Home style tips from four design-savvy Aucklanders

By Tracey Strange

Tracey Strange talks to four design-savvy Aucklanders about their preferences in home design.
Designer Rebecca Dowie of Douglas and Bec with her favourite design piece, the Line Lamp. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Designer Rebecca Dowie of Douglas and Bec with her favourite design piece, the Line Lamp. Photo / Jason Oxenham

STEPHEN BAMBURY

The leading abstract painter would choose to fork out for French mid-century furniture and buys books on art and architecture in bulk.

Describe your own style in three words. Classically restrained clarity.

In what ways do you keep current with new trends? As the late, great American painter Agnes Martin observed, if you come on with the fashion, you go off with the fashion.

How do you feel about matching your cushions to your art? Who told you I did that? I have kept that a secret for so long. Actually I match the cushions to show off our tribe of hairless animals to best advantage.

Do you believe in saving up and waiting to purchase something? Yes and no. A more interesting question is "would you go into debt to get what you desire?"

Would you employ an interior designer? I never would, but I can fully understand the wisdom. Core competency is critical to good outcomes.

How high should you hang art? At the correct height unless it is floor-bound. Installation is a fine art in and of itself.

What homeware websites do you shop from? None. Buying in virtual reality is not interesting and doesn't allow one to see or understand the item being considered. A real life is so much better than a virtual one. But every rule is made to be broken so if MUJI only had a website, I would do it ... reluctantly.

Stephen Brambury.
Stephen Brambury.

Do you have an early style influencer? At 8 or 9 I was captivated by the unfamiliar furniture drawn by Herge in his Adventures of Tintin books. When I discovered the work of Jean Prouve - sometime I think in the early 80s - I realised that Herge was drawing on Prouve's furniture designs that went back to the 30s and 40s. But they look like they are from the 50s and 60s, they are so advanced.

What's the one piece you've bought for the home that really pulled on your purse strings? Most probably a mid-century Lightolier floor lamp, sourced on one of my trips to New York, dismantled and carried back, disguising the weight of the base in my carry-on. The dollars I lied about but I could not hide the hernia it cost.

What do you buy in bulk? Books on architecture and art.

Name an item that you will never part with. A piece of Swedish glass, sourced with my wife, Jan, in Dumfries, Scotland, around the corner from where her father was born.

Would you prefer to renovate an existing house or build a new one? Build from scratch unless I'm working on industrial architecture, as I have in a number of my studios. I am renovating one at present and adore doing this.

Have you bought anything for the home that you later regretted? I recall reading Ogilvy on Advertising years ago and have followed his advice as best I can: admit a mistake but don't tell anybody. Actually, Jan and I had a Victorian brass bed we renovated along with the usual kauri furniture. We realised we didn't like it, got rid of the lot and never looked back.

If money were no object what would you buy? I would indulge in some furniture and lighting from the French mid-century, especially Jean Prouve's aged rusted furniture.

stephenbambury.com

REBECCA DOWIE

The designer and art-lover curates and sells contemporary homewares, lighting and furniture through Douglas + Bec.

Rebecca Dowe.
Rebecca Dowe.

How do you keep current with new trends? You can't help but be influenced by new trends, as much as you might try and resist them. But I find that botanicals, which have been on trend for a while, are a simple way to keep current. You end up accessorising with nice, fresh things.

What's your design philosophy when it comes to you own home? Restraint. We moved from a bungalow in town to a one-bedroom cottage with a kitchenette in the country and when we started building we quickly realised we didn't need half the possessions we had.

Would you employ an interior designer? For things like getting kitchens correct and doing the architectural drawings, yes, definitely.

What's the one piece you've bought for the home that really pulled on your purse strings? Linen drapes. We needed to section off areas in our barn conversion, so we did this with stunning natural-linen drapes. It gives the large space an intimacy that's needed, especially coming into winter.

If money were no object what would you buy? A Rita Angus [painting].

Do you have an early style influencer? My great-aunt Helen Brown, an artist in the 40s to 70s in Auckland. I adored her. She wore silk shirts and cashmere sweaters in paisley, eggshell blue and mustard yellow, teamed with natural slacks and very practical footwear. Her house was full of eccentric pottery, the rooms were packed with art and all the books were stacked up on the ground. I even remember her Bauhaus cutlery and stainless pots.

Favourite colour combo? I am currently favouring terracottas next to warm timber and then camel and greys/brushed chrome.

Do you believe in saving up and waiting to purchase something? Yes absolutely. I am currently wanting a pair of chairs. I haven't found them yet and I have a small piggy bank.

What homeware websites do you shop from? Everyday Needs, Mr Kitly in Melbourne, In Bed Store for linen.

If you wanted to buy something for someone else's home as a present, where would you go? Usually I give something from our store ... I'm also fond of giving Aesop and Ecostore products. My favourite home gift lately has been straw brooms from Flotsam & Jetsam.

What are your favourite interiors shops? I love stores that have a combination of interior pieces - art, furniture and artifacts. There is a lovely store in Sydney called Small Spaces.

Do you follow any design bloggers? SightUnseen.com is probably my favourite - it covers the intersection between art and design. I also like Yellowtrace.com.au - the posts are impeccably curated.

Where's the best place to buy a sofa? I love Nonn designer Cameron Foggo, particularly his Liaison sofa.

Where's the best place to get furniture restored? Fortunately my father is very handy at this ... [Rebecca's father, Douglas Snelling, makes furniture for Douglas + Bec.]

Wooden bedhead or upholstered? Always wood.

douglasandbec.co.nz

ANDREW LAY

The design purist makes his living selling mid-century collectables through his Parnell store, Karakter.

Andrew Lay.
Andrew Lay.

Do you have an early style influencer? Charles and Ray Eames. I bought a Management Chair purely on looks and comfort about 25 years ago and had no idea who the designer was or that it was such an iconic piece. It was made by Vitra, which, in my opinion, is superior to the Chinese-assembled Herman Miller pieces, and is worth as much today as it was when I bought it.

Favourite colour combo? I had a liquorice icecream on Takapuna beach yesterday and as well as being delicious, it was a great colour - very much like the Porter's Paints Half-Strength Old Church White, which we have a fair bit of on the walls at home.

Have you bought anything for the home that you later regretted? Nerf guns for the boys. They must have every different type and I am forever picking up bullets and tripping over plastic guns. Apart from that, I broke my golden rule and bought a mattress in a hurry and it's so uncomfortable. I am saving up for a Vispring - I sold my last with our house in the UK. They are superbly comfortable and Cavit & Co has just started to bring them in.

Would you prefer to renovate an existing house or build a new one? I have renovated quite a few houses over the years so would love to have a stab at building one. Either way, it is important to me that a house's design works. For example, the first thing I did when I renovated a three-storey house was to move the laundry to the top floor with the bedrooms, where we undressed and dressed. It just seemed so obvious.

Would you employ an interior designer? I recently engaged Prudence Lane, who did a great job on our bedroom, which now has a very calming Scandinavian late-19th-century feel to it and is very unlike other areas of the home. Sometimes it's just good to have a fresh pair of eyes and ideas.

In what ways do you keep current with new trends? I have subscribed to 1stDibs.com and archiproducts.com among others and read Urbis, Home, Homestyle and Simply You Living.

What are your favourite interiors shops? I regularly tour Matisse, ECC, Domo and Studio Italia. They have all of the design classics.

Where's the best place to buy a sofa? I fell in love with our Ligne Roset Belem sofa and chairs by Didier Gomez from Domo, although I am currently on the hunt for an L-shaped leather sofa for our TV room and keep being drawn to the B&B Italia Charles. But I notice that G Plan Vintage has just re-launched a 1969 sofa that might do the trick.

If money were no object what would you buy? An original painting by Gordon Walters.

Wooden bedhead or upholstered? I've just bought a gorgeous Poltrona Frau leather headboard, so it would have to be leather.

Name an item that you will never part with? A corkscrew from a restaurant in the South of France called Moulins de Mougins. Every time I use it I am taken back to an amazing meal in an exquisite setting. (I hasten to add that I didn't pinch it.)

karakter.co.nz

MIMI GILMOUR

The brains behind restaurants Mexico and Burger Burger is a fan of luxury linen and quality furniture, and buys her bubbles in bulk.

Mimi Gilmour.
Mimi Gilmour.

Have you bought anything for the home that you later regretted? A television. We bought one but ended up getting rid of it. In the space we live in now we didn't find anywhere that we didn't feel it would end up dominating the space. For us, our time at home is for cooking and conversations with each other. We stare at screens all day.

Describe your own style in three words. My style changes depending on the season and how I'm feeling. Perhaps best described as classic chic with a bit of jazz?

Do you have an early style influencer? My mother, Emerald Gilmour, is definitely an early influencer. She has always filled our homes with books, art, and items from her travels and her past. There is not a thing in her home that doesn't have a story to go with it.

What's the one piece you've bought for the home that really pulled on your purse strings? Our dining table, which was made by my friend Nat Cheshire. It seats 12 comfortably and up to 16 at a push. It's beautiful and we'll have it forever.

Wooden bedhead or upholstered? Upholstered.

What is an interior style that you dislike? Over-designed themes that don't reflect the personalities of their owners.

What home wares websites do you shop from? Locally I like Father Rabbit, Citta, Everyday Needs and Nest. Internationally I often find myself cruising Kelly Wearstler's site, or Tom Dixon's. I have also brought a few gifts/bowls from Dinosaur Designs in Australia.

Favourite colour combo? In my home I love white, timber and neutral fabrics, as these make me feel calm. I am able to celebrate colour in our restaurants. I was taught to not to be afraid of it by Brendan Ryan, who was the driving force behind Mexico's interiors. I feel the interiors of restaurants should be comfortable but evoke excitement.

What are your favourite interiors shops? If I had to pick two, Seneca is a favourite for linen and textiles; Simon James for skincare, candles and light fittings.

Priorities when choosing furniture? Design aesthetic, quality of craftsmanship, quality of material and practicality. There has been a lot of trial and error over the many years I've bought furniture for restaurants, and there are a few lessons I've learned along the way. For example, our sofas. I wanted them to be a lifetime investment - timeless. But also there were a few aspects that were very important to me. They're on wheels so you can move them and clean underneath, their covers come off so you can wash them and eventually replace them, and they're wide and long enough to double as a bed for extra guests or lazy Sunday snoozes.

Do you believe in saving up and waiting to purchase something? Yes. I believe investing in quality as it gifts you longevity. I also think there is something quite magical about earning yourself something special.

What do you buy in bulk? I have a weird OCD thing from working in the hospitality industry, where I tend to buy a lot in bulk. I buy everything from cleaning products to Champagne in bulk.

Do you follow any design bloggers? I follow designers and publications rather than bloggers. My Instagram feed is full of designers I admire, like AvroKO in New York.

Where's the best place to buy a sofa? If I already didn't have my dream sofas, I would buy my sofas from Simon James.

- Canvas

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