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Auckland mum Clare Grove has never shied away from a repair or renovation, and this stunning 1910 Freemans Bay villa was no exception.

This home holds a lot of history, and like many villas in New Zealand, it’s notorious for being high maintenance to upkeep.

As a Londoner now living in New Zealand, Clare knew exactly what she wanted to do with her family home, leading to a three year transformation that is far from over.

“I believe your home is where you can really show your character and personality. We’ve all spent so much time in our homes over the past couple of years. It’s lovely to feel safe, surrounded by treasures collected over time,”. Clare says.

“Plus, you don’t have to spend a fortune to get an amazing look.”

Find out how Clare gave this home a gorgeous and classic look (all on a budget) as we take you through:

  • Juggling life, kids and renovating

  • A look inside this 1910 villa

  • The intersection of DIY and BC

  • Which areas have been renovated

  • Her takeaways for renovating on a budget

The gorgeous 1910 villa is decorated to perfection, showcasing one of Clare’s recent art pieces (right)| Photo: Clare

Juggling Kids, Renovating and More

Clare is an interior designer, creator, and author of ‘My Mummy Loves’, a book series inspired by her love for fashion.

However, don’t judge this book by its cover, as Clare knows how to get her hands dirty when it comes to cosmetic DIY.

“I love picking up clever ideas from Youtube and trying them out at home,” Clare says.

“I work part time for a home staging company, and the other couple of days during school hours I’ve started painting canvases again — they’ve been selling really well which is such a huge compliment”.

“It’s definitely harder to juggle things when you have kids, especially a renovation!”

Meet Clare, mother of two, fashionista and avid DIYer| Photo: Clare

Not Just Any Old 1910 Villa

This century-old home is especially unique for Clare, with stunning detail on the ceiling and hidden gems throughout, such as a freemasons mark on the fireplace and an old signature hidden nearby.

The vision she had was simple: to combine tranquillity and elegance.

“I wanted my home to have a Victorian-inspired look, bringing a bit of England back to New Zealand with me,” Clare says, sharing that she struggled with not being able to make regular visits home over the past two years.

“Villas can be a pain to live in — they’re cold and have lots of issues, so I’ve been sorting the issues out one by one.”

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Clare’s Clever Home Improvements

When Clare first moved into the villa with her kids, she knew this home had great bones.

“But I was initially concerned about how much money I would need to spend on renovating,” Clare says.

“I enjoy things that look expensive but also wanted to prove that you don’t have to spend loads of money.”

That’s where the intersection of DIY and Builderscrack comes in.

The scope: to add three floating shelves on each side of the fireplace| Photo: Clare

“The Fireplace is Where We Congregate”

Clare heard about Builderscrack a few years ago and has been using it since to outsource work.

So, when she wanted to enhance the main area where her family comes together, she posted her job.

The scope was to add three floating shelves either side of the fireplace in the sitting room, noting that outsourcing this job would give her more time to spend with family.

“Renovating can be quite tiring, and there’s a lot of time spent on decision making,” Clare says.

Even as an avid DIY-er, Clare says that she still loves having an A-team to get certain projects done at a high quality.

“It’s especially nice when you can trust someone to help,” Clare says.

At one point, Clare’s home resembled a building site | Photo: Clare

Outsourcing the Project

Clare shares that integrity is the most important factor that she looks for when selecting a tradesperson to undertake her jobs.

“The first people that get back to you (on BC) are the ones where you think ‘right you’re amazing!’” Clare says.

“I will always make sure they’re reliable and arrive on time… and lastly, I look at who gives the best quote.

“I find showing the tradesperson a photo of something that’s been done before can be really helpful — similar to getting your hair done,” Clare laughs

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Transforming One Thing at a Time

Within a few weeks, a local cabinet maker from BC had quoted and custom fitted the shelves, and the finishing touches were done for Clare’s sitting room.

And for the rest of the villa?

Clare has taken her time renovating each space carefully and meticulously, ensuring that she never lost the home’s character and charm along the way.

One of the more difficult projects for Clare has been the outdoor area, which was riddled with mould, and involved hiring a tradesperson to insulate and re-gib the ceiling.

“I just wanted to make everything safe and cosy,” Clare says.

Before & After: The main bedroom with a stunning wallpaper feature| Photo: Clare

Villa Improvements, Inside and Out

So far, Clare has renovated:

  • The floors & carpet

  • The kitchen

  • The living area

  • The outdoor area

  • The gas fireplace

  • And, a bedroom for her son.

Clare shares that she hasn’t changed anything structurally, and has instead focused on cosmetic improvements to enhance the living spaces — for everyone’s enjoyment.

“I’ve always wanted to do herringbone flooring. It’s one of my favourite looks,” Clare says.

“I also did my son’s bedroom, so that he could have his own space and the kids can hang out in their rooms, while I sit in the living area with a glass of wine or Gin watching the tele.”

Added detail to the fireplace cupboards (left), herringbone flooring (right)| Photo: Clare

The Result of Making Her Mark

It’s hard to believe this stunning and sophisticated transformation was all achieved on a budget.

“Being a stager, I can see that every look is similar these days — open planned living and minimalist — so I love that I can show my personality here. The separate little living areas have plenty of space to have things on display,” Clare says.

“My home is now elegant and welcoming,” Clare says proudly.

“And the sitting room is a lovely, well used area with the perfect layout – not too huge, just cosy. I’m sitting here right now.”

“I wouldn’t do anything different with my renovation, apart from the tiny bit of panelling I tried to do myself.

That’s my mark and I think it just adds to the character.”

Before & After: This home easily combines tranquility and elegance| Photo: Clare

Takeaways for a Budget Renovation

Clare shares her tips on how to be resourceful when it comes to renovating to get the best results:

  • Get ideas: Start with collecting what inspires you in a folder or other. Put the time and effort into researching how you want something to look; it’ll be more rewarding in the end.

  • Use a skill set: Either learn skills online or hire a professional.

  • Build your inventory: Collect things over the years i.e., from second hand sellers.

  • Take a break: Give yourself a break between jobs — at least a couple of months, so that you can stay motivated for future projects.

  • Make connections: Start connecting with different tradespeople. BC helps you compare tradespeople prices, reduce time and they approach you first.

  • Enjoy the results: Utilise the space you’ve invested your time and money into — a home is for living!

Thank You

A big thank you to the BC tradespeople who helped Clare achieve these gorgeous results, and thanks to the amazing Clare for sharing her inspiring 1910 villa transformation.

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