Ginamarie Riley has a penchant for drawing out the essence of a home. With six renovations under her belt, the Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland owner of Sandringham homeware store Ornament knows a thing or two about enhancing a dwelling’s beauty.
The mum of two purchased her first house at 24 — a bungalow do-up. Next in line was the first home she bought with her now husband Nick (creative director of Studio Riley), then the third was another bungalow, the interior of which she painted herself while pregnant. “There were something like 23 doors to paint,” she says. “I was seeing stars.” Three more big projects were to follow.
Ask anyone who’s taken on a renovation how much you learn from the journey and, like Gina, they’ll tell you that tricks for achieving spatial flow, capturing light and bringing the right colours into the right spaces tend to be mastered in hindsight. After a varied career that has spanned classical ballet, fashion design, graphic design and interior design, Gina is now using Ornament and its interior styling service to share her professional expertise and the knowledge she’s gained first-hand with each house revamp.
“It’s as much about the don’ts as the do’s,” she says. “That’s why I do in-home consultations. I’m happy to share the information I’ve got.”
Gina’s most recent project is the Northcote Point home she and Nick share with their sons Zachary (8) and Sebastian (5). The two-storey 1910 villa sits proudly on the ridge overlooking the main street. Changes made to the home in the ’90s had made it feel awkward and enclosed; Gina’s redesign saw walls removed to open up the spaces, so it’s now graced with an easy flow and ample room for the whole family within an ultra-chic setting.
The overhaul began in the previously dark entryway. “The hallway was closed off by a wall with a small, central glass door,” says Gina. “The dado was present but none of the wainscoting was — instead, there were repeats of vertical panelling, which looked odd. Nick was happy for it to stay, but he was convinced it needed to change by my mum, who said, ‘You have to redo the hallway, it’s the entrance to the house!’ — then while he was at work, the builder pulled off the panelling!”
In its place, as well as ditching the dated chandelier in the centre of the hallway, the couple introduced ceiling moulds and wainscotting to bring some apt grandeur into the mix. Removing the wall that closed off the hall has created a light-filled passageway that leads from the front door along newly blonded kauri floorboards and into the kitchen and living area, the clear line of sight enhancing the open-plan zone’s sense of connection with the surrounding rooms.
To the right of the hallway, a large lounge complete with pillars was split in two with the insertion of a wall, creating Sebastian’s bedroom and a more intimate living space that opens onto the lawn. “We’ve kept the pillars under the house to reuse when we build the deck,” says Gina.
Another chandelier and metallic drapes in the old lounge were given the flick for a backdrop of more white walls and wainscotting, while to the left of the hallway is a revamped bedroom that has become Zachary’s, and a deliberately moody media room that was formerly a too-dark guest bedroom.
Beside this cosy entertainment space, the main bathroom is a celebration of varying textural surfaces expressed in similar neutral tones. Attention has been paid to texture throughout the house, but not in an overpowering way, from textiles that invite you to run your fingertips over them, to glossy surfaces that offer a subtle shine. Even the shower door comes to the party in this bathroom, its reeded glass showing how the most striking character can also be understated.
“That aesthetic is very Ornament,” says Gina. “It’s tonal but instead of introducing colour, it places the focus on raw materials and texture.” She says the same principles will be applied to the exterior of the house as she and Nick work towards completing their landscaping, although in this case they’ll be using materials with a distinctly Mediterranean look.
Back inside, the kitchen is palpably welcoming. Previously enclosed, it was reworked when Gina removed a wall that shut it off from a second lounge. Its large windows connect with the garden and neighbourhood beyond, offering broad views that the boys can enjoy from the vantage point of their built-in study nook (that doubles as a bar for entertaining) when they’re doing their homework. With the kitchen island complete with seating for five, this room feels grounded in family, as does the main living area it links to, which is hexagonal-shaped to cocoon those relaxing in it.
Upstairs is the main suite, where the couple’s bedroom has been spruced up with new paint, carpet and curtains. The interior of their wardrobe was removed and replaced with tallboys, and the handles upgraded to mirror the cupboards downstairs.
Also up here is a spare bedroom, a study, a playroom, a walk-in sewing cupboard and a studio apartment, which Gina uses to run her online store, host styling consultations, as a studio to photograph products and as a showroom for larger items (see the separate story about this elsewhere on our website). Although thanks to her connections with local and international artisans, she’s constantly encountering amazing new finds, on this project, she made sustainable choices wherever possible, reusing what she could and buying second-hand. For example, she says, “We left the lounge fireplace where it is, only fixing it up a bit. I bought an old travertine vanity top off Trade Me for the hearth, then painted the surround with chalk paint.”
It’s clear this home is more than a happy family dwelling — it’s a fine example of Gina’s creativity. Looking back, her first renovation had its own distinct personality too, but her aesthetic has definitely evolved with each project. As she says of her own homes and those of her customers, “Every house has its own feel.”