House of the week: Retro Dunedin home is a blast from the past
If ever there was a house and a tenant made for each other, it's the Dunedin home you see here, and vintage obsessive Tannia Lee.
In fact, the manner in which the house came into the lives of Tannia, her husband Dylan and baby daughter Nova suggests some god of retro might have been watching over them, pulling strings.
"It's sort of a funny story," begins Tannia, a fashion stylist who owned Wellington clothing store Most Wanted Vintage before the family moved south three years ago (she still runs her website mostwantedvintage.co.nz).
"We first saw the house when it came up for sale on Trade Me, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Dylan and I would have loved to have bought it, but at the time we didn't know we'd be staying in Dunedin. So I posted it on my page, saying, 'Hey, everyone, check out this cool house!'"
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Why such urgency? Take a look at the pictures. The house in Roslyn, uphill from The Octagon, is a time capsule, a message left on a Dunedin ridgeline detailing how life was lived in another, more vibrantly coloured age.
It is like a starburst clock stopped at 1974, when the 1960s-built house had its last makeover. On the day they were shown through, Tannia was amazed to find the 70s wallpapers in mint condition, despite the previous owners having raised children there.
"Walking through it that first time was surreal. Every single room was exciting. It was the sort of thing you see in magazines but never in real life. It felt like we were in a photo shoot or a movie."
Naturally, they took it on the spot. "I said, 'I'm a vintage enthusiast, and we love the place just as it is. You definitely won't have to paint the walls for us.'"
Adding to the sense of a fated find, Tannia subsequently discovered she had a vague personal connection to the house: her second cousin's ex-husband was the son of the first owners and had lived there in the 1960s. When they invited him over to take a look at his childhood home, he brought photos of the house taken before its 1974 makeover. They showed that nothing substantial has changed. No walls have been knocked down. The kitchen is structurally untouched. Even the light fittings and kitchen bar stools are original.
Taking her cue from the home's 60s bones and its 70s facelift, Tannia went to work furnishing the place, hitting Trade Me and Dunedin second-hand stores and auction houses.
Tannia was completely in her element hunting for just the right pieces. An op-shopper since the age of 14, she'd initially been enamoured with the 1980s and 90s – Most Wanted Vintage specialised in that period – but later became fixated on the preceding two decades.
"My very first collecting obsession was floral 1960s and 1970s lampshades. I've got about 20, and they make us so happy."
For the lounge, she and Dylan, an IT professional, began by ditching their comfortable but incongruous modern couch in favour of a 1960s Don sofa daybed. They found a set of classic Lip chairs going for a song on Trade Me, and an immaculate 1970s Schreiber sideboard with a lovely caramel glow. Picking up a hint from the striped wallpaper, Tannia accented the room with gold objects and furnishings.
Dunedin, it turns out, is blessed for op-shopping. "So much better than Wellington," says Tannia, who created Dunedin's Vintage Roundup, a three-monthly vintage clothing and craft market. "I'd collect so much more if I didn't have such a good husband, who reminds me to buy only what we can use. We try not to put things away in cupboards; we want everything out and seen, otherwise there's no point."
What is it she loves so much about the 1960s and 70s? "It's the quirky shapes and the mixing of patterns. And the colours are so bold and bright; they have this positive energy to them."
The home's bathroom says it all. With its pink vanity and vivid floral wallpaper, it's a flower power powder room. "Those colours are in the toilet as well; we always say it's the happiest toilet on earth." Nova's sunflower yellow bedroom has a similarly jubilant vibe, and the kitchen is almost too funky to defile with the banal business of cooking. The wallpaper is original, according to Tannia. "And it's on all four walls – there was no such thing as doing a feature wall, it's everywhere!"
The couple do a lot of their entertaining at the kitchen bar, with Dylan playing barman. What do guests make of their time-warped home? "They're amazed, and they want it to be preserved as much as we do," Tannia says.
Which unlikely colours work together? After living in this house, I've discovered mint and orange are an interesting combo. (Tannia)
The first change we made after moving in: Swapping out the dark maroon curtains in the lounge to a lighter, non-intrusive neutral colour. The room and the view now feel more seamless. (Tannia)
My Favourite kitchen appliance: I imported a gas-fired pizza oven to perfect the art of Neapolitan pizza making. We find it's a great excuse to get friends and family around. I use it a lot. (Dylan)
Best money we ever spent: Buying artwork by artist friends Jinx in the Sky, Mica Still and Dylan Bakker. (Tannia)
In the future I'd like to: Buy our own house with as much character and quirkiness as this place. (Tannia)
Favourite Dunedin restaurant or bar? We love Alley Cantina which is a little Mexican restaurant down an alleyway covered in street art – nice vegetarian options and tasty margaritas. (Tannia) Pequeno is good for a low-key beverage or two. (Dylan)
Tannia and Dylan Lee
- NZ House & Garden