With a sense of déjà vu,
a Canterbury couple relocate
an old house onto a rural site
with views to die for
Text by Monique Balvert-O’Connor.
Photography by Juliet Nicolas.
Keighley (left), Hollie
and their mum,
Jo Robertson, head
inside after visiting
the vegetable garden.
The glass roof tops the
dining room, with the
who lives here?
Jo Robertson (Femme de Brocante company
director) and Paul Robertson (civil servant)
with Keighley, 9, and Hollie, 7.
Advice to anyone considering moving
a house? Make sure you use a reputable
company that knows what it’s doing. The
company we used has been moving houses
for decades and is skilled at what it does. It
took a lot of stress out of the whole process.
What’s your favourite room? The formal
lounge, with its Jetmaster open woodburner
we found on online. Paul built the surround
out of Hebel concrete blocks and we had it
plastered and painted. It finishes the room
and the ambience it adds makes it a great
place to relax at the end of a busy day.
What do you like best about the location of
your home? The amazing views.
Your Home & Garden 71
A cushion Jo bought
in a favourite shop in
Paris has found its home
across the world in this
snug corner of the lounge.
The table was an online
find that Jo painted. Inset
Letters spelling ‘kitchen’
come from Jo’s shop
Femme de Brocante.
72 Your Home & Garden
✚ Don’t throw out that
old lounge suite. If it’s
good quality, comfortable
and you love its shape, it’s
far more economical and
eco-friendly to re-cover it
than it is to replace it.
jo and Paul Robertson vowed they
would never relocate a house
again. They meant it and they
stuck to it… for all of a few
years. The North Canterbury
couple had previously moved an old house
onto a rural site near Tauranga, and then
set about beautifying it. The end result was
good enough to feature in Your Home &
Garden magazine five years ago.
“It was so much hard work,” Jo
remembers. “Old houses swallow up so
much cash and nothing is straight. We
swore we would never do it again.”
But then Jo, Paul and their girls,
Keighley and Hollie, moved down south
and went on an unfruitful house-hunting
mission. Unable to find a house they liked,
they thought of building.
“We found a 4.5-hectare block of land
with expansive views, but it wasn’t cheap
and to build what we wanted would have
meant a huge mortgage,” Jo says.
Not sure what to do, she found the
solution in a local newspaper. “There was
a house for relocation advertised with a
photo and description. I started hyperventilating
with excitement. I checked it out
online and got really, really excited.
“Paul didn’t take much convincing.
We went to see it and knew we had to
have it. Even though it was going to be
a major, and we never thought we’d be
going down that road again, we knew
the end result could be incredible.” The
Robertsons loved much about the twostoreyed
weatherboard house topped with
Welsh slate; from its sense of solidity,
character and permanence to the details –
the big spaces, wide skirting boards, wood
panelling, lead lights and rimu kitchen
with granite bench.
The 246-square metre house was
moved in three parts in April 2008. From
their previous experience, the Robertsons
knew that it would not be a case of simply
slotting the pieces back together. It was
a few months before they could move in.
They needed to reinstate and revamp
the fireplaces and chimneys removed for
the shift, add more insulation and get the
plumbing and electrics sorted.
Then, during their first six months in
the house, they all bunked together in the
Left A country-style
hutch dresser in
area. This photo Jo
has clustered the
bulk of her religious
icons in this corner
of the study. The
Ralph Lauren curtain
fabric arrived at her
store – and then went
formal lounge while the bedrooms upstairs
were re-gibbed, plastered, painted and
carpeted, with much of the work tackled
by Paul and a friend. They moved into their
revamped sleeping quarters just before
Christmas in 2008.
Paul worked on the decks to get them
ready for summer, and then the french
doors, to let the sun into the study. Finally,
the house was painted. It went from green
and cream to a warm grey with off-white
detail – the couple chose Resene ‘Half
Truffle’ with ‘Alabaster’ for the trims.
Jo, too, is a dab hand with the
paintbrush, tackling interior walls and
furniture transformation. A fine example is
a second-hand dressing table find that is
now a multi-coloured eye-catcher in Hollie’s
duck-egg blue bedroom. Jo stripped it back
and then had fun with test pots. Another
piece she loves is the curvy-legged table in
the formal living area. She found it online,
then painted its base and legs, and sanded,
oiled and waxed its top.
But Jo’s major influence on the interior
is the way she has used fabric. It’s not
surprising that she is adept at choosing
the right fabrics for all manner of soft
furnishings, including curtains, cushions,
blinds and upholstery fabrics, given that
she and a friend, Emily Rowse, own Femme
de Brocante, a business specialising in
beautiful fabrics. Jo’s favourite is an old
French print of subtle floral on heavy linen,
used on the drapes and roman blinds in the
Spotted fabrics are hot sellers in
Femme de Brocante’s Rangiora store and
Your Home & Garden 73
are judged bedroom
favourites by Hollie and
Keighley too. Hollie’s blinds, however, are
from the much-loved Cath Kidston fabric.
Jo manages to pick up bits and pieces
on annual business trips to England and
France, and enthuses over a particularly
fabulous fabric store in Paris with gorgeous
cushion covers and throws – enough to fill
a suitcase, it transpired.
She loves everything French, hence
her home’s candles, urns, religious icons,
painted furniture, ornate mirrors, beautiful
muted fabrics and all such embellishment
in keeping with a French-provincial look.
Much as they love what their
beautification process has achieved so
far, Paul and Jo say their home needs
to feel good as well as look good. And
in Canterbury, where winter daytime
temperatures often sit below 10°C, ‘feel
good’ is about warmth. So, while the house
has beautiful rimu floorboards, practicality
trumped aesthetics in the bedrooms and
formal lounge, which were carpeted for
warmth. And, they’ve nearly finished
double-glazing the windows. “From the
74 Your Home & Garden
outside you wouldn’t know we had replaced
the wooden ones, because of the look of the
PVC windows that we’ve gone for. There
was no way we’d have aluminium windows
as that wouldn’t have been in keeping with
the house,” Jo says.
While the couple has already achieved
so much, this project is not yet over.
New regulations require all their home’s
load-bearing walls to be strengthened. It’s
a mission, Paul says, in certain parts of the
house where the wood panelling needs
to be removed and replaced. Jo will be
waiting with paintbrush at the ready, as
she plans to paint the wood panelling and
the rimu kitchen in a warm white – Resene
‘Bianca’. “I know some would consider this
sacrilege, but I just love paint.”
By then, it will be time to plant their
planned formal English garden and build
a garage that will be in keeping with the
style of their classic home.
“There’s a lot that will keep us busy
for a long time,” Jo says. “It may not be
finished, but we love it already.”
➜ Find out how they got the look on PAGE 130.
✚ When redecorating, always
choose your fabric before you
choose your paint colours. It is
far easier to match paint to fabric
than it is to match fabric to
paint. Paint colours are almost
limitless, but unless you have
an unlimited budget, fabric
colours are not.
Keighley relaxes in her
room, where the lockers
are a real eye-catcher.
The heart hanging at the
end of her antique bed
was a craft-shop find.
Clockwise from top left With four hectares
there’s plenty of room for the chooks to
roam – they’re part of the family and have just
had their second lot of babies, much to the girls’
delight; Keighley with Fatty the chook; Hollie
at the ready with her basket, helping her
mum with the vege gathering; Jo’s a savvy
shopper – the wrought iron table and chairs on
the north-facing side of the deck are another
online buy; gumboots for all.