I won a competition at school once for a speech I made about a make-believe rabbit. He lived in the bush on our farm, constantly evading my military-like hunting missions.
That long-forgotten speech came roaring back to life as I listened to Claudia Zinzan relay how she established her homeware store, Father Rabbit, with her partner Nick Hutchinson. Like mine, their tale began with the creation of a fictional rabbit figure, but whereas my speech ended in tragedy, Nick and Claudia's story is only just beginning.
The Father Rabbit persona they created is based around the ideal that Nick and Claudia strive for in their own lives, of doing simple things properly. Father Rabbit is a combination of their own personalities with elements from their parents and grandparents mixed in as well.
All of the decisions the couple make for the business are filtered through this character's eyes. Father Rabbit is simple but neurotic. He irons his pillowcases, his pantry is in perfect order and he mows the lawns each week. He catches his own fish and smokes it, before baking a normal, non-fusion fish pie back at home.
Naturally, when his General Store opened online in December 2010, it sold only incredibly well-made, basic products for the home and garden. Rather than stocking suppliers' full ranges, individual items were meticulously hand-selected. The couple stocked only those products that Father Rabbit would use.
It is this single mindedness that makes Father Rabbit so refreshing and so popular. In fact, he quickly out grew his little Grey Lynn abode and just last week, he opened up his fabulous new home in Mt Eden.
The new shop is beautiful, kitted out in Father Rabbit's trademark white-on-white palette. He's also built a guesthouse for his friends to stay in.
Right now in residence is Hello My Tropical Princess Bird Friend, the first of many fictional characters Nick and Claudia will be creating to complement and contrast with their host's more simple styling.
Genius, I reckon.
Here are five of my favourite Father Rabbit products, but to be fair, it's one of those stores where you want just about everything.
1. Colourful Cushions
Designed by Father Rabbit's current guest in residence, Hello My Tropical Princess Bird Friend, these are a great way to brighten a neutral colour palette without going overboard.
2. Beautiful Cleaning Products
You wouldn't think it possible to salivate over a fly swat, duster or broom, but these timber and leather numbers are simply beautiful.
Father Rabbit is meticulous when it comes to his linen. Perfectly folded in muted tones of whites, grey and blue. Mmmm, yes please.
4. Copper Whisk
I'd happily beat eggs or whisk cake batter all day if
I owned this copper-handled masterpiece.
5. Gardening Gear
Father Rabbit's home doesn't end at the front door. He has a collection of gardening gear to make the greenest of thumbs ecstatic.
• Visit Father Rabbit online or pop into his Open House at the BLOC building, 20 Normanby Rd, Mt Eden.
A winner's thoughts
And then they were done. Almost. This week, the teams polished off their interiors by completing their master bedrooms and en suites. Everyone's designs have matured since the start of the competition and I'd happily include any one of those rooms in my home.
I'm amazed at what each team has achieved in six weeks. Before the renovations began, they were run-down houses that you'd struggle to describe as shacks. Now they are four highly-speced modern homes. What an incredible transformation.
Next week, the contestants head outside. Last year I loved being in the fresh air and doing blokey stuff like digging holes, mixing concrete and building decks. Pete and Andy will be in their element.
The houses are now officially on the market, so check them out and meet the contestants during the open homes on Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20. There will be no parking, so take the free 813 bus (every 15 minutes between Takapuna and Devonport), walk or cycle - there are cycle and stroller parks and lollipop people at the pedestrian crossings. See tv3.co.nz for maps and times.
• Ben Crawford won The Block NZ 2012 with sister Libby and runs creative advertising agency Libby & Ben.