A stylist's respite
Clients arriving for a session with style guru Angela Stone step into an elegant light-filled atrium, the business end of her contemporary town pad.
Displaced from her home of seven years on Clifton Hill by the earthquakes, this fashion consultant is living among an enclave of designer homes by the banks of the Avon River in Merivale.
In her atrium office, the family dining table has morphed into a reception table-cum-workbench, displaying fabric samples and jewellery. Angela's laptop and personal organiser are in frequent use as she takes calls and arranges a rack of stylish women's clothing from her own label.
White lilies in a tall vase gently scent the room, a calming influence in the midst of all the comings and goings.
At the foot of the stairs leading from the atrium to the upper level, a bathroom doubles as a convenient changing room for clients.
Splashes of colour are used to link the atrium to the nearby open-plan kitchen and living area. Rugs move along the spectrum, from red by the front entrance, to magenta pink - "my favourite colour" - beside the kitchen, to black on the floor of the living and family space. A shabby chic two-seater couch by the entranceway has been reupholstered to pick up these colours.
"I'm big on colour and using it well helps to soften the harder lines. I love placing dashes of colour in a room," Angela says, noting how something as simple as a small ball of red roses can energise an otherwise neutral corner.
Fashion is referenced in the décor throughout her home. Where others might have positioned a lamp stand, Angela has placed a sculptural bodice as a living- room feature. Her favourite artwork is a colourful sketch of Valentino's Spring/Summer Fashion Collection (Paris 1991), all taffeta and tulle.
Angela's own abstract artworks add colour and interest, too. She first took up painting a decade ago. One of her favourite works bears the words: "In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities."
The kitchen is contemporary and functional, with a white colour scheme and a long, sturdy stainless-steel bench that serves as both kitchen island and breakfast bar. "It's a great place to entertain," says Angela, who also loves the view from the kitchen across the front lawn to the river.
Word art helps create mood and motivation in selected spots. On a shelf in the kitchen, the featured word is "dream"; in Angela's work space, "laugh".
The living area has an eclectic selection of coffee-table books, from The Ultimate History of Ferrari, to Baroque Architecture, Sculpture and Painting, Al Brown's Go Fish and keepsake recipe book Apples For Jam.
A side table holds an assortment of framed photos, underlining that this is not just Angela's style headquarters, but a family home, too. This cosy corner is where they all meet to talk and unwind after work and school. "We can lie on the couches here, snug up and watch movies."
One of the reasons Angela chose this central location was for its easy access to schooling for her three children, Isabella, 14, Eva, 12 and Theo, 10. They all love the proximity to Hagley Park. A rugby ball beside a couch hints that outdoor play ranks as a priority, at least for Theo. "There are rugby balls all over the house," sighs Angela, who somehow manages to juggle her hectic work schedule and life as a mother. "I promise their rooms will be tidy by the time your photographer comes!"
One of the family's shared pleasures is a built-in NAD sound system that feeds music throughout the home. There is also a large movie room next to the downstairs laundry, although Angela confesses this is not used much for movies, but more as a combined storage space.
South African-born architect Thom Craig's design signature is written all over this townhouse. The basic structure is simple and strong: modernist and minimalist; stylish, light and airy; delivering privacy from neighbours and a restful river outlook. In short, it's a perfect stage for modern living.
Fundamental to his work is an appreciation of simplicity of form, first inspired by traditional Ndebele houses on the Highveld of South Africa.
"Simplicity of planning is what I'm interested in," Thom says. "If you look at this whole development, there was a conscious effort by all the designers to keep these contemporary houses very simple, in terms of form and materials."
The design makes this home very versatile. As Thom observes: "Houses can't be static. They should be able to change and grow with the changing lives of the occupants."
Angela appreciates how readily her working life has been accommodated within these adaptable walls. Her administration area and paperwork is spread out along a gallery office on the upper floor, tucked out of clients' sight and also situated not to interfere unduly with family life. Low windows create a sense of privacy, while also letting in light.
"Things can happen down here and upstairs, too. When I'm working downstairs, I feel like I'm in this happy bubble - it really, really works.
"When I'm working with clients, my main focus is to help them to achieve the style, feel and look they want. I'm there to give them confidence. I motivate people to look and feel good about themselves. Fashion is a vehicle that opens doors into people's lives."
Fashion has certainly opened doors in Angela's life. She has followed a highly successful career as an international model with a flourishing business as a professional fashion designer, consultant and stylist. "I've never really taken anything for granted. I think you create your life and what you want to achieve in your life. I'm very driven and focused. I have a lot of passion for what I'm doing."
At the time of the Avenues interview, Angela was busy co-ordinating fashion for various expos, while also preparing for Cup and Show Week. "I'm running a Cup Day fashion competition in Merivale - I'm really excited!"
Apart from the gallery office, the upper level is mostly for bedrooms and bathrooms. Eva and Theo share a sunny upstairs room and a gorgeous view. The children have their own spacious bathroom too, complete with a skylight over the bath. Isabella has her own room and, like her siblings' room, it has plenty of built-in wardrobe space.
"A stylist's dream" is how Angela describes her very generous wardrobe wall. "The moment I saw this, I knew I had to live here. I'm so lucky - a view overlooking the Avon River and a wardrobe this big; what more could you want?"
Part of Angela's extensive shoe collection is also stored by the robe wall; beyond is the private and spacious master bedroom.
Back downstairs, the family's loveable cocker spaniel, Versace, is caught naughtily lounging in a raised bed of pink flowers outside the atrium. Angela chases him out, while declaring "he's the best dog in the world".
We then follow a path past bamboo growing in tall pots to the backyard, where there is room to kick a ball and relax over a summer barbecue. An adjacent gravel parking space has room for several vehicles.
"We love it here," Angela says. "It feels really good. We've found a real refuge in this delightful home."