As you’d expect from our homestyle art director, Juliette and her partner Robin have created a home that embraces playful design.
Homestyle art director Juliette Wanty lives in Parnell, Auckland with her fiancé Robin Schmid, a facade specialist at an engineering firm. She says they’ve lived in this home for so long it represents a chapter of their lives and she knows they’ll look back on it as one of the best.
So, Juliette, how did you and Robin come to be living here? We actually met in this house — he was living with a friend of mine at the time — so it’s a special place to me. I moved in six years ago. Up until last year, we had our good friend as a housemate, but she’s since left to live with her partner. Although it’s a bit more space than we need for just the two of us, we love it here, so we decided to stay.
And you’re renting? With the high cost of property in central Auckland, we’ve made a decision to rent for now. Once we did the mental reframe that this was a choice we’d made versus the status quo, it really helped give us some perspective on our housing dream, allowing us to be content and grateful for our life right now. Although we are saving for and looking forward to owning our own home in the future, we know that checking that box isn’t the be all and end all, so we’re relishing living where we do, the lifestyle it offers and being expressive in the ways we can.
Aside from the love connection, what else is special about this house? I feel an affinity with its wonky walls and rustic quirks. It’s not even on the spectrum of perfect and Robin and I are both attracted to that. It’s also so peaceful and almost completely surrounded by green, yet within walking and bike-commuting distance of the inner city.
You’ve done a bit of a reno recently — what sparked that off? Since we’ve had the place to ourselves, we’ve been able to experiment with the interior more than ever before. I saw it as an opportunity to apply my ideas in a real home and experiment with design without the pressure of things having to be perfect or appeal to anyone but us. The furniture we’ve made is far more ‘prototype’ than polished; we find there’s always something to be gained from the design process beyond the end result.
Rescuing the walls from decades of wear and tear, we painted most of them — and the kitchen cupboards — staying true to their neutral origins, which really freshened things up. The small, sad area of grey lino in the kitchen was very tired and stained, so we painted it in blue-grey Resene Smokescreen, making the space infinitely cleaner.
Some of the minor updates had an unexpectedly big impact, like machine- washing the living room curtains and switching out the kitchen cupboard handles for brass ones.
How about the built-in furniture? Did you and Robin make it yourselves? I’m really interested in the realm between architecture and furnishings — custom pieces that respond to an environment. Robin and I had spaces in mind for a pseudo built-in sofa, tiled coffee table, corner desk and guest-room headboard, so we designed them together and built them to fit. The sofa was designed to look built-in without messing with the existing interior, with the base merging with the wall visually but not attaching. All these items were constructed in a simple flat-pack fashion, so we can take them with us if we move.
You clearly have a thing for chairs — where do you find them all? I definitely have something of a chair problem! Robin and I are both fascinated with old things and have a penchant for picking up pieces that may have been discarded because they needed a little TLC. Perhaps it’s similar to the house itself, finding the beauty in something that’s old, unloved and a bit weird. Robin’s talent for fixing things up really comes into play here — he can turn his hand to anything.
Robin spotted the chrome frames of our lounge chairs on the side of the road. We then made and upholstered the seats in Como velvet from Martha’s Furnishing Fabrics. The vintage dining chairs came from friends who were moving house — they were also in bad shape and needed repairing. Others came from Trade Me or similar, in varying states before we did them up.
You’re constantly encountering interior inspo in your work — did something in particular spark off the design aesthetic you’re honing at home? It sort of happened organically. Robin’s a colour lover; we make a great match as he’s very open-minded and not afraid to call me out if he thinks I’m playing it safe. I gravitate towards design objects with a sense of identity and I’m captivated by how objects can come together to create a unique story.
We also wanted the spaces to be simple and intentional — not minimalist exactly, but uncluttered — and used this ethos to experiment and celebrate some of the favourite pieces we’ve acquired over the years. An example of this is how our sofa base creates a perfect platform for our Oscar Piccolo lamp. There’s also a nostalgia to the way we’ve curated the rooms; it’s a house with character and we have a lot of secondhand pieces, so there are nods to a few different eras.
What’s your advice for others wanting to make their rental their own? Improving your home environment in ways that are meaningful to you is really rewarding. Work with the space you have; paint walls if you’re able to. You don’t have to own your home to invest in special pieces such as lamps, art, plants, rugs and furniture, either — they’re portable and can easily move if you do.