Stable springboard to new career

Mellanie O'Halloran2With two degrees in hand – law and business management – Melanie O’Halloran’s interest in interior design was tugging her in a new direction. But busy with three children and a home-based business she was reluctant to tackle a third degree. Then she heard about the Nanette Cameron School of Interior Design in Auckland. It proved to be a life-changer.

Melanie O’Halloran’s eye for detail, her sense of style and a nose for bargains that look like they cost a lot more than a few dollars look set to make her a very clever interior designer – not to mention her latent talent developed when she undertook a Nanette Cameron interior design course.

“The time factor for Unitec proved impractical and I didn’t want to do online because I felt it was important to interact with other people and talk through ideas,” she says. “Nanette’s course was so well respected and it was also part time. With three children I had to work around the family so I went for it and loved it. The course was fun, interesting and challenging.”

Timing for her qualification couldn’t have been better. Melanie and husband Tim bought a lifestyle property four years ago and included were former stables, a condition of the early subdivision clauses which required the eight estate properties to be economically viable.

“When the land was split up, each property included a requirement to have stables, a mare and a couple of other horses. Over time, conditions changed and most owners now have other forms of income. We grow chestnuts – mostly cared for by WWOOFers (willing workers on organics farms) – and we have a strong pick-your-own season throughout most of April.”

With the stables redundant as a home for horses, Melanie and Tim saw other possibilities – a venue where friends and family could gather for special events and which could also double as an Air B&B or as personal guest accommodation.

The design course under her belt, Melanie set her creative side to work redesigning the 40 square metre space into a luxurious studio unit with en suite.

With a black and grey impact on the colour scheme she has created a robust, industrial loft look with strong emphasis on colour and pattern evident in the en suite’s walk in shower – a geometric splashback in shades of orange, black, grey, mustard and brown, making up one wall.

What is particularly impressive is Melanie’s innovative use of accessories, the result of astute buying and recycling.

“I did a lot of shopping at K Mart for smaller items which didn’t cost a lot but look terrific – whoever is doing their home wares buying is doing a stellar job. I also picked up other gems from the likes of Bed, Bath and Beyond.”

And, indeed, even an experienced eye might find it hard to discern the difference between Melanie’s shrewd purchases and much more expensive items.

However, it is in the kitchen that she has achieved dramatic impact with a polished timber breakfast bar – the rimu slab hand-selected and fibreglass coated at Weka Wood – plus a magnificent recycled fire surround, painted black and mounted on the bench top to frame the black-mirrored splashback then accentuated by brass firedogs.

Mellanie O'Halloran3

On closer look, the dark grey ‘concrete’ bench tops are, in fact, laminate not that you’d know from a distance. Distinctive, diamond-shaped, black wood pendants lights hang from the high ceiling, their pattern duplicated in bracing Melanie designed for the breakfast bar.

Beautifully appointed, the marvel of the greater space is that the queen size bed can fold away leaving a generous party venue if so desired.

And, it all opens to a north-facing, outdoor entertainment area. “I’ve had a lot of pleasure, and fun bringing this together,” admits Melanie but says she has a bigger job ahead when she tackles the family home.

Although she has already re-designed the master bedroom, she may well be pushed for time when it comes to devoting her energies to other rooms.

Not only has Melanie become a colour ambassador for Dulux Paints – “and I’m loving it” – she has also set up her own design business, Uptown Jane Interiors, loosely based on turning a ‘plain Jane’ house into an ‘uptown girl – “or, at least that’s the thought behind it,” she laughs.

With no thought of returning to law, Melanie says she’s just thrilled to be finally working in a domain that has attracted her for such a long time.

“And, really, it’s all thanks to the Nanette Cameron School of Interior Design. Though now retired, Nanette was still teaching during my two years and she was an amazing mentor.

“I learnt such a lot and I intend to do the third optional year at intervals to keep up with changing trends and ideas. Really, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this training to anyone with an interest and flair for re-inventing spaces. It really has put me on a new career pathway.”

By Helen Perry