Erena Te Paa — the DIY muse we all need in our lives

Written by Bea Taylor

Erena Te Paa is the queen of do it yourself. But don’t think the crafty kind; sheets of coloured paper, glitter and fluffy baubles. No, Erena’s the real deal and proof that it can look just right.

“I grew up loving arts and crafts and have always been drawn to making something or upcycling,” she says. “Part of that stems from working within a tight budget and having to be more creative.” With an unflinching can-do attitude and an eye for graceful contemporary style, Erena creates items that fit seamlessly in her mid-century-meets-modern-elegance home. “I’m forever inspired by the things I see offline and in everyday life; the shape of a building, the cobbles on a footpath or an interesting pattern on a piece of fabric,” she says.

Among the raft of ideas and possible projects that are dreamed up, what brings a potential DIY job over the line is simple; “I have two small children and time is squeezed, so I assess a project on whether it is something that I can do easily using tools I have at home and also, perhaps, more importantly, I need to believe that the end result of the piece is worth investing my time and energy into,” Erena explains.

“I think anything you do yourself is always going to have an element of mystery and trial and error to it, but as you are in control of the materials and the process of how it takes shape, it will naturally evolve in a way you might not have imagined but that you are still very happy with.”

So, with this wisdom to guide you, take a scroll through some of Erena’s projects (that’s right, these are things she did herself) to see where DIY can take you.

erena te paa

The lamp

As bad luck goes, the tale of this lamp is well up there (but don’t worry, it has a fairytale ending *spoilers*).

“I broke this lamp base the same day I acquired it,” says Erena. “I had poorly packed it into the boot of my car, so naturally when I opened the boot, it rolled out straight onto the pavement and smashed.” It would be easy to despair and bemoan the loss of this Trade Me treasure, but that’s just not Erena’s style. The smashed porcelain at her feet still had potential.

She meticulously glued all the broken pieces back together. “It was like doing a jigsaw puzzle without a clear reference,” she says. After the pieces were somewhat put together, she plastered it to fill in the missing pieces, sanded for a smooth — but imperfect — finish and then sprayed it with a sealant protector.

erena te paa

The sofa cushion

Where most would see the need for a cushion on the couch and take a trip to the shops, Erena grabs an old bolster cushion, paint rollers and a sample dress to create something utterly unique. “I wanted to make sure the cushion felt custom and connected to the quirky style of the couch,” she says.

Taking an old bolster cushion that was sitting on her bed she halved it and sewed a cover out of an old sample dress. How to attach it to the sofa was a sticking point, her original concept of securing it with a fabric strap didn’t give her the look she was after.

“I knew paint rollers had a very specific shape, so I tried it for size and that was that.” she says.

erena te paa

Rounded vanity

This rounded vanity started off life as a three-tiered laminate shelf (something you’d expect to see in your nan’s home). Erena added MDF to the top and around the front, plastered and painted it white and attached wheels to the bottom.

Now, it acts as the perfect, functional place for storing items and avoiding clutter (Erena can just roll it out from the wall to access the shelves hidden in the back).

erena te paa

Arched shelf

Originally with glass shelves and a square bottom, Erena transformed this second-hand display cabinet into bespoke, open shelving for her bedroom.

“I loved the idea of a recessed shelf built into the concrete fire surround, but the work involved in that was a step too far for me. Then I saw this shelf for sale and it inspired the idea to add it to the concrete surround but finish it so that it would look like it had always belonged,” says Erena.

With help from her father in law, she boxed it out with MDF, installed it on the concrete fire surround and spent many hours plastering and painting.

erena te paa

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