House of the week: Christchurch

Last updated 05:00 03/09/2014

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There was a time when Alfred Dell'Ario was a stark minimalist but upon entering his Christchurch home, which features in the August issue of NZ House & Garden, you realise he is referring to a different man.The watchword now is opulence. 

"I like the look of luxury and a certain lushness," says Dell'Ario, who is clinical director of specialty and addiction services for the Canterbury DHB. 

The house is the psychiatrist's third since he immigrated to New Zealand from Texas 20 years ago. He moves house always for the same reason - to indulge his inner interior designer. Dell'Ario's last house in Cashmere suffered some cosmetic and contents damage from the quakes, but it was as good as new by the time he sold it last year. 

Searching the city for a section on which to build something new, he drove past an open home on one of his favourite streets. He bought the house that same afternoon. 

"I liked the size. It's fairly American, I think, and the rooms are much larger than usual. And I liked the formality of it." 

Entering the house, your eye is immediately drawn to a gleaming black grand piano, showcased at the far end of the hallway before floor to ceiling glass.

"That was the other reason I loved this house: when I walked through that front door I could visualise my piano down there." 

That ability to "think in pictures" is a key part of his talent for makeovers. 

"Every time I shift house I pretty much know in my head where every piece of furniture and every major artwork is going to go." 

Still, this most recent renovation managed to consume the best part of three months. Unlike Dell'Ario, the previous owners had been fond of terracotta tiles and draperies and, though it was only 10 years old, the place was looking somewhat dated.

"I took the house right back to concrete slab and Gib walls and started over." 

He chose a colour scheme that leans heavily on black and white and a sense of continuity is paramount. 

"One room should relate to the next. I find it really jarring when you move through a house and one space has a completely different sense of size and colour to another." 

Clearly he's thought a lot about such matters - the fundamentals of interior design. Like all good hobbies, this one taps into a completely different aspect of the man from his day job.

"I can't imagine doing this for a living, but it certainly gives me a lot of pleasure." 

See more of this home in the August issue of NZ House & Garden, on sale now. 

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- NZ House & Garden


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