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A lakeside New Zealand home hosts a cosy Christmas gathering

After two years of renovating, Cottonwood & Co designer Nicki Dobrzynski and her family are counting their blessings in their dream cottage.
Lakeside New Zealand Home Dining NookPhotography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski

When interior designer Nicki Dobrzynski and her husband, Chris, finished their first renovation they swore they’d never live in a home during a project again. But skip ahead to 2023 and they’re wrapping up their fourth live-in renovation. “You go into them thinking they’ll be smaller but they snowball,” admits Nicki.

Lakeside New Zealand Home Blue Striped Lounge
The family dog and third child, Bailey, waits patiently for his Christmas breakfast of ham and scrambled eggs. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)

Who lives here?

Nicki Dobrzynski, an interior designer and photographer; her husband Chris, who works in property, their children, Eva, 10, and Jake, six; and Bailey the Rhodesian Ridgeback.

What makes a great home? Nicki: “A home that functions well, that makes you feel good, safe and happy.”

Christmas decorating style? “I love the way Americans decorate though I don’t go as far as Chevy Chase [in ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’]. I love garlands and fairy lights. I add what the kids make.”

How do you spend the summer? “Entertaining at home and hanging out with friends by the lake. We go biking, hiking and camping.”

Lakeside New Zealand Home Christmas Tree
Eva and Jake count the presents under the real Douglas Fir tree. Engineered Fumed Oak flooring from Haro Flooring is paired with board and batten wall panelling. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)

The latest project was a dream come true for the couple and their children, Eva, 10, and Jake, six, who had hoped to move to New Zealand for years then took the plunge in 2021, when they found a home with potential in a lakeside town on the South Island.

Dining area

While the interior dining area isn’t often used for hosting due to its humble size, the space is still filled with character and cheer. A scalloped rattan pendant light from Ivory & Deene hangs above the dining table, that’s clad in a Julia Amory tablecloth reminiscent of candy canes with its red and white swirls. Teal and white embroidered napkins from Maison Margaux add a cooling contrast.

Antique Gien plates decorate the walls, fitting perfectly between the board and batten panelling. “I’ve done a lot of V-groove cladding in other projects so I wanted something a bit different,” says Nicki. Elsewhere, touches of nature, such as a bouquet from The Joy Farmer in Wanaka and pinecone decorations from Pottery Barn, give organic appeal.

Lakeside New Zealand Home Dining Nook
The rattan frame of the Vincent Sheppard ‘Sydney’ dining chairs from Cotswold InOut Furniture adds texture to the space. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)
Lakeside New Zealand Home Christmas Food
Ham and cheese croissants are served for Christmas brunch. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)


“The home was liveable but not in a great shape,” says Nicki. Built 20 or so years ago, it had never been renovated and so the carpets were worse for wear and the kitchen was covered in purple laminate. “It didn’t have much character,” says Nicki. “But it had natural light and big windows. I thought ‘I’m going to decorate the heck out of it’.” And so the fourth renovation began.

For many families, Christmas revolves around the kitchen and for Nicki it’s no different. “Christmas is always centred around food in our house,” says Nicki. “With my husband’s family from Poland, our celebration starts on Christmas Eve with traditional festivities and a feast called Wigilia. We then do it all again on Christmas Day but a bit more relaxed in Aussie and Kiwi style.”

Lakeside New Zealand Home Blue Kitchen
There are accents of brass in the Perrin & Rowe brass kitchen mixer, the DeVol pot rail and the displayed pans. Tapware from In Residence. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)

The space is an idyllic country cottage kitchen. Shaker-style cabinets, island panels and a statement rangehood, all finished in Resene Destiny, look charming beside vintage plates from Rustication. Black honed granite benchtops are sleek and practical.

Lakeside New Zealand Home Kitchen Benchtop
An oak island benchtop and vintage bamboo kitchen stools, upholstered in Jane Churchill fabric, add warmth. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)

Careful not to make the move too tumultuous for the children, the couple took a slow approach. “The focus was to make sure everyone felt happy and settled,” says Nicki, “living life and then tweaking the reno as we go.” But in-demand tradespeople, material shortages and shipping delays slowed the process down even more.

Eight months passed before the kitchen was installed, which meant their first Christmas in the home was entirely reliant on the barbecue. Thankfully, after two years, the majority of the work is complete.

Lakeside New Zealand Home Champagne Ham
Nicki’s champagne ham, cooked with her orange marmalade nut glaze, sits atop the Cluny 1000 cooker in black, from La Maison France’s Lacanche range. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)

Opening up interior walls to create an open-plan living, dining and kitchen area has improved the flow of the space while insulation has added soundproofing and warmth. Foregoing a walk-in robe allowed for a more spacious ensuite, with built-in joinery in the main bedroom providing all the wardrobe space the couple needs.

Lakeside New Zealand Home Lounge With Dog
Bailey has claimed a comfortable spot on the blue and white striped Molmic ‘Sherman’ sofa. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)

For the interiors, Nicki has introduced a touch of East Coast American blues, a kitchen inspired by English cottages and board and batten cladding on the walls for country Kiwi character.

Main bedroom

An East Coast colour palette is given a cottage touch in this room with board and batten wainscoting. Sisal carpet from Artisan Collective New Zealand provides a neutral base, with antique art and bedside table drawing out the brown tones. Wallpaper from Soane Britain, Visual Comfort wall lights in a custom fabric made by Nicki and a bed quilt from Etsy all provide cooling colours.

Lakeside New Zealand Home Bedside Table 3
(Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)

Eva’s bedroom

Muted pinks add feminine flair in the Wallace Cotton bedlinen and Sanderson wallpaper, available through Artisan Collective New Zealand. A bedside table from The Bronte Tram shop meshes well with the custom bedhead.

Lakeside New Zealand Home Bedside Table 2
A pleated polka dot shade from Pooky is Eva’s bedside wall light. In the festive season, the fitting is adorned with red bows and fir tree boughs. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)
Lakeside New Zealand Home Bedside Table Wall Light
A snow globe sits on Eva’s bedside table. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)


The ensuite feels luxurious with marble floor tiles from Tilemax and VJ boards finished in Resene Norwester. “The interiors were inspired by the teal waters of Lake Wanaka and the Clutha River,” says Nicki. Beyond is the entrance to the main bedroom, with a pleated stripe sconce shade from Alice Palmer & Co.

Lakeside New Zealand Home Door
(Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)

We love… decorative lights

While wall lights serve a practical purpose, providing a softer form of task lighting that doesn’t take up space on the bedside table, they also present an opportunity to add details. “I had a bit of fun with textiles and colour,” shares Nicki.

Lakeside New Zealand Home Wall Light
A wall light illuminates the entrance to the main bedroom, clad in an Alice Palmer & Co pleated lampshade. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)

With three bedrooms and two bathrooms, the home is humble but Nicki wouldn’t want to be anywhere else for Christmas. Hosting family and friends, especially on Christmas Eve in recognition of Chris’s Polish heritage, is blissful. “Our dining area isn’t that big but we have an outdoor table that seats 12 people,” says Nicki. “We eat delicious food, hang out in the backyard.”

“In the summer, the sun doesn’t go down until late. We’re surrounded by acreage. We sit outside. It’s lovely.”

Lakeside New Zealand Home Outdoor Dining Area
Placemats from Flamingo Rd Homewares and black woven Vincent Sheppard chair from Cotswolds InOut Furniture. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)

“Living by the lake is a huge part of our lives now, the lifestyle of kayaking, swimming and eating picnic food,” says Nicki. Christmas is the most wonderful time but now that they’re living the dream of a cottage home in New Zealand, the family feels joyful year-round. “I’ve loved creating this bright, happy family home.”

Lakeside New Zealand Home Floral Table Setting
Hunter and Gatherer Collections striped napkins. Rattan is used throughout for a tactile element, with candle holders from Suzie Anderson Home. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)

Outdoor dining

Seating up to 12 people, the outdoor dining area is Nicki’s preferred space for entertaining. “I was inspired by the lake for the design of the home,” explains Nicki, who incorporated the reds, blues and greens she saw in her natural surrounds into her table setting. The custom-made tablecloth, created from Inchyra Scottish linen, is a perfect example of these hues coming together.

Lakeside New Zealand Home Christmas Ham On Table
The Christmas ham is ready to be devoured. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)

Nicki’s generous pavlova is presented on an Aerin platter from Williams Sonoma. White plates and bowls from Pottery Barn, Jean Dubost Laguiole white and silver cutlery, and William Yeoward wine glasses complete the tableau.

Lakeside New Zealand Home Christmas Table Setting
You can’t have Christmas without pavlova. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)

“Christmas is a time to be with family and to be grateful for what we have.”

Lakeside New Zealand Home Mince Pies
Freshly baked mince pies made by White Rabbit Cakes in Wanaka are served with fresh sprigs of festive trees. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)

A Christmas feast of champagne ham and potato salad looks picturesque by candlelight. With the sun setting well after 9pm in the summer months, Nicki and her loved ones can relax by the table, drinking and eating into the night as they gaze at the surrounding mountains. After two years, Nicki and her family are certainly reaping the rewards of their hard work. “I just get a lot of joy from the house,” says Nicki.

Lakeside New Zealand Home Christmas Table Setting Night
A delicious meal to linger over well after the sun has set. (Photography & styling: Nicki Dobrzynski)

Design: Cottonwood & Co, cottonwoodandco.com.
Joinery: Joinery Specialists, joineryspecialists.nz.

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