Many collectors get caught up in focussing on one thing, but you can find some amazing pieces if you stay open-minded. I mean, there’s no denying that mid-century design is fantastic, but having a collection that spans eras and styles makes a home feel a lot warmer. Look at our bathroom: we have an art deco mirror, a 1950s Murano light, and a baroque period mirror all clustered together. It gives the place a real diversity – though sometimes it may feel a bit like a secondhand shop.
Because I don’t look for specific items, it all comes together organically. In my job, certain things sing out to you, but there’s no “wishlist” as such. Pieces generally find me, rather than me finding them. The wooden folk puppet is a good example; it came from the estate of John Perry, a collector who had bought a Helensville movie theatre and then taken out the seats to make space for his collections. I’d never seen anything like it; the theatre was stacked with boxes, and the walls were completely covered with art and all sorts of things. When we were clearing it out, I saw this puppet and thought, “That’s going to be mine.” Out of everything, it just stood out. I’d never heard of the maker, G Hawkes, but I thought it looked lovely and awkward.
I guess we’ve never been about finding famous names, and it’s not about cost either; cheap things can be brilliant. My partner and I bought a fantastic piece at Webb’s from an artist called Scottie Wilson a while back. We’d never heard of him, but after looking him up, we discovered he was born in Scotland and moved to Canada before he became an artist in his mid-40s. He created these incredibly detailed pen drawings, and as it turns out, Picasso was a massive collector of his. A lot of things have a bit of sparkle, and if you find those, you’re sorted.
I admit, though, I’ve slowed myself down with purchasing. There was a period when I was a bit out of control – I think my first fortnightly paycheck from Webb’s was around $300 after they took out my purchases – but how could you not when you’re surrounded by amazing things every day? I also find bits and pieces on Trade Me, in secondhand shops, and even discovered our concrete side table on Instagram. It’s by downhill skater Levi Hawken, who makes brutalist cast-concrete sculptures that are quite fantastic. I was following the hashtag #brutalist when it came up, and I instantly loved it. Like so many of our things, there’s an oddness to it that’s totally unique.
Maralunga chairs by Vico Magistretti for Cassina
“There’s just something about the Cassina Maralunga chairs,” says Millar, who bought his from Webb’s. “It’s hard to believe they were designed in 1973. They’re timeless.”
The ceramics wall
An evolving display, these pieces circulate from the shelf throughout the home. Amongst the treasure is a teapot by Fiona Pardington, some works by Len Castle, a silver bullet and wooden folk puppet from the collection of John Perry, auctioned through Webb’s.
Millar’s father gave him two train carriage windows, which display the original 1903 advertisements for his great-grandfather’s clothing shop, Millar & Giorgi.
Scottie Wilson artwork
Millar picked this up at a Webb’s auction, having never heard of the artist before. (Featured with Lillith the greyhound.)