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At home

Oliver Driver's brand new home: The trials and tribulations of becoming a first-time home owner

''This whole process has been such a challenge, but sitting here looking at what we've accomplished, it's pretty special. We honestly didn't think this would ever happen but here we are!''

By Ellen Mackenzie
Creating a new house from scratch is no easy task, but building your dream home with two young kids is even more of a challenge. However, for Kiwi actor and director Oliver Driver and his wife Ella Mizrahi, they wouldn't have had it any other way.
"The kids actually made it quite nice because, at the end of the day, you're making something for them," tells the former Shortland Street director, 44.
"We wouldn't be doing this if we didn't have kids. It was nice to be there during the build thinking about how this is where they will grow up and this is where they will walk to school."
However, Oliver does admit that the house has already taken a bit of a beating from Etta, three, and Otis, one.
"On the day we moved in, we were having fish and chips to celebrate, when my boy Otis grabbed a Vivid and just scrawled all over the floor," he recalls with a laugh.
"Since then, there's jam on the walls and crayon on the cupboards, but you just have to admit that's going to happen – this house is going to be a disaster! But that's OK, it's all about the kids at the end of the day."
And it would seem Etta is already following in the footsteps of her event manager mum Ella, as she was determined to be part of the design process.
"She would come in when there was only the framing up and there were holes in the walls, but she would know exactly where her room was and would want to show people around," he smiles.
"Etta helped pick all the colours and things too! She was just so excited when we came here and it was all done, because in our old house she was just in the small spare room."
The couple have spent their entire lives renting and were previously living in a small property in Auckland's Mt Albert before their dream home on the Te Atatu Peninsula was finished.
Stepping inside the couple's picturesque new home for our Woman's Day photo shoot, it's hard to imagine the blood, sweat and tears that went on behind the scenes of this calm and artistic home.
In fact, Oliver and Ella spent an agonising three years waiting to start building while they dealt with the legalities and costs around subdividing the land they bought.
"It's not mortgage payments that are stopping people from buying houses right now – it's the huge deposits," explains Oliver.
"We spent years and years and years saving ours.
"But once we had the land, it was the planning that took the longest time. It's insane, dealing with the council and that whole side of it – it was super-hard and there were times when we wanted to give up."
For Ella, 33, her career and talents as an events manager and set designer surprisingly ended up adding to the challenge when it came to designing and decorating.
"I execute other people's visions so often in my career – I'm hired to make people's ideas look good," she tells.
"So it was weird to walk into an empty space and go, 'Well, what are your ideas and what do you like?'
"It's quite an unusual way to think about me as a client! It's a lot of pressure to get it right and to know you have to live with it and think about what you could have done, especially with all the limitless options."
But Oliver insists without his wife – whom he met at a party almost six years ago – he would have been lost, as she was the driving force behind the home design.
"She would come home with paint samples – four different shades of white – and ask me what I thought. I had no idea," he laughs.
Their home is sprinkled with art in every corner, from statues made of shells that Ella thrifted, to extravagant statement art on the walls – even their television sitting above their bookshelf is disguised as a piece of art when it's turned off!
"The living room is my favourite room in the house," reveals Oliver. "It's where we spend 99% of our time, but it's also because it's such an amazing family space.
"This whole process has been such a challenge, but sitting here looking at what we've accomplished, it's pretty special. We honestly didn't think this would ever happen but here we are!"

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