Hawke’s Bay interior designer Toni Gale of Tones & Co gives us the tour

For Toni and Dane Gale, a return to their home base of Te Matau-a-Māui/Hawke’s Bay after more than a decade away was amply rewarded with the discovery of a perfectly placed pocket of paradise in a semi-rural, coastal suburb.

On a beachfront site in Eskdale, about 20 minutes north of Ahuriri/Napier, the home on the property was a 1960s bach complete with original light fittings, Axminster carpet and retro wallpaper. “We bought it sight unseen, after falling in love with the location and the potential,” says Dane.
The spectacular seaside location was everything the couple wanted and offered space they’d only dreamed of after living in central Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. Choosing to renovate over building new was a shared desire, with a goal to honour the home’s character while bringing it into the 21st century.

TOP & ABOVE The upstairs living room is a light-filled dream, with epic views of the water. “The existing walls were angled, which we found extremely impractical, so that was the first thing we changed,” says Toni. “Now, every wall is predominantly window, so we added the floor-to-ceiling balustrade as a way to create a bit of privacy yet still let the light flow through, while keeping the stairs safe and separate.“ Key décor items here include a framed pencil drawing by Juan Lara hung beside a woven work bought from auction house Maidens & Foster, a mirror custom-made by EC Glass & Glazing and an Alva armchair by Sarah Ellison.

The existing two-storey building came with 60 years of history that included many alterations, resulting in a lack of cohesion. Dane’s background as a builder specialising in high-spec residential renovations through his company Bay Build ensured he had the experience necessary for the structural aspects of the project, while Toni’s expertise in design via her interior design studio Tones & Co lent itself to the finer details.

TOP Modular Tomado shelving from Good Form displays a precious print of Penny A Bunch by late Victorian painter George Elgar Hicks, which was handed down from Toni’s late grandmother. “It’s a beautiful daily reminder of her,” she says. A lamp by Mr Ralph is sculptural on the wall beside it. ABOVE Doors on two sides of the dining space blur the line between inside and out. The artwork in the background of this shot is by Carmel Van Der Hoeven.

Over a period of four years, the hard-working pair put their skills to the test, renovating at night and in the weekends alongside running their businesses and growing a baby, son Monty, now one. “We’ve painstakingly renovated every square inch inside and out, including the gardens and an extension, doing everything ourselves, apart from the electrical, plumbing, and tiling in the bathrooms,” says Dane. “We stripped, re-insulated, relined and rewired the whole building, and extended one side, and although we retained the general integrity of the layout, we changed every single internal wall for a more considered flow.”

ABOVE Vintage Cesca chairs by Marcel Breuer combine with bar stools upcycled with Nutbourne fabric by Zinc from James Dunlop Textiles below pendant lights from Bohème Home.

The rust and brown paisley carpet has been removed to reveal the original rimu flooring, now freshly oiled; the bright white walls have been softened with gentler Dulux Haast Half; and tongue-and-groove panelling has been added to the existing angled ceiling for extra era- and location-appropriate interest, looking for all the world as if it’s always been there. “We’ve also used materials like mosaic tiles as nods to the era,” says Toni.

ABOVE “Here, we swapped the fireplace in the middle of the room for central heating and put an island in its place — and have never looked back,” says Toni. The Cinca mosaic tiles are from Artedomus, the benchtop is in Vagli Gold porcelain from Ascale and the Elysian tapware is by ABI Interiors. Both dining table and pew are second-hand, the latter from a local church, and on the right, the barn door hardware was recycled from the original garage door.

The previously old-school kitchen with timber veneer cabinetry, tired laminate benchtops, stainless steel tapware and yellow lino flooring is unrecognisable. Its contemporary reinvention has a relaxed vibe with a dose of sophistication achieved through grey tiles, floating timber shelves, porcelain benchtops, dark cabinetry and brass tapware. “Our kitchen was largely created with flatpack cabinetry from Mitre 10,” says Dane. “We designed around conventional sizes to keep our costs down, then constructed it ourselves, adding our own solid cabinet fronts handcrafted on site.”

ABOVE In contrast to the public spaces, the main bedroom is cocooning, painted with Dulux Waimārama. On either side of the bed made with bedding by Kinship Linen, Prairie sconces from Huey team with tables Toni and Dane built themselves. On the walls are a print from image library Unsplash (right) and a photograph by Slim Aarons.

It contributes to the main downstairs living space being pretty special, with walls and the centrally positioned fire removed to form an airy, spacious, family-friendly new version. “I love the way it’s been transformed to open plan — it’s perfect for entertaining day and night,” says Toni. “We spend a lot of our time in here — it’s my favourite room.”

TOP The ensuite is heavy on texture that includes walls rendered with Porter’s Paints Fresco and travertine tiles from Artedomus laid in a herringbone pattern. MIDDLE Restful neutrals abound in the guest bedroom, which has Annie Sloan Canvas paint on the walls and Mt Peel carpet by Wools of New Zealand on the floor. The DIY headboard is covered with Haven fabric by Warwick, while some of the finds here include a Tangent mirror by Ferm Living from Slow and a lamp from Instagram thrift store @ sunday___goods. ABOVE The couple made the powder room playful with Graffito wallpaper by Kelly Wearstler and a mirror Toni made from Fimo clay.

In saying that, she can’t help but laugh. “We’ve completed our renovation room by room and with every new space comes the statement: ‘I think this is my favourite room in the house’. Currently for me, it’s actually probably the ensuite, but I also love the edible garden area — a lockdown project that’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

TOP & ABOVE Behind the reeded glass from EC Glass & Glazing in the main bathroom, a mirror from Adairs is mounted upside down for added interest. Toni and Dane are adept at blending low-cost items with others that are more luxe, and elevated this Trade Depot vanity with a stone top and a hand-carved basin sourced from Australia, then upped the ante on the standard bath by surrounding it with travertine tiles from Artedomus.

Light and lovely, this is a home to really relax into. A key aim was to ensure it felt appropriate for its location without being a coastal cliché, an objective the couple has nailed. It’s clear innovative thinking has gone into every design decision, as there’s nothing cookie-cutter about it.

TOP & ABOVE Monty’s nursery is a sweet little space in Annie Sloan Pemberly Blue. Beside a mushroom basket by Oyoy from Tea Pea, the rocking chair custom-made by the couple with bouclé Fabio fabric from Warwick is a nice spot in which to snuggle up to read a book with your feet on the ottoman Toni crafted. She’s also the brains behind the mobile, and commissioned Robyn Fleet to paint the portrait of their beagle Effie, which she’s arranged on the wall (above an old chest of drawers she painted with Annie Sloan Canvas) with pieces including a Milk Bottle Lolly sculpture by Simon Lewis Wards; one of his Candyman sculptures is pictured on the far right.

“We’re exposed to a lot of materials, products and details through the industry we work in, and we’re constantly thinking of more efficient, innovative and cost-effective ways to do things,” says Toni. “I’ll often come up with an idea and Dane will ponder for days or weeks over the best way to execute it.

TOP The north-facing aspect means the house gets loads of sun. A second-hand A&C Homestore hanging chair is a prime spot in which to soak it up and echoes Monty’s swing by Solvej out the back (pictured above). ABOVE With a view of the hills, the deck at the rear of the home keeps the table Dane made out of macrocarpa under cover. “The backyard originally featured a multilevel rock garden, which was completely unusable and impractical,” says Toni. She and Dane have worked to give it a lush, green upgrade incorporating plants including queen palms, ligularia and hydrangeas, plus a griselinia hedge.

“I get inspiration from everywhere — travel, nature, books, unexpected furniture finds,” she continues. “A fair chunk of our furniture is second-hand or vintage, or has been sourced over time or custom-made. Before purchasing anything brand new, we really take the time to consider it, to make sure we 100% need it and it has longevity. Our style has evolved over time and I’m sure it will continue to forever. We love texture, natural fibres and honest materials. We don’t love bright and bold, but gravitate towards a more muted palette, muddy shades and depth, which complement our environment and the way we live here.”

ABOVE “Perhaps because the renovation took such a long time and we were living in the house for the duration, our decisions were made with functionality front of mind,” says Toni. For the exterior, they opted for Gull Grey Colorsteel on the roof and Dulux Ōkārito paint.

With the updated dwelling finally done and dusted and a growing family to fill it up, Toni and Dane couldn’t be happier in their new home in a fantastic neighbourhood. “We have such a beautiful community here — quintessentially Kiwi,” she says. “People fish, ride bikes and chat to their neighbours. It’s unusual if someone doesn’t wave when passing by. We share fresh produce, seedlings, flowers and banter. It’s a truly special place to live.” 

Words Holly Jean Brooker
Photography Hazel Redmond

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