Inspired by her Japanese heritage, Auckland artist Maiko Nagao’s style is full of flowing figures and neutral, natural floral patterns. She and her husband, Mike Irvine, completed two renovations on their first home, a 1940s brick bungalow, to make room for their growing family – they have two sons, Kaito, 6, and Zenn, 1. – and make the most of their private part.
She spoke to Stuff about her house as part of our podcast, First echelon: Reno 101 – listen to the full episode by pressing play above.
Maiko Nagao: I’ve been painting and doing things since I was two or three years old. My mom always said she would give me a roll of duct tape, and I used it in a day because I was constantly doing things.
I was born in Japan and came to New Zealand when I was seven. I use a Japanese charcoal ink called suni and have always loved using it because we have always had it at home.
My mom was doing Japanese calligraphy so I think that’s my inspiration. I’m inspired by Japanese simplicity and minimalism – playing with those expressive thick and thin brushstrokes, and lots of white space.
After our wedding we moved to Brunei. My husband was a teacher and for three years I did not work. I was a little lost. Then I said, ‘You know what, Mike? I’m going to buy more brushes and paints and canvases, and I’m just going to give it a try. I started my Instagram account, and it all took off from there. It’s been five or six years now.
I follow the trends in a certain way, in terms of color, or if it’s flowers, or if it’s faces. But when I create, I create art for myself, my home and my children.
My son Kaito loves sea animals, so I do lots and lots of sea animals. I also did a lot of typography. Usually the words are for my sons, like “it’s cool to be nice”. So a lot of inspiration comes from our home and our family.
My ultimate favorite piece of art right now is my manuka flower print. It hangs over our kitchen. I love manuka, because it’s native to New Zealand of course, but it’s also the manuka oil that we use in our care. Then there is the beautiful flower, which looks like the cherry blossom. I love it.
My personal style uses a lot of terracotta and natural colors. Lots of texture – be it woven rugs or baskets, or I have a lot of half dowels on the wall [in the living room], and in my kitchen too.
I really like vintage and a lot of recycled furniture. My mom loves collecting vintage items, which she sometimes gives me if I’m lucky. I just spent the last week recycling old vases. I follow the trends, but I wouldn’t call [how we decorate] a style. We just fill our house with things we love.
I think you can make the decor work with a limited palette. The colors of nature always work, be it terracotta, sage green, oatmeal or wood and cane tones with brass, as we have in our kitchen.
We bought our house about three and a half years ago. It is a brick house, art deco and nothing has been done. I think they may have installed a new kitchen in the 80s or 90s, but that was about it.
The bathroom was terrible, the food was terrible.
We spent about $ 12,000 – that was all we really had – to do our first renovation, and we stuck with what was there. We painted the cabinets ourselves, changed the drawer handles, and used adhesive vinyl to cover the ugly green tiles. We did all the sanding of the floor ourselves. And in fact, we loved it. So that was the number one renovation.
This [2021 reno] was renovation number two, which was an extension. We installed a new dining / kitchen / living room and terrace, and we used a black Coloursteel coating.
So now we have an old part of 1947, and then we have the new section 2021, where we tried to fit it in a bit. It’s a pretty nice contrast.
The front steps have these nice curves, so we thought, “OK, we really need to focus on that”. In the new rooms we have introduced curves: our kitchen is curved, the master bathroom, our tub and our vanity are curved.
I designed the vanity in collaboration with Personalized space, a custom design and carpentry company. It’s a solid oak top, and it really makes our bathroom. The bathroom is one of my favorite rooms in the house, actually. I love, I love, I love this vanity.
We spent most of our money on our renovation. This is why I did a lot of DIY and recycling because I think you can make a beautiful, stylish home on a budget if you are a little creative.
During confinement, it kept me sane. It was kind of nice to have this time to get creative.
I recycled the vases, and I also made two small coffee tables. I used PVC pipe as the feet. It cost me $ 50 to be able to create this, and I love it. Sometimes I sit and watch him.
Hear more from Maiko Nagao, and other inspiring renovators, on Tier 1: Reno 101. Hit play below, or download and subscribe here.