A sculptural, meticulously crafted home in Auckland’s Manurewa is the perfect place for this creative couple to display their love of art, design and colour
This bold and brave home in Manurewa breaks all the rules
Evie Kemp and Sam Holford’s home, nestled in a leafy suburb of South Auckland, immediately strikes the visitor as less of a suburban house and more of a modern castle constructed out of curving brick, dark boards and battens.
And the impressions keep coming as you step into an interior that seems to offer both a trip back in time and a glimpse into the future. To call the decor simply ‘eclectic’ is a disservice; Evie’s ability to curate objects transcends randomness or a ‘hope for the best’ approach.
Meet and greet
Sam Holford, doctor, and Evie Kemp, (designer and illustrator, plus dogs Pebbles and Biggie and Eddie the cat.
A modern heritage
Designed and built in the early 1980s by architectural designer Dave Sharples and his wife, Judy, this home was the perfect canvas for Evie’s intrinsic ability to add colour, pattern and a healthy dose of wow factor. Dave and Judy’s original intention was to occupy the home themselves, but an offer was made before the building was completed and they moved on.
In a twist of fate, the couple re-purchased the home decades later, renovating the interior to fit their original design within a contemporary context. Dave’s distinctive style can be seen around the tree-lined neighbourhood where he has built a number of homes over the years.
“Meeting Dave and Judy and being passed the keys to this special house really feels like we’ve inherited a legacy,” says Evie. “We were given the original drawings and plans of the house, which we’ve had framed, as well as photo albums of the house through its life so far. Dave also gifted us two of his sculptures, one of which has pride of place in the living room.”
The home recalls a time when designers were starting to experiment with new styles and it marries a range of influences. The carefully judged mix of modern, mid-century and Japanese design elements was one of the major drawcards for Evie and Sam.
“As a designer, I love that it’s a square, a circle and a triangle, and so totally unique,” says Evie. “We love the thoughtful design and special features like the American oak doors and sliding shoji screens.”
Expect the unexpected
Due to the Auckland property boom, Evie and Sam’s unrelenting search on the North Shore, where they were originally based, hadn’t got them very far. In response, Evie shifted her mindset and expanded her quest for the ideal home to include Auckland’s southern suburbs.
“We’ve lived on the North Shore almost for ever, and were trying to buy a home there but kept being outbid by more and more as prices went crazy. I undertook a pretty general and desperate search for any suitable house in Auckland and this one came up.”
The home ticked every emotional and aesthetic box and, despite continuing their north-of-the-bridge search, Evie kept coming back to this house, located in far-off Manurewa.
“It looked amazing and I kept gazing at the photos, but as it wasn’t in our desired location, we didn’t bother with it. Weeks went by but I couldn’t forget it, so I told Sam that we needed to go and see it in person so I could get over my obsession.”
However, as soon as the couple stepped inside, they were totally smitten. “It really felt like this was ‘the one’ and nothing else would ever be right,” says Evie. “We bought it at auction with no competition and that was that.”
While most homeowners follow something resembling design rules, Evie’s style exhibits a healthy streak of misbehaviour. Colour and pattern are arranged in a way that creates composed confusion, leaving the visitor wondering just how it all works so well.
A simple exterior colour palette belies the interior, which introduces unexpected dark hues in the formal entryway. Dulux ‘Browns Bay’ is offset by a giant quartet of framed Playtype posters spelling ‘POP!’, creating an Alice-in-Wonderland effect as it leads through to the living areas.
What awaits are rooms bursting with colour and charm: Evie’s style writ large or, as she describes it, an eclectic mash of boho glam, mid-century and pop art, with an occasional measure of calm restraint thrown in.
“When we bought the house, it was all very white, which was lovely, and I thought I might stick with that,” says Evie. “But it wasn’t long before the dark paint came out. I think my style has evolved and become a bit more grown-up in this house. We’ve never had this much space to play around with before. I really felt a need to do the architecture justice and that has influenced a lot of my decisions. Ultimately, though, I’m not a planner and I don’t have a fixed vision in my head – I just get an idea or go with what feels right. Things are always changing.”
The home is made up of a series of smaller spaces separated by split levels, built-in shelving and floating fireplaces. The spaces are connected by sliding screens and a conservatory. Since the pair moved in a year ago, the layout has remained untouched, but Evie and Sam have been tailoring it to their needs through use of colour and pattern.
“Right now, we’re a small family unit with a lot of space,” says Evie. “It’s pretty indulgent because, as I work from home, I have both the large room above the garage as my studio, and one of the bedrooms as my stock and packing room. The round room was a study but we’re in the process of making it into a snug and movie room. Using wallpaper, we’ve also unified the sunroom with the attached master bedroom so that it feels more like a single space.”
Art for art’s sake
If one had to pinpoint a defining feature of Evie and Sam’s home, art would be it. Their extensive art collection adorns every available space, and the house is essentially a private gallery with sculpture, objects, framed art and everything in between jostling for space.
This is a home where bright Rachel Castle prints sit happily alongside framed tea towels, and neon signs intermingle with vintage advertising. A self-described statement maker, Evie’s passion for art is evident in her line of eponymous art prints and homeware that combine bold lines, colours and animal motifs.
Evie and Sam’s house is nothing short of inspiring, and their chameleon-like natures will almost certainly guarantee that at every fresh visit, there will be a new colour, room arrangement or perfectly placed artwork to admire; a new reason to wonder if this is all just a crazy, beautiful dream.
Evie Kemp’s style tips
- Get some art on the walls! Art gives your home personality and is a way to decorate it while surrounding yourself with things you love that tell a story. No one ever forgets a home with art.
- Hit the op-shops and Trade Me. Secondhand shopping isn’t all about old stuff – you can save a lot of money on more modern design if you look hard enough.
- Consider reupholstering. If you find a bargain piece of furniture, the price of re-covering it rarely adds up to more than buying brand new. And the best part is you get something totally unique and perfect for your space.
- Mix it up. Moving stuff around at home is the best way to refresh or use a space in a new way.
- Be you. Don’t be led by trends or influenced by what other people think. Personality is what makes a house a home, and it needs to be what makes you happy!
Words by: Tina Stephen. Photography by: Helen Bankers.