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A quality-not-quantity approach worked a charm at this Auckland home

A move to a smaller house prompted an Auckland family to adopt a strict quality-not-quantity approach to decor – with stunning results


Who lives here?

Adam Bannister (teacher), Dawn Bannister (mental health manager and home-design Instagrammer As Eliza Slept), Ollie, 11, and Eliza, 4.


We first met Dawn and Adam Bannister in our October 2014 issue when they had recently completed building a colour-filled home in West Auckland. Fast forward two years and the couple and their two children have relocated to the eastern suburbs in search of a better work/life balance.

We felt as if we were constantly rushing

to be on one side of the city or the other

“When we lived out west, Adam and I would spend hours each day commuting to our jobs in East Auckland. The travelling ate into our family time and we felt as if we were constantly rushing to be on one side of the city or the other,” explains Dawn. Luckily, St Kentigern College, where Adam teaches history, recognised how difficult this was for the couple and last year offered Adam the additional role of duty master, overseeing the needs of boarding students. In return, Adam and his family get to live on site at the school.

The School House, as it is called, is substantially smaller than their previous family home and, initially, it was a difficult decision to uproot the family. “We love our West Auckland house, Ollie and Eliza were very settled in school and daycare, and we had been living in the area for over 15 years,” explains Dawn.

However, once the family made the move across town, they immediately saw the benefits and confirm they are all very happy now. “We are loving living in the eastern suburbs; it’s a whole new side of the city to explore and we really enjoy the proximity to central Auckland,” says Dawn. “Adam and Ollie now walk to work/school and my commute is five minutes. There is plenty of space around us and the children lived in the school pool for the entire summer holidays.”

Decisions, decisions

After a period of deliberation, the couple eventually settled on the idea of moving into the School House while renting out their home in West Auckland. Given that Adam’s role as duty master is a three-year tenure, they now have the luxury of time to see if settling out east permanently feels right.

A new style

The couple’s previous home was a modern, boxy design, where Dawn fully embraced the contemporary style and added lots of colour. Proving why she is such a popular source of inspiration for those who follow her on social media, Dawn has adapted her aesthetic to suit the style of her new abode.

Before moving in, the couple realised that some of their furniture needed to be on a smaller scale to suit the room dimensions of the School House. Together they visited their home-to-be, drew up a plan on paper of their ideal furniture layout, and then headed to Freedom Furniture. “In one trip we agreed on a sofa, hall table and an entertainment unit,” says Dawn. “We opted for light colours and Adam suggested we incorporate additional timber, given that there is a lot of wood in the house.”

Despite its modest size, the home feels light and airy due to its simple colour palette and Scandinavian-inspired furnishings. “I needed to find a way to make sense of all the wooden trims and doors, and leaning towards a Scandinavian style has meant I no longer itch to paint them,” says Dawn. Great restraint has been shown in the living room, which is pared back and minimal to ensure the decor doesn’t detract from the beautiful and expansive sea views over Tamaki Estuary and beyond to Rangitoto. Although her style is strongly monochrome, texture is everywhere – concrete, timber, leather, hides – and pattern. In the kitchen Dawn has layered white on white but adds plenty of interest through faceted appliances, plants, a striped rug and a beautiful Smeg fridge in mint, which was an anniversary gift from Adam.

They have been very open

to us wanting to stamp our mark on it

Being a tenant

Although they will only live in the School House for the duration of Adam’s role as duty master, the school has been entirely receptive to Dawn and Adam decorating the interior. “They have been very open to us wanting to stamp our mark on it,” says Dawn. “My reputation preceded me, as the school’s property manager had seen our previous home featured in Your Home and Garden!”

Since taking up residence last year, the couple have painted the wooden trims in the playroom white and applied a warm grey to the walls of Eliza’s bedroom. Full-length sheers have taken the place of the heavy, half-length curtains in the living areas and all the lightshades have been replaced to ensure a cohesive look throughout. “I think all these changes have enhanced the house and we will leave them here for the next family to enjoy when our time is over,” says Dawn.


The end

Guided by her new home’s unpretentious size, Dawn has kept the interior style simple and uncluttered. Clean lines, geometric artworks and a mostly white backdrop have been key to getting the aesthetic right. Mirrors reflect the extensive green landscape which surrounds the school, pretty groupings or objects (‘vignettes’) change regularly, and vinyl stickers add depth to the bedroom walls. Although a cool Scandinavian palette of black, white and grey may seem a little austere to some, Dawn has proved that you don’t need bold hues to colour a space.

Words by: Annick Larkin. Photography by: Emma MacDonald.

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