A moment with Jess Brittan on renovating an historic hall and life with their new addition; Stevie
In early 2016 Jess and her husband Warren moved into their first home. They were ecstatic, even though it was as far from a conventional home as you could almost get. They‘d purchased a historic hall in central Auckland, New Zealand and at just shy of 110 years old it was in need of a lot of TLC. They soon set out in their dream of converting it into a family home.
3 years later and with a gorgeous new baby girl named Stevie to add to the family, we decided to speak with Jess and find out how things are going as a new mum all whilst renovating their dream house.
So, your renovating a historic hall. That’s a huge project to take on that only some would dream of. What was your main desire to purchase the hall and renovate it the way you have?
Converting a character building into a home has always been a dream of mine but not something I ever thought would be a reality, that was until the opportunity was before us back in late 2015. When we saw it for sale around the corner from where we rented at the time we thought there was no harm in popping by the open home and checking it out, probably just being a bit nosey more than anything! We fell in love with it and figured we would put our best foot forward with an offer, fully expecting to be rejected, yet here we are!
Adding to your family was always on the cards, how have you found the time to juggle being a mum, renovating and having a life all at the same time?
Renovating and hall-planning has definitely taken a backseat, which we both expected. I’m off work focusing on Stevie and my life revolves around her. I love being a mum. Once I fully surrendered to life with a baby and accepted that it’s nearly impossible to get anything else done during the day, I felt lighter and less guilty about not being ‘productive’. I think being a parent is one of the most important jobs in the world and one i feel very privileged to be doing. Although there are challenging moments, raising Stevie has been a dream so far! She’s only 4 months old, so check back in with me when she’s 2 years old and i’m sure I will be singing a different tune!
We are loving how you are keeping the historic values of the hall. Where do you gather your ideas and inspiration from for the design?
Thank you, honoring the history of the building is really important to us -- in our view that’s what makes it special so we work hard to preserve it. The design inspiration for all of the work we have done so far came from years of me dreaming, travelling and life in general, as well as hours drooling over Pinterest and Instagram -- both excellent sources of design inspiration (as long as you can avoid distraction!). The next stage of more serious renovations have been a collaborative approach working with our wonderful architects Dorrington Atcheson Architects. We have some very exciting work planned for the future.
What were your must have items/design specs for your nursery?
I had lots of fun making a nursery in our room for Stevie. I did try to be real with myself though -- Stevie wasn’t going to give two hoots about having a pretty nursery, as long as she had a full belly and lots of love! My advice is to keep it simple and shop secondhand where you can (having a baby is an expensive time in life!). We love having handmade things and hand me downs from Stevie’s family, it makes the space feel really personal and less like a staged home.
My must-haves are a classic cot as this will be the anchor in the room (ours was super reasonably priced from Ikea), a great print for the walls (I recommend browsing Society6), a nest (ours is Snuggle Me Organic but there are some excellent kiwi brands too), a few super soft wool or cotton throws (Nature Baby, Farmers, H&M Home), a change table that is the right height for you (your back will thank me) I bought drawers and put a change mat on top so it doubles as her clothing storage and lastly a big green plant to add life to the space.
Breastfeeding is a crazy, challenging, loving moment. What’s your favourite room in the house to feed from and is there anything you must have while feeding?
It really is. It is such a beautiful moment between just mum and bub. I love feeding Stevie so much and cherish that time we share. I’m happy to feed her anywhere but our bedroom is my favourite spot. It’s the most comfortable place and i enjoy looking out the window watching the weather go by.
When i started breastfeeding I was sure i wouldn’t need all of the fussy pillows, etc. but I have done a 180 and now one of my must-haves is my Growbright feeding pillow, it helps me relax and avoid back and neck pain. Also key is a good reusable water bottle (that you can open with one hand), snacks, a blanket, spill cloth and wireless bluetooth headphones and a good audiobook!
More about Jess…
Favourite food in the whole wide world?
Furthest place in the world you have travelled and where would you love to visit next?
Probably Morocco. I would love to visit South Africa. Warren’s family immigrated from there when we was a toddler, so it would be great to visit and take Stevie.
I don’t have one, but yellow makes me smile.
Favourite item of clothing?
A dress that Warren’s grandma, Gigi, gave to me that she handmade as a young woman from a beautiful floral cotton material she bought from Liberty in London. I made a few fit alterations and managed to make a little outfit for Stevie with the salvaged material too! It is lovely knowing it will be enjoyed and cherished by generations to come.