|SPLASHBACK: The cooking range is highlighted by autumn red. |
“Bigger is not better than we think sometimes,” says Shirley Spring. “You spend the first half of your life accumulating things and the last half getting rid of the stuff.”
Shirley and Barry Spring moved into their modest central Howick house last August, which turned into a renovation site for the following four months.
“I damn-near died,” Shirley says. “It was the right move but it was challenging and stressful. We were without a shower for a month and a friend let us use hers. I don’t recommend it [renovation] but frankly, it was the only way we could afford it.
“We knew at our age that we would have to make a move to something smaller. We looked at a retirement village, but it was not the time. By chance I saw this house and thought ‘this is cute’. I liked the colours. We call it our compromise house. We bought it for the two of us but we like to have friends around.”
US-born Shirley has lived in New Zealand for the past 30 years. She first met Barry in 1955 when he was an American field scholar at her school in Dover, Delaware. Eventually Shirley moved to New Zealand and they were married. Barry has directed and acted in many Howick Little Theatre productions over the years and is the theatre’s current treasurer.
Shirley was attracted to the buff red bricks of the 15-year-old split-level house. Its construction is traditional three-bedroom brick and tile. The exterior colour drove Shirley’s choice of carpet, which acts as a spectacular anchor for the interior design.
Rather than opting for current minimalist neutral shades, she chose a flamboyant autumn red called “flames of the forest”. It’s set against sand-coloured tiles and repainted walls.
|STONE ART: A garden feature is complete with painted ponga frond to match the house colour. |
“My father inherited it from his uncle and it is the last thing I would get rid of,” she explains. “I had it cleaned and the artist’s signature appeared along with a reflection of the single figure in the water.”
A striking living room sideboard unit was made in Christchurch. “New Zealanders need to know they can buy exceptional furniture in our country,” says Shirley. The style dovetails perfectly with other pieces, such as a bookcase, console and dining room sideboard brought from America along with a “foyer” clock, called so because of its straight sides and placed, naturally, in the foyer.
A high back bench separates the made-over Jag kitchen from the dining area. “When I’m working in the kitchen I need privacy, so I’m not a fan of the current open-plan trend.” Cabinets built into the back of the bench store special occasion crockery and glassware.
Shirley has managed to match “flames of the forest” on the splashback behind the cooking range, and again in the bathroom for the shower lining and hand basin splashback. “It’s a cottagey place and I thought it would be nice to use the colour throughout.”
Major changes were needed for the bathroom. “We can make do with a shower and a vanity. But at our age we need two toilets, so we kept the original separate toilet and added a hand basin.”
In the main bathroom the bath tub was turfed out because “a bath tub is good to wash the dog or the kids in, but we took it out and put in a shower, a second toilet and I like to have a bidet”.
|FOYER FEATURE: Straight sides designate this piece a foyer clock. |
The other spare bedroom is set up as Barry’s office, while his clothes dominate the walk-in wardrobe off the roomy master bedroom, which also houses the large flat television screen.
Unexpected expenses reared their head when the Springs discovered the retaining wall holding the front boundary fence needed to be rebuilt. “We took out two enormous palm trees,” says Shirley. “They look good in a park but not in a little garden.”
Planting is easy-care creepers and shrubs along with an existing magnolia, which has been pruned hard to fit the small, sunny, private patio leading off the living room at the front of the house.
Their two cars are still parked outside while they organise the roomy, single garage. It’s wide enough to hold an old television cabinet converted into a wine cellar, a laundry area and storage cabinets and book cases.
Shirley and Brian expect their next move to probably be to an apartment in a retirement village. “We will have to throw a lot more out,” she says. “You get attached to things, but then it can be cathartic. It’s called down-sizing.
“A lot of people need to make a change, but they don’t know when or what to do. Sometimes people are not really ready for a retirement village even though it will happen to us sooner or later.
“But Howick is a wonderful place to live. It’s like a neighbourhood here. There are always people walking up and down the street and I like that. Owairoa School is just down the road, so the kids are coming and going all the time.“I love to listen to them. It’s music really. We love being close to the theatre, the movies and the village. I think this area is getting ready to reinvent itself.”