An interior designer who cleverly combines colour in creative and contrasting ways is transforming the world around her.
In an alcove at the end of the hall, chairs by Scandinavian designer Hans Wegner are covered in a geometric Orla Kiely print. Cushion covers are reinvented Japanese napkins. The artwork is by Australian artist Miranda Skoczek.
An interior designer and stylist, Alex often buys pieces for customers but concedes she is her own best client. Prior to moving into their 1940s brick bungalow, Alex and Connell chose to paint the interior white, including the rimu floors, which have been bleached and washed with Porter’s Paint ‘Paper’. Rugs scattered throughout the rooms provide comfort and colour. A multi-coloured rug at the entrance has been flipped over as Alex prefers the more muted tones of the backing. That small act of rebellion sums up her ‘almost obsessive’ approach to colour.
Above the art deco re-covered armchairs (found in a Gisborne secondhand furniture store) hangs a framed Ordnance Survey map from Alex’s grandfather’s war days.
“I love colour but it’s the careful combinations and contrasts that I’m all about. Every bright colour is offset with very soft but complex tones or textures. Depth, shades, hues and marrying colours is key for me,” says Alex.
In the living room, lilac tiles line the original fireplace and a collection of ceramics decorates the mantelpiece. On the hearth, a yellow basket found by a friend who “knew Alex would love it” holds cones and wood.
From the open-plan kitchen, dining and living room, two sets of french doors open to a large paved deck and private, sheltered garden. From the kitchen, glass doors open to a potager where raised planters are full of lush green vegetables and herbs.
Shelving units act as a room divider and storage for a large collection of design, lifestyle and cookery magazines. “It’s nice to have things on display rather than hidden in cupboards,” says Alex.
A new shed, designed and painted to replicate the style of the house, acts as a studio. In lieu of garden implements, it houses a workbench and Alex’s paints, rolls of felt, fabrics, beads and other ‘bits and bobs’. The studio was constructed offsite and lifted over the garage in a feat of clever engineering and dexterous crane operation.
Above: In her garden studio Alex creates one-off artworks and experiments with colour combinations by stringing ceramic and wooden beads together.
Colour splashes provide surprise and interest in every room. Along with painting the walls and floors and replacing the drapes with wooden blinds, Alex replaced the brick fire surround with delicate lilac-coloured tiles. Strands of ceramic beads and colourful felt garlands dangle from hooks and picture frames throughout the house and the studio.
Alex and Connell are avid art collectors. Inherited and homemade pieces hang alongside works by respected international artists. Alex creates displays with clusters of related items.
The overall effect is playful; recycled and mismatched mirrors beside the fireplace reflect the view of the garden, and desks, tables and sideboards are topped with photos, frames, assorted stationery and unexpected memorabilia. Light, bright and seemingly totally random, the interior of this home oozes fun and frivolity – the ultimate in styling without being staged.
Above: Burmese cats Cecil and Mae sit on a circular rug in the hallway, where the walls are a gallery for artworks.
Think about colour combos. Red and pink go together and so do navy and black! Don’t be afraid to mix up the colour palettes.
Artwork needs to be hung correctly. The impact of fabulous art pieces can be spoiled when they are poorly placed. People often tend to hang art too high.
Choose wisely, not on a fashion whim. Just because you like the look of something you have seen in a magazine or online doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be the ideal look for your home. Pick things that will complement your own home and enhances its features.
Repeat, repeat, repeat. If you have a lot of one colour in your living room, then be sure to have bursts or accents repeated in other areas. Similarly, connect the outdoors to the indoors by using flowers from your garden placed in vases inside.
Words by: Ady Shannon. Photography by: Guy Frederick.