My favourite space: Casual coastal living room
Vanessa Owen treasures her home's casual, drop-in vibe. Occasionally someone will pop in when no one's home and leave a message on the blackboard at the entrance to the waterfront Kerikeri villa. One message read: "Couldn't wait, but had a cup of tea and did the dishes," says Vanessa.
"Often our friends will come around, walk in the house and the kettle will be warm, but there is no sign of us anywhere because we are down at the beach."
Vanessa and husband Richard, who are originally from England, fell in love with this stretch of sand at Kerikeri almost two decades ago, often sailing past it and stopping to picnic.
Twelves years ago they managed to buy the land that ran down to the beach. Later, they found a villa in Dargaville and trucked it to the site. "We gutted it back to bare walls," says Vanessa, and the couple spent the next 10 years transforming it into the welcoming family home they'd envisaged.
Reminders of the couple's Northern Hemisphere beginnings pop up throughout their home, including in the expansive, light-filled kitchen.
The table, for example, was originally a ping-pong table, bought by Richard and Vanessa two years after getting married. "It had no value at all - we paid about 20 pounds for it, but we have done it up over the years and I'm very attached to it." It used to sit in the middle of the room, but the Owens shifted it so they could put their armchairs by the English Aga.
The Barry Ross Smith print of the Queen with a moko, which hangs in the corner of the room, is another of Vanessa's favourites. "It references where we are from and where we are now," she says.
Did you have a vision for this space? I wanted it to be really open; the kitchen was a new addition to the house and had a lower ceiling, so I didn't want it to feel like a cave. I also didn't want a kitchen island but a long table, French-style, where I could be cooking food one end, doing art in the middle, while the kids did homework at the other!
What was the decorating process for this space? We used Porter's stucco wash in Oyster on the walls and then hand-waxed and buffed it with beeswax for a really soft, warm feel and then painted the kitchen cabinets in Alabaster White for a really crisp contrast. The chairs around the table and the cane furniture outside has been whitewashed. The floors are Travertine.
How would you describe your decorating style? Classical coastal; I love the balance and elegance; the period pieces I was born and raised with in Wycliffe Castle. Then throw in years spent sailing in the West Indies where I discovered Plantation Houses with their wraparound verandas and indoor-outdoor flow. From the day I arrived in New Zealand and saw my first villa I fell in love - they were all my childhood memories and sailing years wrapped into one, and I have been renovating with them, relocating them, playing with the spaces in them ever since!
What are the key features of this space? Our huge old table from France running down the centre of the room - it has had dozens of paint effects and two tops over 25 years. There are lots of open shelves to display treasures and loved pieces and, of course, our Aga for the long, slow cooking we all love.
What do you like best about this space? It is a bomb-proof space and it needs to be, I love that the Travertine floors are hard as rock and the colour and texture is so similar to our rocky beach that when our son Reef dumps a sandy fish in them it blends in! The kitchen is improving with age and holds the stories of countless lunches and dinners in its soft waxed walls, but it's breathtaking view that steals the show every time.
- NZ House & Garden