Open, airy spaces decorated in white and blonded floors create a Scandinavian ambience in this renovated home.
Words & styling LeeAnn Yare Photography Larnie Nicolson
There are certainly romantic notions about living somewhere really cold: open fires and hot chocolate, snowmen, ice skating on frozen lakes... It sounds beautiful, and as Swedish-born Wictoria Markula and her Scottish husband Fergus Slorach agree, it is, “for about a day”, laughs Fergus, and then the reality sets in.
Not only does Sweden have long, cold winters, but they're also very dark, as polar nights mean days of perpetual darkness.
The couple lived in the US for work before moving back to Sweden. However, it didn’t take many months of long, cold winters before they decided to emigrate, says Wictoria.
“We came to New Zealand for a visit, as friends who were already here always said great things about it, so here we are – and we love it.”
The Birkenhead home they share with daughters Freya (12) and Klara (8), and Billy the cat is surrounded by native bush and the sound of birdsong.
It’s so quiet that you would never imagine it’s only a stone’s throw from Auckland city.
“It takes me 12 minutes to get to the city from our house, but sitting on the deck it feels like we live far out in the countryside,” says Wictoria, who is a producer at Sugar Advertising.
Eight years ago this house wasn’t even on their viewing list; just an afterthought at the end of a long day of open homes.
Dark paint colours, exposed wood and stained floorboards made the house feel closed in and gloomy.
But Wictoria and Fergus could see its potential – its location, the large bush-clad section, the high ceilings and expansive windows. They dreamed of the light-filled family home it could become.
Says Fergus: “We could visualise right away how we wanted it to look, and how we could transform it into a modern, light and bright home, so we took our ideas to an architect who added to them with more detail.”
A four-month settlement meant plenty of time to get organised. With a small child and a brand new baby in tow, the pair didn’t like the idea of moving into a building site.
“Klara was just a tiny baby, which meant we couldn’t muck around and take a lot of time making decisions, so we just got on with it.”
They waited until almost all the interior alterations were completed, but it was still another six months before the family moved in, with only the exterior deck left to be built.
A few months later, a massive flood in the street meant Fergus and Wictoria woke in the middle of the night to water flowing in through the electrical outlets in their downstairs bedroom.
Hurriedly abandoning their flooding home was their worst nightmare but it turned into a chance to change the dark flooring. Upstairs the original floorboards have been professionally bleached, while the downstairs is floored in environmentally friendly bamboo in a similar pale hue.
The most recent update has been a redesign of the kitchen. A friend had recommended Kyla Hunt of Carlielle Kitchens in Pukekohe.
“Carlielle Kitchens were amazing. They provided us with great designs and the kitchen came in not a dollar over the budget,” says Wictoria.
The new kitchen island, improved functionality and a pale palette with highlights of oak were the non-negotiable items.
“The entire room flows so much better now,” says Wictoria. “The kitchen island means we can access the kitchen more quickly and has given the space a more open and inviting feeling.”
The four levels of the home offer Fergus privacy for working from home as a computer engineer, space for the girls to hang out when they have friends over, and a quiet haven for Wictoria when she just feels like reading. At the same time, the open-plan design gives the feeling that everything is connected.
“The Scandinavian décor has helped me instill a bit of Swedish-ness into my girls, and has brought a little bit of home to New Zealand for me,” says Wictoria.
“I didn’t even realise the house had a Scandinavian look.
“It was only when visitors commented on how our house felt so Scandinavian that I realised how much I had been influenced by the design style I had seen while I was growing up.”
“The house feels complete and just how we want it now. It’s an amazing feeling,” says Wictoria.
To see more photographs of this house, pick up a copy of the Oct/Nov 2012 issue of homestyle. For more great homes and ideas homestyle's latest issue is available supermarkets and book stores nationwide.