Harriet helps heritage along

09 Feb 2017

With ponies in the paddock, a house steeped in history, and a loving family that resides within, the home of interior designer Harriet Di Maio is picture perfect.

Recently renovated and painted in varying strengths of Resene Rice Cake, it's inviting from the moment you step inside... a far cry from the state Harriet and her husband Giovanni found it in a few years ago. 

The house was built in 1916 in Palmerston North by renowned architect Frederick de Jersey Clere in the English Arts & Crafts style. It was a much loved family home for many years, and slowly fell into disrepair after the last family sold it in the early 2000s. After several years as a student rental, it was eventually moved off site and sat in a house removal yard for a year before Harriet and Giovanni saw it.

The house was relocated from Palmerston North to Cambridge, travelling overnight in three pieces and arriving early the next morning to the great surprise of the racehorses training on the racecourse next door. Immediately Harriet could see that the house was exactly right for the site and, despite its very sorry state, it looked even better than they had imagined. 

The next eight months were spent completely gutting and rebuilding it. Despite having to replace and rebuild much of the house, the couple were determined to preserve its sense of history and the wonderful character features that made it such a beautiful home. While the walls were insulated and re-lined and windows repaired and replaced, the original floors, doors, and ceilings were kept. 

Harriet tells us more:

How did you decide on the overall look of the interiors? 

The house reminded me of the old houses that I used to stay in as a child growing up in the UK – with William Morris fabrics and wallpapers, an attic full of treasures and a kitchen centred round the AGA. Rambling gardens and nooks and crannies and secret places to hide in. This is the kind of feel I wanted to create. A house that is full of surprises, that children love and want to explore and that shows its strong sense of history.

What part of the house are you happiest with?

I love the hallway and staircase in particular (I could already picture the Christmas fairy lights winding their way up the bannisters the moment I first viewed it). I also adore the kitchen with its views straight out to the ponies in the paddock, and the large farmhouse table right in the middle where we all spend most of our time.

Most of all I love that we rescued this house from a very sorry state, and that it now sits very happily in its new location. It provides us with a wonderful family home that suits our needs, our tastes and our love of heritage and history.

What is your advice for someone trying to achieve a similar look?

Embrace the mix of old and new and make the most of what you have. Things don’t always need to be new or perfect, if you’re lucky enough to have some original features then celebrate their imperfection.

All the flooring has been left in its original state to show the patina of the years; we’ve simply cleaned and hand varnished it. The stair treads themselves have even been left with all the original chipped paint on them, as I love the effect they give and how they show the history of the building. 

What was the biggest decorating, renovating or building challenge for this project?

The main challenge was keeping as much of the original house as possible, without blowing the budget. It’s always more difficult and more expensive to renovate an old house than to just start from scratch. 

We had to compromise in some cases, such as using tongue and groove-look ply sheets to replace some of the original ceilings. We also replaced damaged rimu skirtings and architraves with painted pine modern replicas.

Do you have a favourite colour?

Resene Linen is my favourite colour. It’s such a gentle, restful green. I have used it in many projects and it always works well.

How did you find working with Resene paint and colours?

It's great quality and Resene has really helpful people in store. It also has an excellent system of providing drawdowns and swatches.

Any professionals you'd like to mention?

Central House Movers were amazing. They were so professional and competent, friendly and genuinely cared about our house. I couldn’t recommend them more!

Do you have a home full of wonderful Resene paint and colour? Send us some snaps by emailing editor Sharon Newey on [email protected].

Harriet chose varying strengths of Resene Rice Cake to paint the interior. "The house is in such a beautiful setting that I didn’t want the interior to compete too much with the outdoor views," she says.

pictures Jessica Judge

One of her favourite places in the home is the hallway and staircase, painted in Resene Rice Cake and Resene Quarter Rice Cake.  

The stair treads themselves have been left with all the original chipped paint on them to show the history of the building. The walls are painted in Resene Rice Cake and the trims are painted in Resene Quarter Rice Cake.  

The master bedroom is painted in Resene Rice Cake on the walls, and Resene Half Rice Cake on the trims and ceiling. 

Harriet painted her son's bedroom in Resene Linen, her favourite colour. 

Their daughter's bedroom is painted in Resene Blanched Pink – a lovely dusky pink that changes with the light, says Harriet.  

Harriet had a bath resurfaced on the inside but left in its original worn condition on the outside for the bathroom. The walls are painted in Resene Rice Cake.

For the exterior, Harriet wanted a colour that was classic and timeless, and that blended well with all lovely trees on the property. 

The house is painted in Resene Double Thorndon Cream, with Resene Half Rice Cake trim, and Resene Overland under the eaves and on the baseboards.

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Resene Blanched Pink

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Resene Double Thorndon Cream

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Resene Half Rice Cake

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Resene Quarter Rice Cake

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the look

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advice, try out the Resene
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Resene Double Thorndon Cream

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Resene Half Rice Cake

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Resene Quarter Rice Cake

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