Buying guide

When a home stager sells her stylish Nelson home

When a home stager sells their home you can expect the wow factor. Ana Stevenson’s Nelson villa delivers.

Last updated: 4 September 2023

When a home stager sells their home you can expect it to have plenty of the wow factor, and Ana Stevenson’s double fronted Nelson villa in the town’s historical area of Nile Street delivers.

The owner of Open Home Ready and her husband Johnny bought the house in the heart of Nelson’s old town over two years ago and have spent lavishly to bring it back to its former glory, and then some. The rebuild brought the Group C listed building back to its bones, because it’s what it deserved, says Ana. 

This is the fourth villa the interior designer has bought and done up and she wanted to do a thorough job with Nile Street as their forever home. A sign of success was the villa featured in NZ House & Garden earlier this year.

When she bought the 240 sq m 1895 double bay villa, the previous owners had all had a go at changing the house but Ana wanted to redo things from scratch which she did. “It had a nice big hallway, but then it was a bit of a rabbit warren with lower stud ceilings,” she says. The villa has 3.3 m stud ceilings throughout now.

The local designer has given the pretty villa new electrics, plumbing and new wall linings. It’s a three bedroom, three bathroom home but there’s also a garden office or fourth bedroom plus a loft style studio or garage with sleeping above. 

“And it’s the warmest house I’ve ever lived in,” says Ana. All the sash windows are now double glazed and there’s ducted underfloor heating, which she keeps on all day at around 18 or 20 degrees. She also likes to have the back bi-fold doors open off the rear open plan living area.  

The interior designer, who has a fashion background, has added some new features to the property, putting in arches throughout the house to frame certain areas, even the shower in one bathroom. A lover of all things Italian, Ana has added an Italian door knocker to the front door, and in the kitchen and scullery, Italian granite tiles. The floor tiles, rather than being black and white, are putty and charcoal colours inspired by bakeries and butchers she has seen in Italy.

The special touches a home stager has given her villa

You might expect that a home stager would have some of her regular home staging pieces when putting their own property up for sale, but no. All the pieces in the home are hers, and they’re either high end or vintage, says Ana. 

The master suite, which is the highlight of the home, enjoys the double bay windows of the front of the property. The home stager installed a vintage antique sideboard in there that the builders hung on the wall after chopping off the feet and there’s a chandelier from Eclectic,. It’s all bespoke, explains Ana.

The home stager would admit she got a bit carried away on the extensive renovation. She ended up having to sell a Bill Hammond work to pay for the over-spend, she laughs, but she thinks it’s been worth it. 

She wouldn't be surprised if overseas buyers snap up the home. An American family were looking at the villa soon after it coming to the market on 25 August.

The new owners will have options to use the property as luxury accommodation (there’s an outdoor bath surrounded by bamboo and banana plants) and the main suite at the front of the house, which Ana describes as “the super star”, would be the natural space for paying guests. There’s also another guest suite out the back which you can access without going through the house.

It might appeal to some to use the property for a boutique law firm, as has happened in a nearby property. She could also see an architect using the garage space as their studio, and it’s an ideal place to exhibit art, says Ana. 

At the same time, she and her family have just enjoyed the house as a fantastic home to live in. “With all its multiple uses, it would make a wonderful home which is how we have lived in it, with kids, teenagers, grandchildren and super easy family/social gatherings of up to 40 people,” says Ana. 

The home is lock ‘n leave, she adds, because it’s in such a secure location. “I call the Cathedral grounds my lawn, it’s my dog’s park.”

Ana says they’re selling because her husband has more he wants to do and, as an Italophile, she wants to spend more time in Italy so the couple will downsize for their next home.

When open homes don’t work for a luxury property

Bayleys agent Liz Woodall is marketing the property and says she’s doing viewings by appointment only, not open homes. Otherwise, everybody in Nelson would be going through the house to get ideas for their next bathroom.

The agent says she’s seeing interest from out-of-town, especially Auckland, and she’s sure some will come from Wellington. She will also be marketing internationally. The options to close off parts of the house if required will appeal to a wide variety of buyers, she thinks. And, handily, there’s a website all set up for Airbnb,, if the new owners want to do luxury accommodation.

“You’ve got the Cathedral beside you, it’s near Trafalgar Street and all the best bits of town, and it’s really green around there,” says Liz.

The price is relatively high for Nelson, enquiries are set at over $2.5 million, but nothing needs to be done, Ana has sourced all the best features and fittings, says the agent. “It’s old and new perfectly poised together,” says Liz.