Luxury, opulence and style aren’t words you’d usually associate with a bachelor pad, but this stunning Auckland home is certainly an exception. Story by Debbie Harrison
The ultimate man cave
Adam Thomson’s home in Mt Eden, Auckland, would have many a man swooning. Cowhides and leather couches. A primeval-looking fireplace set into a cleft in a concrete-slab wall, and even a clandestine chute in the bedroom to send socks and jocks direct to the laundry below. Masculine tones of grey, black and marble clothe the interior – with not a skerrick of pink or paisley anywhere. This incredible home is so manly that it’s almost a surprise to learn it was designed by a woman, interior designer Katie Scott.
“Adam rang me when it was a shell of a villa, literally stripped out like a carcass, and said, ‘I’m struggling, I need some help,’” Katie says with a laugh.
Adam (a real estate director) wanted to restore the character of his 100-year-old villa while adding a contemporary twist. He’d been searching for a house with a north-facing living area at the back, something which lent itself to open-plan living that could flow out seamlessly to a sunny and private backyard with a pool. He also needed plenty of garaging for his boy toys. When he found the ideal house in mid 2014, Adam decided he needed someone to help him achieve the look.
I knew what I wantedbut not how to get there
“I knew what I wanted, but not how to get there so I surrounded myself with people who knew what they were doing,” he says. Those people turned out to be Katie and Dave Moonie from DSM Construction. Their task was to build an open-plan living space at the rear of the villa, gut the rest of the house, create three-car garaging, landscape the section and add a to-die-for spa and pool. Easy, right?
The open-plan area
It’s no wonder the new addition to the house is Adam’s favourite space. With its natural light, timber floors, industrial-style kitchen, jaw-dropping concrete fireplace, feature lighting and high exposed ceilings, it looks like it could be a loft in New York. It’s sophisticated, visually interesting and full of character. Although it is undoubtedly masculine, the hard edges of the steel beams, marble and concrete are softened by beautiful texture and tones – a velvet ottoman, lambswool cushions, cowhides and linen. These touches of softness give the space its luxurious feel.
Adam wanted a really cool fireplace for this room and Katie took the brief and ran with it, going even bigger than the architect’s original plans so that it encompassed an entire wall. The fire surround was created from pre-cast concrete panels which slotted into place like a giant jigsaw puzzle. In an experimental moment, they added oxide to the concrete before it was cast – it came out a bit blotchy so Katie spent a week with a sponge and some black oxide liquid, hand-finishing it. The massive I-beams which line the ceiling are purely for aesthetics. “They’re not part of the house or structural. I just like the offset angles and the industrial look they add,” Katie says.
Old & new
Like many villa renovations, the result was going to be an intriguing mix of modern and traditional. Adam quite liked the idea of the surprise element: walking through the front door into a traditional-style home and then being blown away by a modern masterpiece at the other end of the hallway. But Katie and Adam didn’t want the juxtaposition to be harsh; the transition had to be gradual, which they achieved through subtle touches such as using the same flooring from the hallway to the rear of the house (they found recycled kauri from another villa to use in the new addition), adding plaster ceiling domes in the living areas to match an original one in another room, and using panelling all along the hallway. The same paint tones were used throughout.
“It’s very Adam,” says Katie. “Strong and bold. Concrete and metal. There was some great engineering involved and I really had to think outside the square for it. I couldn’t do a plain old white kitchen – it just wouldn’t fit him or the space.” Katie used strong colours to help define the kitchen area within the rest of the room. Not afraid of some hard work to get the necessary look, Katie added a hand-welded beam which extends into the kitchen at a right angle, to draw the eye and bring out the incredible height of the ceiling. Thanks to some designer magic, the shape of the beam also echoes the fireplace.
Adam wasn’t designing his villa to fit in with trends or for resale – this was to be his dream home, in his style. Unlike women who can usually rattle off at least five words to describe their particular style, Adam has a less-is-more approach: “I don’t know how to describe it – or if I even have one. Black and white works well for me,” he offers. So Katie used a variety of methods to get to the crux of his aesthetic, providing ideas for him to veto or sign off on.
“Adam wanted it to be different and a bit ‘stand-out’. He knows what he likes when he sees it. He likes the regal look but also the industrial look, so I had to create it,” she says. Adam browsed online a lot, bought every magazine he could, took plenty of mental notes when travelling – especially in hotels – and made purchases along the way. “It was hard as we were choosing everything without seeing the space in reality,” he says. “I couldn’t picture the finished product so I had to trust Katie a lot.”
Adam loves the feel of high-end hotels and wanted to replicate that feeling in the bathrooms. Katie achieved this with floor-to-ceiling tiling – a real luxury – and brass tapware, which although contemporary in shape has a classic feel that suits the age of the house. She also eradicated anything shiny and chrome in the ensuite – anything that wasn’t brass (the toilet push panels, heated towel rails and shower hardware) she got electroplated in black.
The summer ahead
Summer will see this renovated villa hosting plenty of pizza-and-pool parties. After a year-long renovation, Adam’s looking forward to “wearing it in” and getting some real enjoyment out of it at last.
Words by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Helen Bankers.