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The Forest Cantina _ Dining _ lounge ren


our home 


Our buying story was the perfect alignment of things happening at just the right time, and because of this, I got that "it's meant to be" gut feeling right from the start. That being said though, I never expected it would happen so soon, that we would go from the discussion of saving for a deposit to buying our first home only three months later! It began when we were on holiday in Bali (September 2017), where we had one of those guilty discussions while being holiday extravagant; "So, when we get home, let's get proper serious, like serious serious, about saving for a house!". Note: I'm a naturally talented spender...saving has never been my forte! 

Only a few hours after returning from that Bali holiday, an email appeared in my inbox from HannaH of Mortgage Mates. She had read the two articles about my cookbooks in Homestyle magazine where editor Alice Lines honestly mentioned we were renting. At the time I felt like "I must be the only person featured in this magazine still renting!", but knew there would be so many people like us and that it might be refreshing for people to read. Now, I couldn't be more grateful for that honesty as it's part of our house buying story. Hannah reached out and explained that she and her husband Brent were mortgage brokers and are passionate about helping first time home buyers get into the property market. What struck me from those initial emails was that we might not need a 20% deposit and that they would first try the applications with 10%. I think for a lot of us New Zealanders and first home buyers, it isn't necessarily the mortgage repayments that are stopping us from buying, it's having the capital for the deposit to get our foot in the door. 

We looked for one week on TradeMe and went to only one open home before we soon realized we actually really loved the house we had been renting for the last seven years. It feels like home. It's private, surrounded by native bush and large established trees - we have no curtains it's that private, and from every room all you see is green! And over the last seven years, we have created so many incredible memories here. So, I first had to do a bit of investigating/online stalking to find our landlords details so that I could get in touch to see if he was interested in selling. We
had property managers whom we dealt with so I had only met him once before, knowing only his first name and that he had an accent. Within 20 minutes of hitting send on that first email, the first time I had ever been in touch with him personally, we got a reply. A week later he offered what we thought was the deal of a lifetime, much lower than we expected and about $100K under our top limit - so we said yes with no negotiating!

Once we had a price we had to get all the paperwork prepared for the bank. Because we are both self-employed it could have been slightly tricky, but luckily we both use Xero and have good accountants which gave us a smooth paper trail. Brent from Mortage Mates was like a good friend with expert advice all the way and I was so appreciative of everything he did for us during this experience. First he tried to get us a mortgage with a 10% deposit (what we had), but that was declined by several banks. He then tried for 15%, and we knew that extra 5% was going to be a struggle to find. We finally got just ONE bank (our bank) to say yes to a 15% deposit and again, with Brent's help and advice we scrambled the last 5% together just in time, after pushing out the settlement date once already. Just five days before Christmas we went unconditional! One of those extremely happy, and euphoric moments I will forever remember...that moment we brought our first home. WE DID IT! 

We would not have been homeowners right now if HannaH had not have reached out, we honestly thought we were years off! If you are looking to buy, like us, you may be there sooner than you think. If you are are needing help getting there, you can get in touch with them via their website, or on Instagram @mortgagematesnz


our House buying story 

house details


  • Location: Lower Hutt, Wellington 

  • House size: 90m2 ('cosy')

  • Land size: 830m2 (big for Wellington!)

  • Decade built: 1940's 

  • Bedrooms: 3 

  • Unconditional on: 20th December 2017

future renovation plans 


In black are the changes we are still to make. As we finish each of these rooms, I will update this renovations section with 'reveals' including all the details and images.


  • Fireplace (not in use as we have a heat pump) and small corner window to be removed. This is to allow the use of a table in this area as we couldn't put one there before because of the fireplace hearth. Having the dining table here means it is right next to the kitchen - a good flow for the house and space  

  • New wallpaper feature to be added to this new dining wall 

  • Old hallway door (not used), in the corner of the lounge, to be removed 

  • New dining table to be made custom made (by Aaron) to fit the space and to double as my 'studio surface' I photograph on. Aaron to weld the steel white frame finished with a laminated ply/melamine surface as the top

  • Walls insulated

  • Floors insulated (and throughout the entire house) 

  • Floors sanded and painted gloss white to make the space appear larger and lighter 

  • To create a bigger living area with indoor/outdoor flow, we want to add a large double glazed bi-fold door to replace an existing large window with a deck coming off. 



  • Front door painted gloss black

  • Keyless lock system installed, having key cards to get in as well as own personal pin numbers. No more locking keys inside! 

  • Front entrance room (not used for anything functional) to be turned into an ensuite for the master bedroom

  • A new window to fit the smaller space

  • Old door frame (entrance to the lounge) to be removed so that it looks like a continuous wall as opposed to an old door framer. Plastered and painted 

  • Coat hooks and shoe storage to be added to the new space


  • Archway and diving wall to be removed to open the space up so that the kitchen, dining and living areas were open, making the space feel bigger.

  • Full demo on old kitchen saving rimu to repurpose for new bench tops and floating shelves 

  • Large kitchen window to be stripped back and sanded to original rimu underneath. New hardware added to the window

  • Custom 4-meter bench (with 1-meter waterfall) for the main surface in the kitchen, tiled in square mosaics

  • Large "concrete look" floor tiles to be added to two walls, lined with hardies first to hold the weight

  • Painting and plastering on retaining walls in the kitchen 

  • New coving through the kitchen (and lounge) 

  • New pantry to be added using the larger wardrobe from the bedroom behind (and new wardrobe coming when the hot water cylinder cupboard gets taken out), with cavity slider door

  • Caity slider to replace the old kitchen door to save space 

  • 6x floating shelves using repurposed rimu from the old kitchen with bars under bottom shelf with "butcher hook" storage

  • Cupboards and draw carcasses are "off the shelf" with custom rimu tops and customized handles

  • A new island created with 8 drawer storage

  • Extractor/range hood to be put in (there was none in the last kitchen) with a custom box built around, plastered and painted

  • All new appliances, dishwasher, new oven and gas cooktop 

  • Floors sanded and painted a gloss white to make the space appear larger and lighter 

  • New breakfast bar (part of the tiled mosaic bench) with a rimu slat finish underneath 

  • New lighting, both feature lights and smaller inbuilt lights above the main bench 

  • Windows to be double glazed (Aary going to have a go at this himself, fingers crossed!) 



  • To be built first before the main bathroom, so that we have a bathroom to use when the main bathroom is being renovated 

  • Tiled floors and walls 

  • Plastering and painting ceiling

  • Underfloor heating 

  • Cavity slider door to save on space 

  • Tiled walk-in shower with frosted glass door

  • Vanity with storage for toiletries, makeup, hair dryer etc

  • Toilet in

  • New window in 

  • Solar tube skylight 

  • All new plumbing 

  • + council consent for a new bathroom 


  • Full demo

  • Re-configuration of the space to allow a better flow 

  • Fully tiled, walls & floors

  • Painting + plastering ceiling 

  • Underfloor heating 

  • New toilet, bath, and vanity

  • Fully tiled shower with frosted glass door

  • 1 x window out for more wall space for the new vanity unit 

  • Solar tube skylight in 

  • Cavity slider in to allow for more space 


  • Clear light roofing replaced 

  • Ranch slider replaced

  • Replace rotten weatherboard and door sill 

  • Better storage 

  • Paint, plastered and potentially tiled



  • Built in wardrobe and storage area in master bedroom 

  • Carpet up and floors done in master bedroom 

  • New paint & plaster in all rooms

  • All windows to be double glazed 

  • 2nd bedroom storage/wardrobe re-configured to allow for more space

  • All windows stripped and sanded back to original rimu 

  • New wardrobe added in 3rd bedroom (old wardrobe is now the new kitchen pantry and the new wardrobe will be next to this where the old hot water cylinder cupboard is), new window in and cavity slider door added to create more space.


  • New sleepout to be built for Jah with a mezzanine sleeping floor

  • Ranch slider, double glazed 

  • Double glazed windows 

  • Under 10sqm so no consent needed


  • Landscaped so that the "play area" is flatter and wider 

  • HUGE new deck

  • Fence front yard 

  • House painted - exterior 

  • New roof - concrete tile at the moment. Wanting to change to colour steel to take weight loading off the house 

  • Fruit trees planted 


  • Studio/guest house/music room/office to be added on top of the garage 






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