Small and Beautiful

Small and Beautiful

Following the renovation of this charming seaside townhouse, thoughtfully designed by Yardley and Foster Architecture, the delighted owners are surprised at the joys of living small.

Words Anna Scaife Photography Sarah Rowlands


Homeowners Mike and Julia have enjoyed a life on the move. During their 50 years of marriage, Mike’s career with the US Military saw them frequently relocated to destinations around the world, and with each move came a new home where Julia would happily set to work renovating and spending many hours lovingly creating a garden.

Reaching retirement age, the couple gravitated back to Julia’s hometown of Christchurch, purchasing a large family home on Scarborough Hill in 2006, and once again investing hours to make it their own. A further move down from the hill had always been on the cards for Julia and Mike, but when their Scarborough home was extensively damaged during the earthquakes, a decision to simplify their lifestyle came a little sooner than expected. But it felt right given the likelihood of a drawn-out process to rebuild on the hill.

Viewing this 90s Sumner townhouse for the first time, they loved the idyllic beachfront location, but their initial reaction was that it was too small for them and their vast collection of furnishings and artwork. But a subsequent rethink considering the potential of the house – plus the purchase of a storage unit – meant they embraced the challenge and took the plunge.


At the time of purchase the property was in original condition, and Julia happily took the lead on the renovation project saying, “Mike’s a great cook so all he wanted was a lovely kitchen and a comfy chair, the rest was up to me.” Knowing that the refurbishment would be extensive, the couple engaged Rochelle Foster and Nick Yardley of Yardley and Foster Architecture to carry out a complete interior renovation. Rochelle says, “Julia and Mike requested a sleek, modern, and extremely functional home which would optimise all of the available 90 square metres.”

The brief was to include a new kitchen with an improved connection to the living space, a modern bathroom with the addition of a bath and skylight, a studio, new laundry and an enhanced lighting layout. The project required a building consent exemption through the Council to add the new skylight, the new sink in the pantry and the relocated laundry. Yardley and Foster’s status as Licensed Building Practitioners enabled them to complete all the necessary documentation without delay for their clients. Of working with Yardley and Foster, Mike says, "We cannot say enough about Rochelle and Nick, they were superb to work with. The whole team who worked on the project did a great job."

Now completed, and home to a carefully curated selection of furniture and objects collected over the years, the ground floor includes the living area and sleek white kitchen that, while being spacious and functional, also seems to melt into the background when not in use. Rochelle says, “We went with marble benchtops and white cupboard fronts. Working within a compact space, we wanted to bounce and reflect as much light as possible. Ultimately the decision to select a sheen finish to the cupboard fronts in the kitchen assisted with this, additionally running the cupboards all the way to the ceiling to provide a greater sense of height to the room.”

OUTDOOR LIVING  Private and sheltered, the peaceful courtyard is filled with greenery, allowing the owner to indulge her love of gardening.

OUTDOOR LIVING Private and sheltered, the peaceful courtyard is filled with greenery, allowing the owner to indulge her love of gardening.

CARPETING  Artisan Shale Sisal carpet with a delicate herringbone pattern was selected for the stairwell and bedrooms, supplied and installed by The Flooring Centre.

CARPETING Artisan Shale Sisal carpet with a delicate herringbone pattern was selected for the stairwell and bedrooms, supplied and installed by The Flooring Centre.

Upstairs comprises two double bedrooms and the revamped and superbly finished main bathroom. The existing structure, which placed the bath and shower above a concrete mid floor, meant Yardley and Foster could not achieve the drainage falls required. This design challenge led to including a step up into the bath and shower, adding to the visual interest of the bathroom. Nick from Yardley and Foster says, “We like to believe we create exceptional spaces adding value to all of our projects. All our clients’ projects are specifically tailored to their requirements; this project is no exception. Both Rochelle and I consider all of our projects as if the home were our own and approach them with meticulous attention to detail.”

Confident of the look she wanted to achieve, homeowner Julia chose the interior colours and finishes, frequently popping down to the house during the construction to check the look of paint samples in the changing light. Settling on Resene Thorndon Cream as the wall colour throughout the home, the rich neutral provides the perfect backdrop for her extensive art collection.

A lover of timber flooring, Julia went for the look of wood in a ceramic tile for durability in the living spaces, and she was then able to indulge her love of Sisal carpeting on the stairwell and in the two bedrooms, sourced from flooring suppliers and installers, The Flooring Centre.

Lauren from The Flooring Centre says, “We wanted to create a beautiful canvas from the floor up with organic textures and natural tones, and we also wanted a product that was environmentally friendly yet one that still made a beautiful statement. We completed this look with Artisan Shale Sisal carpet with an upgraded underlay for longevity and comfort underfoot. The delicate herringbone pattern was a perfect fit for this townhouse, complementing their statement furniture perfectly with a delicate finish. The natural and organic textured carpet gives a coastal, yet contemporary look, perfect for the Sumner location. The homeowners are delighted with the results. Julia says, “I love Sisal, and as soon as I saw the herringbone pattern I knew it was what I wanted.”


The decision to downsize meant leaving the expansive and much-loved garden and moving to a home with a relatively small courtyard to satisfy Julia’s lifelong passion for gardening. The walled outdoor area serves as an extension to the home’s living areas with a truly seamless flow from indoors to out, creating a sheltered spot to enjoy the sun and sea air. With the help of a trusted garden designer, the area was repaved, and a new water feature installed, as well as a large mirror at the far end to create the illusion of space. Under Julia’s care, the entire area is gradually filling with abundant greenery, climbing plants and overflowing pots and planters.


The move to a much smaller home felt daunting at first, but the couple now says that the reduced space suits them well. “When we want the Christmas tree, we have to go to the storage unit, but actually the architects built so much hidden storage into this house we haven’t used it all yet, we find we don’t need as many things. We love it here, the house is so easy to live in, and we think Rochelle and Nick did a brilliant job.”

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