Interiorssneak peeks

A New Zealand Rental Becomes a Home

by Amy Azzarito

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Mother of three and blogger Mel Chesneau (of Armoire, Pegs and Casserole) has a lot of experience creating homes out of almost nothing. After all, she met her husband, Guillaume, while she was in the middle of a two-year long backpacking adventure. The couple were so smitten that Mel changed her travel plans to live with him in France for a year. After their year together in France, the couple moved back to Mel’s hometown of Sydney, where they started their family (now two boys and a baby girl). And then just about three years ago, the couple moved from Sydney to Auckland, New Zealand. Since they’ve been in New Zealand, they’ve already lived in three rental houses. This home is close to the city center, which was an important factor for the couple. It’s an old worker’s cottage that was extended to include a back living room. The biggest decoration challenge was the carpet in that newer living room. It was very nearly a deal breaker for Mel, who loves hard wood floors, but the kids love playing on the carpet and it adds quite a bit of warmth in the winter. And even though, it’s been a challenge to make a rental feel like home, Mel managed to do just that by adding lots of details from art on the walls to rugs on the floor to ambient lighting in every room. –Amy

Photography by Mel Chesneau

Image above: I could call this our bargain corner. We found that vintage file cabinet at the same time as the bistro table in our bedroom for almost nothing. The wall lamp was bought at a junk shop and the painting behind, from a garage sale.

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Image above: I’m always rearranging this mantle. Guillaume’s grandmother gave me the copper giraffes during a visit to France many years ago. They were very special to her and she acquired them during their days living as expats in Senegal.

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See more photos of this New Zealand home after the jump!

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Image above: This is my favorite room in our house; I love the wooden floor, the high ceilings and character features like the mantle. The large mirror was from Guillaume’s grandparents in France, and the small mirror above I’ve had since my childhood. The lampshade was bought for a few dollars during a holiday in Bali.

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Image above: This is the new extension to the house. The ceilings are much lower but we are compensated by bi-fold doors that open out to a big deck with a lovely view. I’m not a fan of carpet in a living room but it does make a place cozy when it’s cold outside. Guillaume managed to bring the Jielde lamp home from a trip to France in his suitcase, it’s not the first time we’ve done that and we were lucky enough to receive the vintage Wassily chair as a wedding gift to us from a good friend.

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Image above: We have two entries into this house. The first is more of a mudroom so that this second entry feels a little more formal since we keep all the mess contained in that first entry. It was the perfect place for this 18th century desk that was inherited from Guillaume’s Grandfather in France. We had it, along with a few other items, shipped to us a few years ago.

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Image above: We bought this Argentinean bistro table with a marble top at a second-hand building supply store in Sydney while we were renovating our apartment there. At the time it was such a stretch for us to purchase it because we were throwing all of our money into the renovation but I’m so glad that we did, I know that it will have many uses over the years.

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Image above: The vintage Moroccan copper tray table was another treasure we received from Guillaume’s grandparents. The painting behind is by contemporary Aboriginal artist, Minnie Pwerle and is my all time favourite; I love how graphic it is.

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Image above: I love to cook and I spend a lot of time in this room; thankfully it’s well equipped for a rental. I love how there’s many spots to add our objects.

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Image above: I’ve always wanted a vintage family table; something that’s lived and a thousand stories have already been told around that we can add to. This one has certainly seen many things and as the man who sold it to us said, “a motorbike could have been repaired on it”. Having such a lived-in table certainly took the stress away with three small children. The drawers are full of paper and craft supplies that get put to good use by the kids.

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Image above: We have a thing for lamps and ambient lighting in our home and have quite a collection, even in our children’s room. We find that ambient lighting is a simple way for us to add our stamp to a rental home.

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Image above: We originally bought this vintage car for decoration but our little boy claimed it as his own and it is probably the one toy he has played with the most for the past two years.

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Image above: This room was used as a nursery for previous tenants and had two color toned walls with pink stars around the middle. This wasn’t going to work for our 7-year old boy so we asked permission from the owner to paint the walls white which made a huge difference. I often use this room as a studio for photos for my blog because of the clean white walls. He even managed to get our Tolomeo lamp because we didn’t have any place to put it here. It actually works well and swings around to be used as a desk lamp when needed.

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Image above: This small entry room gets a workout with a family of five, especially in the winter months with muddy boots and coats. I admit that it doesn’t always look this minimalistic – you should see it after a muddy rugby match!

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Image above: This windowsill is the length of our little entry room (our mudroom) where we leave our shoes, coats and hats. I bought these vintage boats at a flea market in Toulouse, France where Guillaume and I first met and the kids have fun playing with them after they’ve put their shoes on to leave and they’re waiting for me to grab my things.

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Image above: I love the look of this Bavarian beer table, we spend many hours sitting out here eating our meals or enjoying an aperitif in the warmer months.

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  • Oh I loved this! Buying a home in NZ seems to get further and further from the average persons reach so it’s really inspiring to see that with just a few simple accessories a rental can still be a home. Time to change our lighting!!! :)

  • So much fun seeing a home from Auckland! There are lots of inspirational interiors down here in NZ, thanks for noticing :)

  • Wow, you have such a nice collection of lamps, Mel! So clever to use them to personalize your rental. Loved reading the stories behind the furniture & decoration too. Such a nice peek behind the scenes of your blog! xx

  • Thanks everyone for your lovely comments and of course to Amy & Grace for having me! Becky we got the bunk bed from Urban Kids here in Auckland NZ, it can also work as two singles. Mel xx

  • I love it. I truly do! But when I think of a ‘rental’ – I think of young and funky. Not ‘just getting by’, but not having huge wads of cash to splash about. Some of that aboriginal artwork on those walls are worth TENS of thousands of dollars. A Pwerle even 10 years ago was worth a mint. And when there is $40K hung off nails – I’m far less impressed by someones ability to decorate a place. Mine would look incredible with a far larger budget. Great style though.

  • A lovely home. I think it proves that as hard as it can be its not the 4 walls that make somewhere home, its the furnishings, treasures and people in it. As soon as you fill an empty room with your own possessions it becomes personal. I love the French style pieces, particularly the large mirror. I love the vintage table too. So much character and charm.

  • Beautiful post, I love everything here, the decoration, the photography and the clear and clean editorial. Congratulations, great work.

  • Such a stunning Minnie Pwerle, done at her peak as you can see the ‘wobble’ of her hand and the imperfections, exactly what you want in Aboriginal art.

  • beautiful house! I’d love to know where the grey couch was bought – exactly what I’m looking for!