This vibrant Titirangi home has slowly shed its bad 1980s makeover to become a cosy family haven and base for a budding textile empire
Meet and greet
Morag Sinclair, creative director of Gerty Brown, Ben Sinclair, sound designer and composer, Cuba, 11, and Lotte, 8.
This Titirangi home is filled with vibrant splashes of colour
Perched on the northern slopes of the West Auckland suburb of Titirangi, looking out towards the Waitakere Ranges, the Sinclair family home is one of a long row of 1960s weatherboard bungalows.
“We relocated from Wellington, where we lived in a very close community, so Auckland felt like a huge unknown,” says Morag Sinclair. “Inner-city prices for a family home weren’t within our budget, but by searching outside the city centre we quickly realised that Auckland is really just a wonderful city made up of smaller communities and villages. We fell in love with Titirangi immediately; it has a fantastic community vibe and is heaving with cafes and creative kindred spirits.”
With a background in interior design and retail, Morag has amassed quite a collection of art, interesting items of homeware and furniture, each with a story to tell. “I prefer quality to quantity,” she says. “Some of my favourite pieces I’ve had for years, including the teal lounge suite which was bought by my parents. It has been through several upholstery reincarnations but the current turquoise rendition is the best by far.”
Typical of its era, Morag and husband Ben’s home had been through an unsympathetic 1980s renovation complete with peach bathroom and grey kitset kitchen. But with renovating it often pays to take your time so, beyond whitewashing the walls and replacing the net curtains, the Sinclairs lived in the house for three years before any major changes were attempted.
“We took our time planning the bathroom renovation and thinking carefully about how we wanted the space to look and function,” says Morag. “Once we were ready, and thanks to an amazing project manager and cabinetmaker, it only took two weeks from start to finish – thankfully, as we carried on living in the house during this time.”
Working closely with Refit Renovations, who managed the schedule and tradies, Morag was able to concentrate on sourcing quality fixtures and fittings, and engaged local cabinetmaker Kirsty Winter to create a bespoke vanity.
“We splurged on bespoke cabinetry. I drew ideas of what I wanted and Kirsty came up with a practical and pretty solution. By shopping around for the best prices I was able to get great deals on fixtures and fittings, and I also incorporated vintage finds into the final design,” says Morag.
Addicted to colour
Morag readily admits to her love of colour and unrestrainedly splashes it through her home. The humble exterior belies a vivid interior where visitors are welcomed by a shot of aqua blue in the living room. A rainbow of complementary colours appears on furniture and accessories throughout the home, providing bursts of interest and warmth against the plain white walls.
“When we bought the house it was decorated in various dark shades of burgundy and terracotta, so the first thing on the agenda was to paint the entire interior white – it’s the perfect canvas for my colour addiction and really showcases my ever-growing collection of homeware and furniture,” says Morag.
With this fresh white backdrop, the bright colours of treasured 1960s ceramics and Morag’s vast collection of fabrics are truly able to shine.
The couple’s children, Cuba, 11, and Lotte, 8, have bedrooms which reflect their own style. Lotte’s room at the end of the hall has been layered with cheerful fabrics from Ikea and vintage treasures, with walls covered in class photos, art prints and drawings. Next door, Cuba’s room is a Star Wars and Lego lover’s haven, complete with bespoke Gerty Brown Star Wars cushions.
Across the hall is the master bedroom, with north-facing windows and original his-and-hers wardrobes. A black-and-white checked duvet from Citta is offset by bright yellow enamel chairs which serve as bedside tables and an orange Anglepoise lamp clamped to one side.
“I love changing linen out from time to time to keep things looking fresh, and something as simple as a duvet cover can really change a room, which is perfect for when you are feeling uninspired or restless about your interior,” says Morag.
Thinking back to when they were house hunting, Ben and Morag remember getting a good feeling about their future home right away. “We looked at loads of places, none of which suited, but this one felt just right,” says Morag. “I remember walking in and saying, ‘This will do. We can make this work.’”
Work became the focus a few years later when Morag cleared the front half of the dining room to make way for her newest venture: Gerty Brown. Originally a side project, her textile business has since snowballed into a bustling, creative business with sewing machines, fabric swatches and endless piles of cushions invading the space.
“Gerty Brown has taken over the dining room, so it is tricky to organise a dinner party these days. But in summer we spill out of the lounge onto the huge, north-facing deck, which is framed with a stunning liquidambar tree that the native birds flock to.”
In keeping with their slow and steady approach to renovating, Ben and Morag are developing plans for a purpose-built studio to house Morag’s growing business and free up the living area. “When the kids were little they needed me to be close, as I often work at night and on weekends. But now they are growing up I can move out of the house – I will just need to take the stereo and coffee machine with me!” Morag says.
Lofty plans also exist for a kitchen overhaul in a similar style to the bathroom but, as with everything here, there’s no rush – good things take time in the Sinclair house.
- Let decorating evolve over time; build up a story so that it reflects you, not a specific trend.
- Live with crappy bathrooms or kitchens for a while so you get to know what you really want in a renovation.
- Pay an expert to do the big jobs.
- Changing out the lights, cushions and linen can really revive a room.
- Relax and enjoy your home – perfect is boring!
Words by: Tina Stephen. Photography: Helen Bankers.