Inside Woman’s Day Editor Sido Kitchin’s Auckland villa

Expansive views and a cool Cape Cod vibe are the hallmarks of the magazine editor's home.

Just over a decade ago, Sido Kitchin left the Seven Network in Melbourne where she had been publicity manager to take the reins at New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, moving back to Auckland with her husband Conrad Armstrong and their daughter Cleo, now 14.

Eager to begin this next chapter in a new home, they put the Westmere house that Conrad had owned on the market and started looking for a family home.

But like all best laid plans, it wasn’t the neat transition they’d hoped for.

By the time the house sold, Kitchin was eight months’ pregnant and they had yet to find their next abode.

So they camped out above the garage at Armstrong’s parents’ place.

“It was a bit tricky. Cleo, who was only three, was staying in the main house and had to come across the courtyard for her morning cuddles,” remembers Kitchin.

With no house prospects on the horizon, they decided to make creative use of Kitchin’s maternity leave, heading to France for a couple of months when their son, Darcy, was 10 weeks old.

“It’s a lovely place to let a baby grow,” says Kitchin.

They returned to Auckland in the run-up to Christmas – a notoriously bad time to house-hunt – and Kitchin headed back to work with a sinking feeling that they would have to wait until February to start looking again.

Then, early in January 2010, she spied an advert on Trade Me for a villa in Western Springs.

“This lovely woman was living there with her two kids and I could tell they had been very happy there,” says Kitchin.

“She had even buried her son’s placenta under the pohutukawa.”

The circa-1915 villa on a large section had been nicely maintained.

“What struck us immediately was the amount of sun it gets and the aspect. It looks out to the Sky Tower, the whole ridge at the back of Grey Lynn and right over to the Zoo area. We just loved it,” she says.

The couple knew they would eventually open up the house to take advantage of those jaw-dropping views, but they decided to live in it for a few years first.

So by the time Armstong’s father, architect David Armstrong, drew up the plans for the renovation, their vision was clear: they wanted to retain the villa front with its original matai floors and the high stud ceilings then add an open-plan dining room, living room and kitchen area, a wrap-around verandah and a second level downstairs – without it looking like they’d tacked a modern annex onto an old villa.

“David returned with a grand design featuring soaring gabled ceilings, but when all the quotes came in we realised it was going to be too much,” says Kitchin.

So they downsized slightly and decided to replicate the original high stud ceilings throughout.

They broke ground three years ago with Armstrong, who freelances in the film industry as a digital image technician, playing project manager.

Once the dirt floor of the former storage area under the house had been excavated and replaced with a concrete pad that would eventually support a spare bedroom, an office/studio/man cave for Armstrong, a bathroom and a rumpus room, the sloping section was terraced off below the house and levelled with a retaining wall.

“We chose to put in the concrete shell for the pool early on,” says Kitchin.

“We thought we were sticking really well to our budget but, of course, the big bills only come at the end. We only managed to finish the pool in time for this past summer. The kids were in it all the time.”

Once the foundations were laid, Armstrong and Kitchin decided to work with interiors architect Janice Kumar-Ward.

“We thought it would be good to have a sounding board, someone who had experience with the functionality of things and different materials,” says Armstrong. Kumar-Ward describes her role as part translator, part hand-holder.

“Sido and Conrad knew what they wanted, but they didn’t have the resources in front of them,” says Kumar-Ward, who specialises in client-led design. “It’s hard to make emotional decisions when they are expensive.”

And Kitchin, who thought they were just going to get a bit of help with the kitchen, was wowed by Kumar-Ward’s input.

“She did so much more than I ever anticipated. And the renovation is so much better than I envisaged. She has a fantastic eye.”

The front of the house was merely tweaked – one wall moved, a larger wardrobe built in the main bedroom and a leadlight window added to let in more light.

The real work began from the archway, with its villa elements added to seamlessly join the original house with the annex.

To further blend old with new, Armstrong sourced matai flooring from an old church in Hawke’s Bay and repurposed them for the add-on.

Kumar-Ward found the kitchen most challenging. “Conrad was a chef in his early-20s and he loves to cook, so the functionality was extremely important to him,” she says.

Kumar-Ward’s husband, Julian Ward, made the tongue-and-groove cabinetry and custom-made the bookshelf, measuring each shelf to make a home for Armstrong’s other passion – his collection of records and turntables – alongside Kitchin’s numerous books, treasures from frequent trips to the Pacific Islands and art.

“This is the centre of our family life and we wanted it to be a TV-free zone,” says Kitchin.

They patch-tested old-fashioned blues for the walls, but Kumar-Ward was thrilled to eventually convince them to go with gallery white.

“I prefer timeless architecture injected with colour and quirk,” she says.

So they reupholstered the much-loved armchair Kitchin had bought from her stepmother in a James Dunlop floral called Painted Garden and it became the jumping off point for a chesterfield in peacock-blue velvet.

Downstairs and in Cleo’s bedroom, colour does take the lead on the walls – a tobacco hue in the den and Tiffany blue for Cleo’s bedroom.

“The kids love our house and tell us they never want to move out,” says Kitchin. “I hope it will be their family home for years to come.”

Words: Nadine Rubin Nathan.

For more, see this month’s Simply You magazine, visit our Facebook page, and follow us on Instagram.

Sido Kitchin, editor-in-chief of Woman’s Day and New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, stands at the kitchen island, which is topped with magnificent Roman grey marble from Design Source. The 1960s French lights by Holophane are from The Vitrine. The Chesterfield, upholstered in Belgian Entice velvet from Warwick Fabrics, was made to order in England. Interiors architect Janice Kumar-Ward recommends Montreux in Christchurch for local versions.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

The hallway light fitting, originally from Czechoslovakia circa 1970s, was found at The Vitrine.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

Darcy enjoys a boiled egg with toast soldiers at the 1800s French table from The Vitrine. The pastel-hued dining chairs from Muuto by Mika Tolvanen are from Nest and are available in Auckland at Bauhaus.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

Darcy, Cleo, Sido and Conrad relax on the deck.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

The Acapulco chairs, handcrafted in Mexico, are from Mamasita.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

In the main bedroom, Kitchin selected James Dunlop Hampton Court curtains. The paper chandelier is from Iko Iko and the bedside table is from Republic. A friend of Kitchin’s made the crochet blanket to match the curtains.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

Kowhai and Fern, a photographic print by Emma Bass.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

Cleo chose Calaveras in Turquoise by Alexander Henry from Bolt of Cloth for her blind. The Mexican headboard is one of two Kitchin found in Wellington. The second is in the main bedroom.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

Below right: Kitchin found the Bradford plates featuring Princess Diana at Auckland’s Flotsam & Jetsam.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

A blackboard of the Queen in silhouette and a magnetic dartboard are playful features in the rumpus room.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

Kitchin grew up obsessed with Princess Diana and often thinks she went into magazines to honour her memory. Royal-themed knick-knacks are above the mirror and on the walls.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

Kumar-Ward had the vanity custom-made to bring an old-world feel to the bathroom.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

Kitchin inherited the double love seat from her grandmother. The weaving was created by Armstrong’s sister after the couple’s wedding. Each guest chose a piece of flax, which was then woven into the final piece. The wall is painted in Resene Korma.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

The custom-made bookshelf by Julian Ward is home to Armstrong’s turntables and record collection. The clear side table is from Forma.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

A painting by Heather Straka in the hallway.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

The matai floorboards were sourced from Hawke’s Bay. The portrait above is of Kitchin’s great-grandmother.

Photos: Duncan Innes/proof agency.

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