Splash palace

With a beautiful heritage home renovated to fit your growing family, what more could you wish for? A pool house, that’s what.

You know what they say: everyone should have a pool house. Okay, okay, they don’t say that, but they should, and make that a man cave, too. One look at Louise and Lou Thompson’s place in Mt Eden, Auckland, and we bet, like us, you’ll start rewriting your list of wouldn’t-it-be-nices.


“We dove straight in,” says Louise of their decision to renovate the 1910 home from a poky single-level dwelling with narrow hallways, dark bedrooms and “funny little added-on areas” to three storeys that sprawl into the garden and over to the self-contained pool house. “In hindsight, it was probably the best way to go; we were completely ignorant of what was involved in a renovation, and it was exciting, a bit of a whirlwind.
“The real estate agent showed us through on a Saturday morning and we’d purchased it by the afternoon. Lou dreamed of having a sound-proofed entertaining space, so he walked straight through the house and down to the ‘cave’ below. I paid more attention to the house and the setting: the beautiful façade, the elevation and the space.”
Located near the foot of the mountain, the bungalow was built on a lava flow, with one side on level ground and the other on stilts. No match for these two, over three years the main floor was extended to even out the add-ons, the spacious attic converted into a sublime master suite, and the lower level reshaped to house amenities, a fourth bedroom and Lou’s bar/theatre zone.


TOP Alice and William play in a Città hammock on the master bedroom’s balcony. ABOVE The ensuite bathroom “is bigger than our bedroom and I never realised how good that would be – it’s such a luxury”, says Louise. “We had to work within certain existing lines and it just worked out that way. And we’re thrilled it did.” Little decoration is required in this calming space, a brass planter from Indie Home Collective next to the bath from Chesters the single striking accent.

With such lovely bones at their disposal, Louise and Lou wanted to reuse as many of the existing design features as they could. Nowhere is this more evident than at the front of the house, where stained glass and leadlight windows lead from the entry foyer through to the formal living room, which retains its original wall panelling, open fireplace and wallpaper depicting fox hunts, plus exposed ceiling beams like those in daughter Alice’s bedroom across the hall.
Underfoot, sanded and stained rimu floorboards add character to the uncarpeted spaces. “I like that they’re marked, have borer trails and creak in places,” says Louise. “It’s what old houses are all about.”
She’s chuffed with the vintage light fittings in the entryway and living room, too. “I initially wanted to replace them, but I’m so pleased we didn’t as they’re beautiful in their own way. They need to be rewired and the bulbs blow every other day; it drives us crazy – must be love!”



TOP Louise says one of her best finds is “Sealy” the stone seal that sits in the formal living room, which she found at Flotsam & Jetsam and had wired to become a lamp. “There’s one like it at a bach where we spent our summers growing up; it feels like my childhood.” MIDDLE “Books are like art in our house, so we repurposed the old ceiling beams from the kitchen into a shelf,” says Louise. “It’s nice to know we’ve retained a bit more of the original home.” ABOVE Louise confides that the extra-deep sink in the kitchen island has been a handy addition: “You can hide all the dirty dishes in it…”

Complementing these classic hits are contemporary accents the couple took their time to find, Lou’s crush on orange hues a key influence. “I’m glad he loves it because it’s brought so much colour to the house – in subtly managed ways,” teases the more minimalist Louise. “I really didn’t know much about anything before the renovation, and this is slightly embarrassing to admit, but we often chose paint colours based on their names. But I’ve since come to love architecture, interiors and design.


ABOVE “I once read that lighting is the jewellery of the house, and I agree,” says Louise. The couple’s copper Tom Dixon Fat Spot light and embossed Flos Skygarden pendant in the dining area are two of their most treasured pieces. The black and neon artwork in this zone is by Beatrice Carlson. Concerned it might be too dark, the couple test-drove it for a year before purchasing by renting it through Art Associates; they ultimately discovered that its glossy finish actually reflects the light.

“I like black, white, brass and gold, and objects that feel personal. The deer head above our outdoor fire is from Lou’s family farm in the Wairarapa; the Koko Classics hide in the dining room represents our heritage as farmers.”
As luxe as the interior of this home is, it’s the great outdoors that’s the star of the show. Sliding panels in the kitchen and dining area open the house to the deck and deep green pool, creating one enormous room; louvres overhead and a fireplace allow it to be enjoyed rain, hail or shine.


TOP “Lou loves the outdoor fireplace and barbecue,” says Louise. “He’s a ‘pyromaniac’ and derives great pleasure from lighting the fire and prepping the Weber for dinner. We’ve been known to let off fireworks on a random Saturday evening just for fun.” The beanbags seen here are by Coast. ABOVE Made from recycled wood from boats damaged in the Pacific Islands tsunami, the outdoor table was a bargain because it was wobbly; the couple bought it, then fixed it up. Louise’s favourite spot on the property is the sunny deck at the far end of the pool, furnished with brightly coloured chairs by Mamasita.

And how about that pool house? With its timber-enclosed sauna and pared-back appeal,  it brings a distinctly modern element to the property. “I love the slatted ‘walls’ – they feel a bit Balinese,” says Louise. “You can glimpse the palm tree through the slats and it feels like you could be anywhere in the world, and when you lie down in the bedroom, all you see is sky. The doors open onto the pool and it gets all-day sun. We’ve actually had weekends ‘away’ there.”
It’s certainly a drawcard for their Airbnb guests. Yes, that’s right, if you want to check in here, you can. “When Lou travels for work, the kids and I sometimes stay with my parents or his mum, so we thought we’d try renting out the house,” says Louise. “We weren’t sure if people would be interested in a suburban home, but we’ve had some great tenants – Mick Fleetwood stayed for a month! You have to be flexible, but it’s an amazing way for me to declutter, spring clean and contribute to our income while still being with the kids.”



ABOVE Positioned above the garage, the chic pool house has a monochrome colour palette enlivened by the bright red cords of pendant lights by Muuto and a baby blue flat-pack table by Mike Hindmarsh. “One of the best things we did was the ply flooring,” says Louise. “At the time, it was a cost-saving measure and also something we thought suited a pool house: hard-wearing so we wouldn’t mind if it got dirty or wet. We stained it dark brown and it came up beautifully.”

Louise says the beauty of renovating an old house is getting to restore a piece of history that tells a story. Her own has a happy ending. “We’re homebodies and this truly is our haven – it’s turned out to be the perfect family house. I love travelling, but never get the blues when I get back – it’s such a treat for us to come home.”

Words Philippa Prentice
Simon Wilson

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