My property story: First time’s a charm

A run-down 1950’s cottage nestled beside a quiet West Auckland golf course, was the perfect project for two budding DIYers.

Meet + Greet

Kristina Rapley (Your Home and Garden deputy editor and editor of Taste) and Ashton Lines-Sherwood (National sales manager), plus Blue the chocolate labrador and Bell Bells the cat. 

When renovation rookies Kristina Rapley and Ashton Lines-Sherwood were looking at getting into the Auckland property market in 2014, they soon realised they weren’t going to get what they wanted immediately. “We had to start thinking long term,” Kristina says. “We couldn’t afford something amazing, but if we found a bargain and put some work into it, there was the potential to make a lot of money.” 


The idea was to find a house that needed some serious TLC and the pair would spend every spare minute they had renovating it, in the hopes that when all was said and done, they would have enough in the kitty to afford a bigger, more long-term home. “This was all Ashton’s idea, I should point out,” says Kristina. “I didn’t have a DIY bone in my body and quite liked our clean and tidy rental close to the city!”

When the couple visited the first open home for the two-bedroom 1950’s cottage beside a golf course in Swanson, West Auckland, they knew it was the one. “It was hideous, almost uninhabitable,” remembers Kristina. “The wallpaper was peeling off the walls, there were stickers all over the windows, the carpet was ripped to shreds, the layout was all wrong – it was perfect!” Luckily for them, there wasn’t a whole lot of interest and before they knew it, the little untidy cottage was theirs.


Knowing your market

Kristina and Ashton thought their future buyers would probably fall into one of two categories: either a young professional couple looking for an entry-level home, or an older couple looking to downsize. “We made a conscious effort to keep these two couples in mind throughout the whole reno,” says Kristina. “Every single purchase – from paint and curtains to couches and kitchen tiles – was made for them.”


The project

Luckily, the bathroom had already been renovated so Kristina had at least one room that was presentable. “Our bedroom was so disgusting I was honestly tempted to sleep in the bath. It’s surprising how quickly you get used to your living conditions, though, and having all our stuff in the house made it a bit more liveable.” The first thing to go was the old carpet, revealing gorgeous rimu floorboards underneath, which they had sanded and polished with a matte finish. 

They then opened up the living area and moved the laundry from the kitchen to the large bathroom. The couple agree that stripping back the many layers of wallpaper was one of the toughest jobs of the reno. “We were so determined to do all the work ourselves, but looking back, I think we probably should have got in some professionals for that – it took so much time and was incredibly frustrating,” says Kristina. They painted the interior in a custom colour mixed by Wattyl, a cool, bright white, which lightened the home and created a cohesive look. 



The house had plenty of storage, but the two single wardrobes in the main bedroom needed reconfiguring. “There was space for a huge open wardrobe but instead there were two tiny, single ones. Ashton got his mates around one day and they knocked the wall out, making a new wardrobe with sliding doors,” Kristina says. “We were so lucky we had so many awesome friends who were willing to come over and give us a hand with those things.”



Kristina and Ashton enlisted the help of Kristina’s brother-in-law, Eric Thompson, owner of Pacific Coast Kitchens in the Bay of Plenty, to carry out the kitchen reno. “I went down to Tauranga to help my sister with my niece and nephew, Eric came up to Auckland and he and Ashton installed it over two days. 

I came home to a brand-new kitchen. It was the best weekend ever,” Kristina laughs. “We told Eric what look we were after and he came up with the whole concept. It was so easy and we were stoked with the result. It’s definitely my favourite room in the house.”

The kitchen makeover was the biggest transformation and quickly became the couple’s favourite room. “We especially love the island on castors,” says Kristina. 


Outdoor living

One of the biggest changes to the property was knocking down the small deck with high railings and building a bigger deck to wrap around the north side and connect to the front door. Ashton’s best friend, builder Nick Turner-Wright, helped with the build and the pair had the whole deck finished in three days. “It was crazy what a difference it made to the house. All of a sudden we had all this extra living space,” Kristina says. The property also had a three-metre-high wire fence separating it from the golf course, which the couple replaced with a low picket fence, maximising the serene outlook. They also added a gate to access the course so they could take their dog, Blue, for runs most evenings at dusk, when all the golfers were off the course.

Finishing touches

Kristina’s favourite part of the process was getting the home ready for the real-estate photos. “It was such an exciting time. All the hard work was done and it was time to pretty it all up and show it off,” she says. Flowers in every room were a must, as was living greenery and linen bedding in soft hues.


The result

“We were fairly confident we were going to get a good price, but there are always those doubts that creep in – was all the hard work going to be for nothing?” Kristina remembers. But the couple needn’t have worried. The house went to auction in May 2016 and far exceeded their price expectations. It was bought by an older couple, keen golfers, who loved the easy access to the golf course. Meanwhile, Kristina and Ashton have found a new property (also a do-up), which they plan to renovate. But this time, it’s just for them. 

The budget

Kitchen – $10,000

Bedrooms – $5,000

Lounge, study nook – $5,000

Outdoor – $10,000

Photography by Helen Bankers. Images and story courtesy of Your Home and Garden Magazine. 

This article originally appeared on Homes to Love.

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