Pearls of wisdom from Ornament owner Ginamarie Riley’s own renovation

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.

TOP & ABOVE The existing green paint on the walls was replaced with Resene Rice Cake on the architraves, walls and door frames, for a seamless effect. Gina and glass artist Matthew Hall made pendant lights to replace the old chandelier, and the Cane Wave console below them is one of many items throughout the house sourced from her shop, Ornament. MAIN IMAGE Among the pieces that beautify the smaller living space is a Folia light by Kenneth Cobonpue, a Manhattan bar cart, a Vitrine coffee table, an Almonte rug and a York sofa from Ornament.

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.”

TOP The smaller living room is a key relaxation zone for Gina and Nick. “I love sitting here in the evenings,” says Gina. “It’s quite an intimate space and there’s no TV, so we can have a drink and really talk.” Because of the nature of her work, she tends to change her interior around quite regularly. “I get bored of spaces and want to adjust and recreate them,” she says. Currently making the cut in here are an Arum floor lamp by Ferm Living and a Fossil side table, both from Ornament. ABOVE The natural timber cladding the larger, hexagonal living space was filled and painted to lighten it. “This architectural feature isn’t very villa-ish, but I’ve been drawn to this room since we first came through the house — it has such an interesting feel,” says Gina.

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.

TOP “As well as rebuilding the stairwell to open the end of the hallway and gain more space in the main bathroom, we rebuilt the flooring in the entire back section of the house after discovering it wasn’t level, which was a massive expense we didn’t expect,” says Gina. The elegant oak parquet that replaced the old chipboard was painstakingly matched with the kauri floorboards at the front of the house. To embrace the distinction, the team added a brass strip at the end of the hallway, where the two materials meet. ABOVE Gina and Zachary snuggle up with Edie the dog on a sheepskin rug and cushions from Ornament atop the window seat in the main living space, which has had handy drawers installed underneath it. This spot and the grand view beyond it is the first sight that greets you on entry to the home. Burano Eggshell fabric from Warwick was used for the blinds and curtains here.

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.

TOP Beside an Artifield buffet and below a Trois Disque pendant light, Teak benches and Lodge chairs from Ornament are arranged around an antique dining table from Vitrine that sits in this zone between kitchen and living. The artwork is another of Gina’s creations. “Painting is a new hobby,“ she says. “Next year, I’ll try to paint some to sell.” ABOVE & BELOW A partition wall, walk-in pantry, carpet and terracotta tiles were removed to open and lighten up the kitchen, but the existing bifold windows were held onto. A new raw onyx sink slotted into the benchtop in Breccia Sarda marble in the gap where the old sink was — a tactic that meant the plumbing didn’t need to be moved.  To make up for the lack of wall space, the oven and cooktop have been built into the island, where wrap- around seating (stools from Farmers Gina had reupholstered) makes it feel more social. Waiata by Karl Maughan from Gow Langsford Gallery hangs on the wall (far left), while the Opal pendant lights by Ferm Living are from Ornament.

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.

ABOVE The décor in this Sebastian’s bedroom reveals his love of animals and the natural world. His bunks are from The Bunk House, his wardrobe is upcycled and the storage basket was a vintage find. The duvet cover by Katie Scott Bedding, and Tufted Polar Bear rug and Dou lampshade by Ferm Living are all from Ornament.

“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.

TOP Master of invention and reinvention Gina has decorated Zachary’s room with a repainted bedside table that once belonged to her brother Richie Hufton and posters made up by Star Wars fan Nick. Zachary’s upcycled trundle bed was bought off Trade Me. ABOVE The previously separate main bathroom and toilet have been combined into one calming space, where a low-cost vanity from Trade Depot has been teamed with an offcut from the kitchen bench. The bath is also from Trade Depot; overhead is another pendant light made in collaboration with Matthew Hall.

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.

TOP Tallboys in the wardrobe in the main bedroom mean less furniture in the room itself. “I love our bedroom because I’m a naturally messy person who hates mess!” says Gina, who also turned her hand to this painting and made the headboard from plywood, foam and a fabric slip. “Having a nice, minimal bedroom with little furniture and no clutter helps Nick and I keep our heads clear at night.” Key items here include a Fenetti lamp, a table and stool by Kristina Dam and a Beau chair from Ornament, and a Frette bedspread by Cavit & Co. ABOVE The ensuite echoes the main bathroom, enhanced by a Pond mirror by Ferm Living from Ornament, and tapware and brass accessories from ABI Interiors. “It was quite grotty in here, so we did a lot of work,” says Gina. Among other things, the existing mouldy skylight was replaced and its frame removed for a more streamlined look.

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.”

Words Catherine Steel
Photography Michelle Weir

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