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in the french style

From Habitat magazine - issue 10

Not content to just paint walls, this homeowner also uses floors and furniture as a creative outlet.

Ros de Coek
Ros de Coek – just give her a paintbrush and she’s happy.

Some people paint pictures. Ros De Coek casts her magic on houses. Almost every surface at Bordeaux, her French-inspired home and bed-and-breakfast, on the rolling hills of rural Havelock North, is testament to her handiwork. Walls, ceilings, floors and furniture are her preferred canvases. While the house itself is not a renovation project, many of the pieces within it have been born again.

Ros is never happier than when she’s wielding a paintbrush – which probably explains why she has moved house so many times. She and her husband Tony have lived in Auckland, Central Otago and Wellington and this is their third home in Havelock North. It’s been at least a dozen, she says. Every home is a new project to plan, and a chance to experiment with colour combinations and textures.

The couple moved to Hawkes Bay in 2002. Lured by the beauty of the land, the unhurried pace and the crisp, settled climate, with its distinctive warm and cool seasons, they took 15 months to build the house. They did a fair portion of the work themselves.

Painted furniture - French style
Painted furniture (all in various Resene colours and blends), wrought iron detailing and rich curtaining give the dining room a serene blend of French influences. The walls are in Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen tinted to Resene Celeste and the ceiling is Resene Blanc. Dining table: a blend of Resene Blanc, Resene Tea and Resene Celeste with silver leaf on top.

Like Ros, Tony discovered his innate creative ability while building homes. He enjoyed working alongside the builder throughout the construction process. A retired banker, he is now the ultimate handyman. If anything practical needs doing, like building the garden shed at the bottom of the garden, he’ll take the time to work out how to do it, perfectly.

Having spent a blissful holiday touring regional France, both Ros and Tony had fallen in love with the rustic little white stone houses they discovered in the countryside. They inspired Ros and Tony to build their own home from Hebel concrete blocks, a product which replicates the timeless look of stone.

Masonry chimney
Chequerboard floor
Chimney: A mix of cosiness and loftiness in the living room with the tall masonry chimney and beamed ceilings. Floor: The striking chequerboard floors in the hall were created by painting Resene Blanc lines over timber floors finished with a dilute solution of Resene Waterborne Colorwood stain.

“I like the way it can be cut to give a sculptured look,” says Ros. “It’s also warmer in winter than most products because it’s so dense. That makes it exceptionally quiet.”

Ros and Tony sought a simple, functional home that reminded them of France with long, narrow, shuttered windows and tall, pitched, beamed ceilings inside. “I certainly didn’t want a glass palace,” asserts Ros, whose style errs towards traditional prettiness. “I wanted to keep it cosy,” she says.

Surrounded by expansive formal gardens, with the palest pink walls (Resene Bone), dark timber trims (Resene Mangrove) and Marseilles roof tiles, the home conveys the essence of French romance. Every detail adds a French accent, which imbues the home with a sumptuous edge.

Main bedroom
Painted stripes - bathroom walls
Bedrooms: Resene Calico provides a soft tranquil backdrop for the main bedroom. The shelf above the bed is a blend of Resene colours with a base of Resene Tea. Ros has a knack for locating unusual pieces, including the bed head which she whitewashed in Resene Blanc. The walls are Resene Celeste. Bathroom: Broad stripes of the metallic paint Resene Atom and Resene Blanc create a regal look for the bathroom.

As you enter, a criss-cross pattern of paintwork (Resene Blanc) on the timber floors welcomes you inside. Beneath an archway, thick and luxurious drapes balloon softly in a drop against the floor, framing a voluminous lounge area. This is painted in a cool green Resene Celeste. It’s the same hue used throughout the home, except in the main bedroom, which is painted a warm shade of Resene Calico.

On wintry nights, the fire is lit, creating a delicious ambience among an eclectic mix of furniture. Old and new are linked through pretty floral patterns.

Home exterior - French romance
Surrounded by formal gardens, with the palest pink walls (Resene Bone), timber trims (Resene Mangrove) and Marseilles roof tiles, the home is the essence of French romance.

Ros took great delight in selecting all her inexpensive fabrics from bargain fabric outlet Spotlight before the home was finished. She always buys her fabrics first and sews them herself, then matches the paint colours to the fabrics.

Ros has that happy knack of being able to spot the potential in pieces of very ordinary furniture hidden away in second-hand shops. After carting them home in their shabby original condition, she gets to work with the paintbrush. Timber and cane chests in the bedrooms, tables and chairs in the living areas – they’ve all been rejuvenated with paint, stencils and special effects to become objects of beauty. Ros has an eye for elegant and interesting shapes that can be highlighted through paint. And it works a treat.

Inspired by an existing crockery cabinet Ros had painted with pale green trims, the farmhouse-style kitchen, has an antique look. While Ros drew up the plans, it was built by Innovative Kitchens. “They brought in the doors and I stained and waxed the timber before they put the hinges on.”

One of the more special rooms of the house is an alfresco area off the lounge and dining room. In summer, timber shutters on the outside wall can be left open so it feels more like a loggia. Sun pours inside from the courtyard to create a wonderfully relaxing space that everyone enjoys.

Just two years old, yet thanks to a timeless design and loads of ingenious details, Bordeaux has the warm, mellow character of a home that’s been around much longer.

Did you know? For a fresher interior finish, try Resene Zylone Sheen VOC Free, which combines the popular luxurious low sheen finish of Resene Zylone Sheen without the unwanted VOCs (volatile organic compounds) for better indoor air quality. Available in a wide range of colours from Resene.

See project "ooh la la" to learn how Ros transforms a second-hand piece of furniture with paint.

Alternative solution

the walls in this solution are Resene Triple White Pointer. The trims and ceiling are in Resene Alabaster

Pip Yeatman of McKenzie & Willis, Christchurch, offers this alternative solution:

Alternative solution 1

I have turned this space into a grand old dining room that has been given a modern approach but with a classical twist. The black and white of the Italian Calligaris furniture keeps it clean and minimal, while the lemon of the carpet square and satin lining on the drapes gives warmth and friendliness. The crystal chandelier, Amalfi chair and the flock print on the drapes ensure a classical leaning. Walls of Resene Triple White Pointer with Resene Alabaster trim provide a soft, subdued backdrop to offset the crisp black and white lacquered surfaces and shimmering light.

Phone: 0800 888 999  email:

Accessories: Sheer Carlucci Shi flock curtaining, from Unique, lined with Designer's Guild Satinato in Lemon, from Icon Textiles. Bloomingdales chandelier, Kashima vases, Calligaris Seattle buffet, from McKenzie & Willis. Amalfi chair, from Kovaks Design Furniture. Champs Elysees in Zest, from Cavalier Bremworth. Elite vinyl plank flooring in Metallic Ironsand, from Robert Malcolm Flooring.

Alternative solution

the walls are Resene Cross Country while the ceiling and trims are Resene Coromandel

Jill Merritt Australian-based Jill Merritt suggests this alternative African-inspired theme:

Alternative solution 2

This cool, calming palette is designed for a hot, humid climate with plenty of planters and greenery to promote a sense of coolness plus a healthy environment. The African theme allows for a slight clutter, with interesting artefacts and conversation pieces. All natural materials or reproductions are used to achieve a fresh, honest homely feel to the room with Resene Cross Country contrasting with the autumn tones of the wooden flooring and shutters, floor rugs and rusticated metals. A refreshing relief from the bling regularly found on the Gold Coast.

Phone: 0061 7 5530 1576  email:

Accessories: Nickel Fan with two lights, Shinto four-drawer buffet, Havana chairs, Teak Balls, small and large, from Coco Republic. Madras cushions, from The Complete Garden. Moderno artwork, abstract, from Globe Interiors.

words: Vicki Holder
pictures: Rossi Gannon
illustration: Bruce Bryant

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