Buying an architecturally designed home is the epitome of a house-hunter’s win-win. You get all of the sophistication, beauty and consideration of an architectural design without the building-induced stress that can come with it. So it’s little wonder this neatly renovated villa caught its new owners’ attention when it came on the market last year. “It was a light, calm, airy environment that had just been beautifully done,” one of the owners remembers. Designed by Studio John Irving Architects, the renovation deftly navigated the petite Ponsonby, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland site by tacking a simple gabled form on the back of the heritage-zoned home, bringing volume and light into the three-bedroom villa. Practically, it was perfectly suited to the family of four – but they still had to make it their own.
The house had a slight industrial lilt, which they softened with a few cosmetic tweaks. A cumbersome brass living room shelving unit was removed, carpets were replaced, and a black and white bathroom was redone in a bold coral tile – the setter repeatedly commending their “bravery” as he worked. Tied together with a fresh coat of alabaster paint over the formerly cream walls, the home became a bright, blank canvas for the family’s art, furniture and collections.
“We’ve collected over a long period of time, and our process is quite intuitive,” says the owner. “We don’t labour over our choices, we just buy what we love, and thankfully it all seems to coexist quite happily.” Looking about the immaculate home, bold tones and unique silhouettes seem to be a consistent theme; set against the home’s white, wood and brick backdrop, it gives the place a sort of eclectic minimalism. “I really love working with colour and a little oddity,” the owner says of her taste. Case in point, the Peter Stichbury portrait hanging in the living room. The artist is a friend; they’ve owned the much-loved painting for years. “I’ve always loved the quirky, slightly ugly people he doesn’t do very often, and the lemon/pink palette is amazing – so we were very lucky to get this one.”
The arrangement and decorating of the home happened “quite quickly and organically” when the family moved in, with everything soon finding its place. “I just can’t live with clutter and chaos,” the owner says succinctly. Modular USM Haller units play a key role in housekeeping, with every bedroom enjoying its own configuration and colour. A long anthracite USM sideboard separates the two parts of the living area too, adding structure to the open-plan space while at the same time displaying a curated line-up of belongings, such as a Fourth Street Home wooden egg, gifted by a mother with good taste.
“Our approach is very unlearned; it’s visceral, a gut feeling,” says the owner. “We’re driven by what we like rather than the esoteric side of things.” The Karyn Taylor acrylic artwork in the kitchen, for instance, was bought because they liked the nude/blush tones. The Frate dining table by Driade happened to be the same one the owner’s host family had during a teenage Swiss exchange programme. The USM collection, on the other hand, has been growing for more than 20 years. “I think the other thing is that we’re careful about not having too much stuff,” she says thoughtfully. “We buy things for life, and I like that sense of permanence.”
USM is available at ECC