Five years ago, Cameron Nimmo purchased an old Oamaru villa with the view to convert it into his home. And he’s been on an adventure ever since, renovating the early 1900s home to his specifications, while taking care to preserve its heritage. Rebecca Ryan takes a tour.
For Cameron Nimmo, a passion and knack for DIY is helping him to transform a 1909 villa to its former glory – and get his foot on the property ladder.
It all started five years ago in Mr Nimmo’s search for his first home.
“I’d been looking for a while – I wanted high ceilings, a character home, but not one that had been stripped too far back,” Mr Nimmo said.
The Avon St villa was a solid house, in a good location, the previous owners had been kind to it – and he wanted a restoration project.
“I wouldn’t say I wanted a project this big, but it’s turned out this big,” he said.
“But once you get into it, you may as well do it once, do it properly and that’s it done.”
Documenting his progress on Instagram (@avonvillaoamaru), Mr Nimmo is slowly but surely adding charm, character and love back into the space, and unearthing detail that was hidden years ago.
The master bedroom is almost completed, windows have been stripped back and repainted, the timber floors have been restored to their former glory and the kitchen and one of two bathrooms are finished.
Once the plumbing is done, and the other two bedrooms lined and gib stopped, he hopes to move in.
“The kitchen and bathroom were the first priorities so it could be liveable.
“Then I just got really carried away with the rest and the [move in] date slowly pushed out, but it’s getting closer now.”
He has changed the floor plan in places – the kitchen has moved, a bedroom has been converted into a laundry and bathroom, a hallway was replaced by a walk-in pantry and a front bedroom will be a formal living room instead.
“The view was too good to waste on a bedroom,” he said.
He has also removed all wall linings to fully-insulate the house and restored a coloured glass panel in a living room door to its days of grandeur.
“Somebody had smashed out all the glass and the bars so it was just one big [clear] pane, but when I was under the veranda there were bits of [the coloured] glass down there. So I’ve matched the original glass to how it was.”
Mr Nimmo is a shearer by trade and has been restoring the villa around his work.
“I pretty much work all year round. Short days I’ll come here, and on some weekends, days off,” he said.
Shearing takes him around the world – he usually spends about two to three months a year overseas.
He has already done a month in America this year, and he will head back in September and again in February 2020.
Shearing overseas was a nice break from the restoration work, and has helped to fund it.
“You need a break when you’re doing something like this, otherwise you do get so sick of it,” he said.
Mr Nimmo was born and raised in rural North Otago and after leaving St Kevin’s College, took a gap year in South Africa, where he worked at a private preparatory school.
When he returned to New Zealand, he worked on the family farm before being introduced to shearing.
He said there was good money to be made in shearing – and he has invested it his in his house. He has also cut costs where possible – importing William Morris wallpaper from the UK, rather than from a New Zealand supplier, and picking up period furniture such as wardrobes, bedheads, dining tables and couches at auctions in Dunedin.
“Some things need a bit of work, but you still save so much money,” he said.
The 28-year-old does not consider himself an expert in design, but he knows what he wants.
“There’s a vision and it’s just a case of saving up and moving forward with that,” he said.
He planned to be mortgage-free by the time he was 30 – but then he bought the house next door.
“And this project wasn’t meant to take this long,” he said.
The restoration has been all-consuming – he has had to take a break from multisport, and would like to get back into mountain biking.
“Once this is done, getting a decent social life would be all right,” he said.
But he is enjoying the process – especially putting the finishing touches on rooms.