Interiors: Practise makes perfect

By Leanne Moore

Moving around the world, renovating many houses, has meant that one Auckland couple now have their home just the way they like it.

Clutter-free living was a priority for the Cowies. Photo / Your Home & Garden
Clutter-free living was a priority for the Cowies. Photo / Your Home & Garden

Having lived in various cities around the world, interior stylist Joanna Cowie has had plenty of experience at setting up home and renovating.

Napier-born Joanna and husband Neil, a South African, met in London and lived there for a while before moving to live in Johannesburg, Auckland and Sydney, then deciding to settle in Auckland.

In that time the couple have had three children - Matt, 21, Jamie, 19, and Emma, 15 - and Joanna has taken charge of eight renovations, as well as helping friends with their refurbishments.

Neil's career in retail has been behind most of the moves, and Joanna has enjoyed the challenge of taking on a new home project with each shift.

"Luckily, Neil and I are usually on the same page, and it has definitely become easier after eight projects together. Being a retailer, he has a great eye for detail, but I'm the creative one, and because he's away on business so much he leaves most of the decisions to me. I take responsibility for the interior, and leave Neil to look after the outdoors," says Joanna.

When the Cowies moved to Auckland two years ago, they found a house they loved in Murrays Bay.

"This house was a little dated, but we felt it wouldn't need too much to transform it into a great family home," says Neil. "We both agreed it would be a great do-up project. It had wonderful bones, great flow and tonnes of potential. We were immediately taken with the wooden floors, the art deco-style curved walls, and the beautiful sunny and private back deck."

They began on the bathrooms, which were gutted and redesigned so that they are simple, white and elegant. A new galley-style kitchen replaced the old U-shaped facilities.

"I wanted a kitchen with clean lines and free of clutter - that's exactly what we have," Joanna says. "I like that look throughout our entire home."

The combination of white walls and stained dark wooden floors with simple, functional furniture provides a solid anchor for the home and stops it looking too busy.

Joanna is inspired by Australian interiors stylist Sibella Court. "I admire her innate ability to display seemingly random items as amazing collections without looking contrived," she says.

As a firm believer in mixing styles, Joanna says, "Nothing is more staged than sticking with one style - it can be very contrived, like a show home, and can look soulless. Our home reflects the family within, and really tells our story."

Style tips

Judgment call: When building an art collection, go with your gut instinct. Choose pieces that you love, not ones that you think will impress others.

Trial run: See if you can take pieces home on appro so you can try them out in your home before you commit to buying.

Picture perfect: Whatever you do, don't skimp on framing for art. Find a reputable and skilful framer who uses quality materials.

Leanne Moore is the editor of Your Home & Garden. For the full story on this house see the latest issue of the magazine.

- NZ Herald

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