Open the door

There are all sorts of treasures to be found once you open the front door of this unassuming West Auckland house.

From the outside, Cruise Tuakura and Mikayla Flavell-Miller’s West Auckland home appears stock standard: a two-storey former state house, painted white. But the front door hints at the fun to be found inside, painted as it now is in a bold canary yellow.

Opening this door is like cracking open a lucky fortune cookie; its interior a more-than pleasant surprise. Walking in, the visitor soon finds proof that a rental property can be converted into a striking and personality-packed abode – with just a few coats of paint, a clever array of furniture and accessories and a decent splash of creativity.

But, when Mikayla and Cruise moved into the house with their dog Rusko and friendly feline Mr Kat four years ago, it was the traditional structure that originally grabbed their attention. “There’s a certain character about an older state house,” says Mikayla. “We fell in love with the wooden floors and the big windows from the moment we walked through the door.”

She says the most impactful thing they did was make the most of those big windows, ripping down the net curtains as soon as they’d moved in. “From there it was just a matter of adding a little bit of us to every corner.”

Cruise is an aircraft technician in in the New Zealand Air-force and Mikayla an architectural consultant at Robertson Bathware, so it’s no wonder their taste encompasses a vast range of styles. Inspired by overseas adventures, their travels have played a strong part in influencing their personal style. “We’ve both been lucky enough to explore the world,” Mikayla says. “Mexico, Hawaii, the Cook Islands and Palm Springs are all such amazing places to experience – there is a certain vibe about all of them that triggers creative inspiration.”

Cruise agrees: “Travelling definitely opens your eyes to different design styles. And it’s nice to see something in your home that you discovered on the other side of the world.”

While the majority of the walls are white and work to keep each room looking fresh, Mikayla is a big fan of colour. Having once worked for Resene, it’s no surprise to see many splashes of brightness extending beyond that cheery front door and right throughout their home.

Cruise is more materials-focused – with a hands-on approach. Evidence of his “plywood phase” is seen in the bench in the dining room, and the desk and trolley in the office. Plywood provides a natural feel to the shared office space, creating a calm area emphasised by touches of green.

Anything that hasn’t been self-made has been lovingly sourced and personalised. Decorating their home on a shoestring  hasn’t proven difficult, as their creative genes go hand in hand with an eye for a bargain. The green cupboard on the office wall, for example, was a $2 bargain from a tiny op shop in Whangamata, which the couple had spray-painted. The yellow wire plant stand in one corner of the lounge began its life as a chain-store rubbish bin. And the geometric lightshade, also in the office, was a bargain find from a market in Cambridge. “I nearly didn’t get it, which would have been a mistake,” says Mikayla, “as it really does make the room.”

Commissioning creative friends and family members to help out has also saved the budget considerably. “I’m absolutely in love with our Good Vibes lightbox in the lounge,” Mikayla says. “We’re so lucky to have crafty people around who can make us things! I drew up a quick sketch for my dad who, with a helpful eye from mum, put the whole thing together for us.”

All of the changes made have been purely cosmetic – a general tidy and a splash of colour on the walls. “It’s amazing how a house can be completely transformed simply by adding these personal touches,” Mikayla says. “As soon as we styled all of our furniture and artwork, it really did become home.”

One of the biggest pieces of advice Mikayla has for others looking to transform their house into a home is: “Don’t feel pressure to follow trends. Take a few risks, use quality products when painting or building and don’t be fooled into taking shortcuts – a worthwhile project is always a long one!”

Words LeeAnn Yare
Photography Larnie Nicolson

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