A labour of love pays off for one family of five

A chance encounter with a dilapidated 1900s villa in one of Palmerston North’s sought-after streets was the start of a love affair for one couple. 

A former rental property, Rebecca and Blair McDonald, co-owners of Blair McDonald Building, purchased the property six months after that first encounter and moved in with their young children.

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Realising the home would require a complete transformation, the experienced renovators weren’t put off by the undertaking. Rebecca had a clear vision for creating a modern villa, while ensuring the heritage of the home was still respected and retained.

“I like to focus on getting the bones of a home right. I consider the layout first with the hard finishes following. Design decisions often start with the flooring and I work my way up from there,” Rebecca explains.

Taking a thoughtfully considered approach to the redesign and ensuring meticulous attention to detail, the result is a modern home for a modern lifestyle; connecting the interiors to the outdoors and creating a functional, well designed home.

In the midst of renovations, it’s easy to feel like the all-consuming project is never ending. Five years later and with their family having grown to five (with Ryder now 8, Indy 5 and Tilly 3), Rebecca and Blair can look back on what they have achieved and admire their unrecognisable Batt Street villa. 

I spoke with Rebecca to hear how they approached such an extensive renovation and how to do so while raising a young family. 

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How would you describe your approach to renovating?

Two feet in - I don’t like to do anything by halves. Our approach could also be described as an addiction. I love the transformation process of a renovation project. 

Where do you draw inspiration from? 

Absolutely everywhere. I have always loved and appreciated homes and interior design. 

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What were you both wanting to achieve through your renovations?

We wanted to create a home that was a complete transformation of the dilapidated villa we had purchased. 

All of our renovations on this villa were centred around creating a warm, comfortable and functional family home that was beautiful whilst both retaining and celebrating its 100 year old history. 

Were there any complexities during the renovation?

In a practical sense, no there wasn’t. Blair and I are pretty easy going individuals and have quite the can-do attitude, so there isn’t much renovation wise that can stump us even with the odd surprise that can crop up.

Emotionally though, undergoing a major renovation with three small children in tow is always going to wear you out at some point. Possibly, the main complexity we faced was managing a successful work and family life balance for everyone - one that ensured we stayed sane throughout out the whole process.

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Were there any stand out special materials used? 

The one feature that added the most impact to this renovation is the second-hand dark walnut stained native timber floors we sourced. They add a depth and a luxury that I don’t think could have been achieved by using any other flooring material in this case.

The other stand out for me was the kitchen we designed. I love how each design detail in the kitchen unites to create a space that is so fitting for a 100 year old character home and yet is modern and functional. The butlers sink, the bevel-edged subway tiles and the stone counter top with the picture frame cabinetry. I love all of those little details and the space they create. 

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You can follow Rebecca and Blair’s renovations and building projects on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/blairandbecsbuild/

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