Nicola Russell visits a revamped Auckland villa, where family life and history are reflected in the invitingly eclectic mix of furnishings and artwork
When fashion designer Bridget O’Malley and her husband David Reid moved into their urban villa a decade ago, it still had its original outhouse and copper.
The central Auckland abode had been in the same family since it was built in 1904 and had changed little during that time. “When we stripped the lino off the floors there were newspapers from World War II,” says Bridget, 43, who has three boys – Isaac, 12, Alex, 10, and Thomas, six. She was three months pregnant with Alex when they moved into the home, and an outhouse toilet meant plenty of “freezing” dashes during the winter.
Inside, the decor was a feast for the senses. “There were five different types of wallpaper – some rooms had two options!” she recalls with a laugh. “And there was floral carpet. But it was really tidy and had been well maintained.”
They lived in the home as it was until Alex was four months old, then enlisted local architect Dominic Glamuzina to plan the renovation. Bridget, who owns clothing label Moss Design with her mother, and David, also 43, had clocked up hours of experience decorating their first home – a small cottage in central Auckland – but had never tackled structural changes. “I really recommend using an architect,” says Bridget. “They push you further than you would go, and while the addition is now 10 years old, it hasn’t dated.”
That addition is an open-plan kitchen, dining and living area that was built on to the back of the home. It features floor-to-ceiling cupboards and a wall of glass sliding doors that lead out to the garden. The space created by removing the original kitchen enabled them to add a fourth bedroom. The original living room became the kids’ TV room, and the bathroom was upgraded to include an indoor toilet. Walls were painted neutral colours and floors were stripped and polished, providing a blank canvas for the family’s diverse furnishings.
Bridget and David, who owns a solar power installation business, love travelling, and over their two decades together have brought back furniture, art and collectables from around the world. “It’s lovely having lots of bits of your life around,” says Bridget. “When I look around the house I go, ‘Oh my goodness, I remember going there.’”
There are cabinets from India; a chair, mirror and dining room table from an auction house in London; and rugs and artwork from around the globe. Pieces of art purchased in Europe hang beside key pieces painted by Bridget’s sister Erin O’Malley. With their love of antiques and contemporary pieces purchased from Erin’s design store Madder and Rouge added to the mix, it’s clear the couple have truly put their stamp on the home. Some of the antique furniture in the house was collected by David’s grandfather. In the kitchen and dining area, a lamp that belonged to David’s grandmother, which sits on the bench, and mismatched chairs around the table give a homely feel to an otherwise contemporary space.
“I like mixing old and new,” says Bridget. “I like a few modern things, but I don’t want my house to become uncomfortable – it is not a showpiece.”
The practicality of family living has also been considered. The lounge suite has removable, washable covers, and soft furnishings serve to soak up some of the noise that comes with having wooden floors and large glass doors.
The children have contributed to the style of the home with pieces of their artwork framed and hung around the villa, and their lovingly-made ornaments displayed on tables and shelves.
The boys’ bedrooms each have the occupant’s name spelled out in giant letters on the wall, alongside mementoes of the family’s travels, including cartoon portraits of each son drawn in Palma de Mallorca.
The old-fashioned touch hasn’t escaped their rooms either, with crocheted blankets made by David’s grandmother on the beds. Bridget says adorning a villa takes thought. “They are hard to decorate because the ceilings are high but spaces are small. Proportions are quite odd.”
She dealt with this by opting for low-hanging pictures and lights, such as the chandelier in the hallway, which belonged to David’s grandad. “I had to replace about 100 of those little pieces on there,” she explains. “It had been sitting in a basement for about 40 years.”
The chandelier hangs in the widest part of the hallway, where a sitting area has been created. “This space is unusually wide because it was part of the kitchen,” she says. “We don’t really use it, but it makes the hall look lived-in and interesting.”
She and David have put equal effort into creating the home’s aesthetic. “I do the ‘tutuing’ but he is better spatially, in terms of where things will fit and work best. We bought the furniture and antiques together – they are expensive so you both want to love them.”
The result is an eclectic home that tells a tale of the family’s life – past and present. “It has layers,” says Bridget. “The kids like that too – they love all the stories.”
Words by: Nicola Russell