House of the week: Mt Eden, Auckland

17:00, Aug 12 2014
house of the week mt eden
A careful jumble of art, sculpture and photography is given room to breathe thanks to a double-storey atrium that greets you as you enter the home.
house of the week mt eden
Clean lines and ample natural light: the kitchen's design ethos is reflective of that of the whole house.
house of the week mt eden
It’s a light box, really, with two solid walls at the south and east and two of floor to ceiling glass on the north and west,” says Jane Ussher of her Mt. Eden home.
house of the week mt eden
Jane's beautiful photos are dotted throughout the carefully curated home.
house of the week mt eden
"It's very simple, it's not particularly architectural, it doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles," says Jane.

A light-filled cube of a house in Auckland's Mt Eden is a perfect fit for photographer Jane Ussher and husband Grant Gallagher.

"It's very simple, it's not particularly architectural, it doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles. It's a light box, really, with two solid walls at the south and east and two of floor to ceiling glass on the north and west," she says of the home.

Grant, whose back catalogue from a 30-year extracurricular sculpting career ornaments the spaces (during the working week he's head of Fairfax's custom publishing), describes the house as gallery-like: "The idea was to keep it minimal and beautiful and let our pieces do the talking."

They built in 2000, after searching for two years to find a section they liked and could afford. Jane says this house "has a sense of space with a double-height atrium as you walk in and it's very open".

The atrium was a suggestion from architect Tony Besley, whose role otherwise was mostly to finesse their vision.

"We had a pretty fixed idea of what we wanted," says Grant.


Some of Jane's extraordinary photographs are now displayed alongside Grant's sculptures. One image from Jane's series on Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic huts of an expedition member's hat on green linoleum hangs in the atrium of the house. It's the first of Jane's works they've lived with and was selected after some heavy lobbying by Grant, who liked its ambiguity - the way it could almost be a face not a hat, a painting rather than a photograph. He could see a link to other art in the house, including work by Dick Frizzell and Gordon Crook 
depicting faces. 

The paintings, the furniture and furnishings are much loved and were only slowly acquired, says Grant. "We only get things we feel are important to have, objects that you just have to have with you."

There's also his sculpture, which he works on compulsively at the dining table or in the shed. Jane says she "adores" many of them. "But I have to be quite firm about the number that infiltrate the house. They're quite a big presence."

The default setting here is uncluttered. A "light box" in every sense.

"The main thing we wanted was a house that we could be happy in," says Jane. "Some places work. This house we've always loved." 

- See more of this home in the August issue of NZ House & Garden

- NZ House & Garden