How Do You Turn A House Into A Home? In This New Series, A Space For Being, We’ll Show You

By Leanne Moore
Owner of Tessuti Ali McIntosh’s Auckland apartment from June, 2022. Photo / Babiche Martens

In this new design series, A Space For Being, interiors expert Leanne Moore explores what it takes to transform a house into a home. Follow along for more tips and tricks for creating your dream space at home, including storage solution ideas, perfecting the art of painting and how to

A sense of belonging is created when we reflect our identity in what we surround ourselves with. When your home is filled with objects you love, things that are vessels of meaning, and pieces that represent something to you, your whole life is richer. Anyone who has put their heart and soul into their home knows that creating a space that reflects your personal style is a deeply satisfying and pleasing experience.

Surround yourself with pieces that tell the story of your life - from mementos to art. Photo / Cave Bureau
Surround yourself with pieces that tell the story of your life - from mementos to art. Photo / Cave Bureau

Make it perfect for you

The things we surround ourselves with at home can be a window to our personality. The first thing you need to do is define your interior style. Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry. Follow this plan and it will soon start coming together. Start your journey by identifying the things you are drawn to and the styles of homes you like. What does home mean to you? How do you want to live? What sort of feeling do you want people to have when they step inside your front door? Tag pages in books, websites, on social media. Creative ideas are born from our environment. Think back to your childhood. What houses inspired you? What rooms did you love? What was the first house you went into where you thought: “Wow, this is my kind of thing”?

A painting and special ceramics from Ali McIntosh's home, featured in Viva in 2022. Photo / Babiche Martens
A painting and special ceramics from Ali McIntosh's home, featured in Viva in 2022. Photo / Babiche Martens

The art of self-expression

Build a world around your passions.

Take the time to let your ideas marinate … intentional and deliberate decor doesn’t happen overnight.

Ideally, you should be personally connected to the objects you decorate your space with.

Narrow it down to what things matter to you. Do you want a welcoming, comfortable, and practical home that reflects your interest in art and gardening or do you prefer a calm space without much stuff? You might be fixated on mid-century design and choose to fill your home with furniture only from that era.

Don’t be swayed by popular pieces — you’re decorating your home for you, not others.

Don’t buy something just because everyone else has it. Choose pieces based on how they make you feel. Consider if you appreciate them aesthetically, or not.

Take the time to cultivate and understand what your own vision is and then feel the freedom to stick to it.

Be influenced by your own taste, not trends, and after a while you’ll notice that everything you choose for your home seems to go together.

Trust your instinct. If every purchase you make for your home is well-considered it will ultimately be a reflection of you.

This dining area makes a statement with retro furniture and light fitting. Photo / Cave Bureau
This dining area makes a statement with retro furniture and light fitting. Photo / Cave Bureau

Sail the seven Cs

Once you’ve become familiar with the things you are attracted to, the different threads will weave together to become one harmonious whole. Keep this DIY decor checklist in mind and it’s sure to be plain sailing:

Concept: Settle on an overall look; the vibe, mood, feeling, you want your home to have. Keep this in mind from the beginning.

Colour: One of the most important decorating decisions is selecting a colour story. And sticking to it. Tell the same story, over and over. Go for two or three dominant hues, and a similar number of co-stars.

Character: This is vital if you want your house to feel like a home. Add unique pieces to the mix, op-shop bargains with wear and tear, travel mementos, art, books and plants. These are the things that will bring your personality to the space.

Composition: The eye must travel. Make it a pleasant journey. If you’ve got the composition right, every room will feel harmonious. Consider the sight line from one room to another. How does one room frame the room beyond? It should enhance the view.

Consistency: Pay attention to the things you are drawn to. If you stay true to yourself, and don’t get hung up on what others think, you will create a unique home that’s a reflection of you.

Comfort: The way your home looks and feels should bring you comfort. A home is a place where you can relax and be you. Feeling comfortable is what makes the difference between a house and a home. And everyone enjoys visiting a home where they feel comfortable.

Curate. Curate. Curate: This is super important. Once your home starts coming together, cast a critical eye over the pieces you’ve gathered. Is there something that’s not working? A piece that’s jarring? Get rid of it. Take it to a thrift shop and get it back into the circular economy. We all get it wrong sometimes. Regularly sift through your things to ensure your overall look is on track. There is always room for improvement.

Photo / Cave Bureau
Photo / Cave Bureau

It’s about the journey, not the destination

Don’t rush. It takes years to transform a house into a home. Establish your own filter then enjoy the process. Don’t buy stuff because you feel the need to fill an empty space. Take time to add layers of texture, colour and thoughtful, well-considered design. If you’re not confident with colour, start with a neutral base in something like ivory, stone or beige, which will act as a blank canvas, then build layers gradually. It’s an evolving process of mixing, combining and contrasting. Pair op-shop bargains with designer pieces. Old against new. Vintage with treasures found in nature. Rough with smooth. Dark with light. Pattern with plain. Creating a place of comfort and beauty is not about reaching your destination. It’s about enjoying the journey because the evolutionary home is never done. It’s a constant work in progress. Just like you.

Add to cart

Below, fashion assistant Annabel Dickson selects a few special pieces to add to your home.

The Chiara vase is an example of Raku ware (an ancient Japanese ceramic-making technique) with hand-painted glaze in a stunning wavy design.

These solid teak armchairs with grid-pattern wool cushions are a timeless addition to a home.

‘Leaning In’ is an original painting by Posonby-based artist Margot Moller, who specialises in still life pieces. Oil painting on board and framed in a beautiful tray frame.

Using an intricate jacquard technique, the Moselle runner combines warm ivory beige and faded tan brown and a floral motif in a traditional distressed style. Ideal for a Scandi, boho or contemporary setting.

Invest in this solid oak St Claire table, available in a range of stain colours with its organic curves and striking double stem base.

From renowned Dutch clock brand Karlsson comes this pastel blue wall clock with minimal face design, ideal for adding a dose on colour at home.

Made from fleece from Angora goats, this Mohair blanket is soft and warm without being weighty. Made in Masterton by Masterweave who have been creating blankets in New Zealand for over 30 years.

The Gia Mini cushion in aqua is a reversible style (it’s striped on the back), made from 100 per cent linen. A sweet addition to a bed or sofa.

A travertine arch as a bookstand? Why not. This M&Co arch adds a touch of intrigue to a bookshelf.

The Perle chair from Parisian workshop Astier de Villate has an intriguing black wax finish and woven seat. A regal addition to an elegant dining space.

From Japanese brand Fog Linen, this 100 per cent linen tea towel will grow softer and more absorbent with every wash.

The St Martin lamp has an elegantly curved wooden base and soft drum shade, from Auckland-based home styling studio Ornament.

More on architecture and design

Stunning homes and the people who made them.

10 NZ architecture firms redefining how we live now. Awards are just part of the job for these architects laying the groundwork for the future.

Making over your home? Interior designers share their best advice (and where to get started). The style secrets they’ve gleaned over years of turning spaces into something special.

From NZ to the Big Apple, how a creative couple transformed an 1860s warehouse apartment. They met and fell in love in Auckland. Now, they reside in a handsome abode in New York.

This stunning off-grid home on Waiheke Island was inspired by a pōhutukawa seed pod. The angular home is a breathtaking homage to the natural world surrounding it.

In my studio: Where artist Katherine Rutecki makes glass bubbles and Ghastly ghoststicks. In her Ponsonby studio, she develops the many strings to her bow, from glass to bronze.

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