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making vintage a virtue

From Habitat magazine - issue 14

A creative couple prove that you can successful bring vintage charm to a new home.

Character home - exterior
Suze and Dave Crawford with Indigo and Max outside the house that glows with character and belies its young age.

When Suze and Dave Crawford decided to build a new house, the last thing on their minds was a minimalist box. Today, their Cape Cod-style home is a treasure trove of vintage finds, cherished and inherited items and soothing colour.

Injecting character into their new home began at the planning stages, when the couple chose wide architraves and skirtings, tongue and groove doors, higher than normal ceilings, turned timber balustrades for the balconies and stairs... and cleared reproduction company Bungalow & Villa out of their supply of 1940s-style Bakelite door handles.

Says Suze: “I like an eclectic mix, but one that’s still fresh and modern. I like old and new together, like the modern sofas next to the old retro Formica dining table. I don’t want to be stuck in a time warp.”

Suze is a ‘complete magpie’, much to Dave’s despair, she says. “I find treasures in market stalls and op shops usually, but we built when the children were babies so I got my relaxation by scouring TradeMe while they were asleep. Some of my favourite finds came from all over the country.” Son Max is now nine and daughter Indigo is seven.

The living area of the house has a casual beachy feel with Resene Ecru White walls, Resene Alabaster trims, striped Madder & Rouge blinds, an old Formica table and oars hanging on the wall.

Living room - beachy feel
The living room has a beachy feel with striped blinds, floors painted in Resene Wan White, walls in Resene Ecru White and trims in Resene Alabaster.

Not to mention the unusual painted timber floors. “It wasn’t something the painters had done before. Not only was it white – they just didn’t get that we wanted to see the joins between the planks.” For resilience, Resene Wan White was mixed with Resene Polythane.

The kitchen, with its black and white checkered lino and over-sized stainless steel benchtop, is 1950s retro, as is son Max’s room with its colourful toy collection showcased by the Resene Bounty walls.

Vintage kitchen
Vintage bathroom
Kitchen: Suze’s collections of quirky kitchen-ware grace the otherwise simple white kitchen. The walls and splashback are Resene Periglacial Blue. The big sign from the old Strawberry Alarm Clock café in Parnell, Auckland, was one of her first purchases on TradeMe.  Bathroom: Black and white checkered lino gives the Resene Periglacial Blue bathroom a retro feel.

Indigo’s bedroom is a break from style and unashamedly girly. Suze’s grandmother’s painting of roses has pride of place and inspired the soft green and pink (Resene Geneva and Resene Pot Pourri) colour scheme. “To my mum’s horror I painted my lovely wooden hutch white and put it in Indigo’s room. I saw it done in a home in England where I nannied. It’s the showcase for our collection of Ladybird books and vintage toys – my old Fisher Price bus, a Scarlet O’Hara doll, and old Fisher Price record player.” Suze began collecting Toy Story toys, even before Max was born.

Vintage kid's room
Suze began collecting Toy Story toys before Max (now nine) was born. The walls are Resene Bounty.

Another feminine space is the ‘pink’ room, which is Suze’s sanctuary, as well as a romantic room for guests. Knowing Dave wouldn’t like pink in the master bedroom, she didn’t hold back in the guest room, combining the Resene Kidman with a pearlescent finish, Resene Pearl Shimmer, antique drawers, a wrought iron bed and crisp white taffeta curtains and blinds.

Vintage bedroom
Indigo’s room is a soft combination of Resene Pot Pourri (pink) and Resene Geneva (green).

”I like the flexibility of a neutral background palette – because of its simplicity I can change the decor and feel of the room instantly.”

The master bedroom was painted Resene Ecru White with curtains and blinds in calming coastal blue tones. The room has an electric fireplace, with a mantelpiece often filled with family photos. Both the spare room and master have matching verandas with a distant peek of the sea and views of the golf course.

Vintage bedroom
Vintage sofa
Bedroom: Shimmering Resene Kidman walls grace the guest bedroom.  Sofa: The cushions on the pew-style sofa are a combination of old tea towels and pacifica styles.

Choosing colours for the house wasn’t easy because decisions had to be made before the house was built. There was no chance to paint testpots on to the walls. “Choosing the whites was the hardest. I didn’t want a yellow or pink base, but white with a green base. I’m really pleased with the Resene Ecru White.” There were a couple of hiccups, like the now-pink guest room which was originally painted Resene Beryl Green. “The room was too flooded with light and drowned out the colour.” They were also restricted by covenants on the developing suburb that stipulated what exterior and joinery colours could be used. While disappointed she couldn’t paint the house pure white, Suze now loves the rich creamy Resene Rum Swizzle.

Once the house was built, Suze and Dave developed the garden – also tricky when covenants prevent fences between the property and the neighbouring golf course. They created a ‘safe zone’ for the children beside the house, with an in-ground trampoline, playhouse cabin and swing set. Living next to a golf course gives nice views and a sense of openness, but it can also be hazardous. After renting across the fairway and being constantly hit, they were careful to choose a section out of the firing line of stray golf balls.

Vintage postcards
Vintage artwork
Vintage postcards are hung on clips within an open frame so that you can flip them over to read the messages on the back.

Suze has restricted the colour palette of the garden planting to a range of greens and fragrant white flowering varieties, with iceberg roses, orange blossoms, jasmine, port wine magnolia, and blossoming fruit and cherry trees.

A whimsical wrought iron garden gate was designed by Suze (both she and Dave are graphic designers). It serves as just a hint of the delights to greet you in this delicious old-new house.

Top tips

Suze loves creating art out of objects – ones that needn’t break the bank:

  • Artworks out of framed vintage jigsaws, or prints from old children’s books.
  • Vintage clothes as wall-art. Suze’s christening dress and a 1950s party dress hang on her daughter’s wall.
  • Old printer’s trays to house children’s collections of figurines or small toys.
  • Stuffed toys out of old blankets.
  • A boxed frame artwork features old butterfly tiles, bought for $2 in an op shop.
  • Old Mambo posters (left) mounted onto boar

Did you know... That Resene produces a range of special effects paints from textures to metallics.

Alternative solution – warm retreat

winter foliage is the inspiration for this scheme

Interior designer and stylist Julia Turnwald suggests this cosy and timeless scheme:

Alternative solution 1

This scheme is inspired by winter warmth and gives a feeling of comfort and style. Dark floor boards are a fabulous way to enrich the feel of a room and an elegant rug as a centrepiece adds personality without adding clutter. Walls in a soft warm light beige, Resene Half Truffle, are reminiscent of winter foliage and will ensure that you have a timeless colour that is subtle yet precise. Here, the look is kept neutral so that it won’t date, but you can easily add colour through cushioning and accessories to update the look.

Resene Half Truffle walls and Resene Alabaster trims give a warm but elegant background to this scheme. The chairs are Siesta from Designers Collection.

phone: 09 360 2084   mob: 021 841 851   email:

Accessories: Niagara Antracita, from Tile Depot. Silvered glass pillar candlesticks, from French Country Collections. Catherine Martin ‘Lace’ hand-tufted wool rug, from Designer Rugs. Obi Linteloo side tables by Roderick Vos, Andersen Slim sofas by Minotti, from ECC Lighting + Furniture.

Alternative solution – classic opulence

rich colour and texture create an opulent scheme

Interior designer Joanne Richards suggests this alternative scheme:

Alternative solution 2

Using a friend’s artwork as inspiration, I wanted to create a room with classic pieces but in a quirky and interesting way. The Resene Blue Bayoux walls are restful and a good canvas for the more dramatic colours and textures of the furniture and accessories. There’s a sense of history and soul to the room. I particularly like the over-sized lights, and the paint effect floor to give personality. It’s the sort of room that invites you to sit down, relax and chat. The floor is a paint effects floor by Opulent Effects, Nelson, using Resene Ash and Resene Half Joanna.

Resene Blue Bayoux walls are the perfect complement for rich furnishings. Ceilings are in Resene Half Rice Cake with Resene Quarter Rice Cake on the trims. Also used is a Bella Figura lamp from Decortex e famiglia, Vienna chairs from CC Interiors and an artwork by Sarah Brock, Nelson.

phone: 03 545 8541   email:

Accessories: Luxaflex Wooden Blinds (50mm), colour White, from New Zealand Window Shades. Insect cushion, from Decortex e famiglia. Halo Gyro Chandelier, Halo Hollywood Glamour Cannes two-seater in colour Claret + Glamour Benson Footstool in Duck Green, from Johnston Imports. Vienna Round Table, from CC Interiors.

words: Sharon Newey
pictures: Frances Oliver

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