My favourite space: Open plan cottage living room gallery

The two rugs in the living area were put down to protect the white flooring.
JANE USSHER/NZ HOUSE & GARDEN

The two rugs in the living area were put down to protect the white flooring.

Tina Symmans admits she's a "terrible collector of furniture". Not a collector of terrible furniture, you understand - that's an important distinction - but someone who just can't resist buying treasures she comes across. It doesn't help that her Hawke's Bay home is just down the road from a shop selling French industrial-style antiques.

Much of that extra furniture has found a home in Tina's newly renovated Crabtree Cottage.

She hopes to use it as a bed and breakfast, although it's been in such hot demand from family and friends that, so far, paying guests haven't had much of a look in (you can see it on bookabach.co.nz and holidayhouses.co.nz).

Tina has done a number of houses over the years.
JANE USSHER/NZ HOUSE & GARDEN

Tina has done a number of houses over the years.

In anyone else's hands, a monochromatic colour scheme may have been stark, but Tina has made her cottage into a warm and welcoming space.

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The lovely, light-filled living area (which incorporates the bedroom), with its white floors, walls and ceilings, has been warmed up with natural textures and Tina's collection of furniture. "I have done a number of houses over the years and have always had a little image in my mind, a vision of something that was white, grey and black. And this little place was it."

What was your vision for this space? I wanted the sitting room to feel inviting and cosy in winter, but also be pared down a bit to work in the heat of summer. It's very small, so everything in it works hard and has to earn its place. White sofas are a classic and as long as the covers can be washed they work well.

What was your decorating process for this space? From a decorating point of view, it has been one of constant evolvement. So it's not decorating really - it's just function first then making sure everything in it is something I really like. It is a small space so although I move stuff around all the time, the basic layout is pretty restricted.

Tina's great-grandfather’s chair sits in the corner of the lounge.
JANE USSHER/NZ HOUSE & GARDEN

Tina's great-grandfather’s chair sits in the corner of the lounge.

Did you do any DIY for the cottage? The curtains are made from painter's drop cloth from Mitre 10, draped over a metal rod. It's easy: no sewing, no hemming, no annoying hooks and it looks slightly shabby chic. I found the coffee table in Havelock North's Blue Moon years ago - it was covered in many layers of paint, so I had to use a vat of caustic to strip it down to its raw state.

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Do you have any tips for decorating a small space? Don't try to downsize all the furniture in a small home. I think the odd generous-sized piece actually makes the space feel bigger.

Why did you choose an open-plan style? To make it more spacious. If I'd walled off the bedroom, I would've lost the lovely light. We get a bit precious about bedrooms, but I don't think the bed needs to be hidden away.

The white table in Tina Symmans’ Hawke’s Bay cottage is from Redcurrent; the wooden chairs were bought from a friend.
JANE USSHER/NZ HOUSE & GARDEN

The white table in Tina Symmans’ Hawke’s Bay cottage is from Redcurrent; the wooden chairs were bought from a friend.

What do you like best about this space? The sitting room is the hub of the small cottage; it's perfect for a couple but easily copes with a crew for a meal or drinks.

 

The zebra hide chair was a find from Blue Moon; the umbrella stand next to it was Tina’s grandfather’s.
JANE USSHER/NZ HOUSE & GARDEN

The zebra hide chair was a find from Blue Moon; the umbrella stand next to it was Tina’s grandfather’s.

 - NZ House & Garden

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