in textured wallpaper.

"Even one of the bedroom ceilings has wallpaper. Everything in the house is quirky and that’s what I love about it."

Jo also loves her friendly ghost, Tom, who turns up every now and then to throw coins at her.

"I just found out recently that this guy actually died in my room but he’s definitely a friendly ghost. "He used to throw five cent pieces at me until they went out of circulation and then it was 10 cent pieces."

Jo is disappointed that many of the old properties like hers in Mount Maunganui have been demolished or relocated offsite.

"Why does everything have to be bigger and better? Why can’t it be the way it was? I say let’s improve on what’s there is rather than ripping down these unique homes with so much history."

Even though Jo’s house is old, she hasn’t had to add extra insulation, which is partly helped by the floor-to-ceiling windows in the lounge that allow the house to get all day sun, as well as a fabulous view of Mount Maunganui.

"The house has wooden floors, which a lot of people think are cold but they’re actually not. The house also has a self-contained flat downstairs that helps retain the heat in the house upstairs too."

But as with any old house, there is always remedial work to be done.

"It gets hard financially, but after this experience I’ve totally found myself taking over all of the DIY such as changing the lock on the back door and replacing broken door knobs."

Now that the painting is finished Jo’s not quite sure what to do with herself, although there is an old fireplace in her bedroom that could potentially be a new project.

"I’ve got an old-fashioned, ornate rimu fire surround so I wouldn’t mind getting it back in working order."

Jo’s friends have suggested she might like to make a career move into interior design but she acknowledges that retro isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.

"And that’s really all I’d want to do. I’ve really enjoyed putting the house back to what it should be. "It’s been really good therapy - and I know my Dad would be proud of me."