Inspired by her style icons, the Auckland home of Soho Wines founder Rachael Carter brings designer luxury to life
The best spot to savour a glass of wine in Rachael Carter’s Herne Bay home is the upstairs lounge. Overlooking Auckland’s Waitematā Harbour and the iconic pink Chelsea Sugar Factory, the sunroom is complete with an orange occasional chair and an orchid as arched as the Bridge, which you can view through the windows to the right.
As the founder of Soho Wines, Rachael understands the importance of hospitality. It’s midday when I visit, and no, we are not drinking wine, so we’re in the equally comfortable downstairs lounge. Rachael sits on the B&B Italia Tufty Time sofa from Matisse, wearing her signature Victoria Beckham spectacles with thick black frames and a bright green L.F. Markey jumpsuit she found at Knuefermann. Her oversized sneakers, also by Victoria Beckham, are up on the ash blue velvet. They’re not too precious to enjoy themselves here.
Rachael lives in the high-stud home with her eight-year-old daughter Maren and a Portuguese water dog named Bob Obama (the same breed as the former first family’s beloved pets). The three-bedroom, three-bathroom abode was a bachelorette pad in the early days, but its laid-back LA style is equally suited to a young family. A full-length glass sliding door in front of us connects the open-plan living zone seamlessly to a pool and play area outside.
Rachael bought the property in the early 2000s. At the time it had a rest home at the front, which, needing some care itself, was sold and moved off the site. In its place, two contemporary homes were built, with the back subdivided and sold. A sense of private sanctuary has been maintained through clever wall enclosures, including that of the outdoor dining room, cloaked in jasmine and lilly pilly hedges.
With a pared-back approach to decor inside, a number of special pieces take centre stage. The minimalist Philippe Starck for Fiam mirrors with polished silver frames are one such statement. “They definitely add to the space a lot – for me that is art,” says Rachael.
Reflected in the downstairs king-size mirror is a modern kitchen designed by Cronin Kitchens. It’s no-fuss with an indestructible quartz benchtop from SCE Stone. The one real element of drama is a Mona pendant light from Matisse, which Rachael bought because it reminds her of a retro hairdresser’s dryer. It’s “compact”, but the kitchen has more storage than most, with carefully hidden drawers. Behind the kitchen in the hallway are even more pristine white cupboards, filled with decorative drinking glasses.
Past this is a powder room, which, like the two upstairs bathrooms, has a quartz vanity to match the thick slab of the kitchen island. Everything is planned to flow as easily as possible. At the back of the house are an orderly laundry and an internal garage, the latter of which is home to a vintage silver Mercedes-Benz with burgundy leather seats, and stacks of Soho Wines boxes.
The final room on the ground floor is Rachael’s study. It has tall shelves that could be mistaken for art cabinets and it’s large enough to be another bedroom.Upstairs you will find the real bedrooms and the aforementioned sunroom, situated past a photo wall full of family moments. Because Rachael loves storage, there is also another cupboard tucked in this hallway, complete with a laundry chute.
The master bedroom continues a streamlined design spirit, from the tucked away walk-in-wardrobe to the neat lines of the Poliform bed frame from Studio Italia. Above the master bed hangs a greyscale photograph of a young Mick Jagger. Rachael met the rock star once at an after party, after dancing at the front of his concert all night. “I had the greatest night of my life with Mick Jagger. I’m a massive fan,” she says. “I’ve got a wine called the Jagger pinot gris.”
Rachael launched Soho Wines, named after the trendy Soho neighbourhood in New York, in 2009. Her family works in the wine industry and when an opportunity arose for her to use the grapes from their boutique estates on Waiheke and Marlborough, she knew it was time to make her own vintages.
Working with Central Otago vineyards as well, Rachael has her pick of New Zealand’s three most renowned wine regions. While every wine is unique to each, the final products all embody Rachael’s passion for life, culture and entertainment. Taking a leaf out of American style icon Tom Ford’s playbook, Rachael has designed the bottles and marketing to be contemporary, chic and little risqué.
The most striking label is on the charity Pink Sheep range – the vivid circle of paint is inspired by artist Damien Hirst; a painting of his hangs above the quartz fireplace in the downstairs lounge. The collection is named in honour of another innovative creative, the fabulous yet fraught late fashion designer Alexander McQueen, who famously described himself as the ‘pink sheep’ of his family.
For each purchase of a special edition bottle of rosé, sauvignon blanc or pinot noir, 50 cents is donated to one of three charities close to Rachael; Mike King’s I Am Hope mental health support group, the Blind Foundation Guide Dogs, and Variety – the Children’s Charity, respectively. “We really researched who we went with and took a lot of time with who we chose. This is definitely something that we’re really passionate about and really proud of.”
The collection has been for sale for just over year, and so far $30,000 has been donated, with more to follow soon. Rachael, who has worked for charitable initiatives before and hopes to start her own charitable trust one day, has always had the goal of helping others through her creative approach to business.
A decade after her brand’s launch, Rachael hires a tight-knit team of seven women at the Soho headquarters. It’s on Jervois Road, walking distance to the house parties she sometimes puts on here. The businesswoman is going to try her hand at hosting more seriously soon – she’s busy planning an underground cellar door for a site over the road from the family vineyard on Waiheke. If her style icons and portfolio of work are anything to go by, it is sure to be as intriguing as it is beautiful.
Words by: Jessica-Belle Greer. Photography by: Helen Bankers.