In her new book, Our Spaces, Alana Broadhead opens the door to impeccable local homes and invites you to peruse.
Finding great books devoted to New Zealand architecture is as easy as pie, but when it comes to those on contemporary New Zealand interiors, it can be a different story. As editor of online journal The New and owner of Waihi Beach homeware store Sunday, Alana Broadhead couldn’t help but notice the discrepancy. In response, she’s created a coffee-table book to showcase the coming of age of our interiors, which she says have moved out of an awkward teenage phase to become more worldly, confident and discerning.
So, Alana, how was editing Our Spaces similar or different to curating your website, The New? The New has always been about taste-making design that just happens to be from New Zealand.
I don’t share it just because it’s from New Zealand; it has to be able to stand proudly on a global stage, and the same is true of the homes in Our Spaces — you could easily open an international interiors book and see them there.
In curating Our Spaces and The New, I’m always looking for the X factor — unique little touches I’ve not seen elsewhere and that 5% extra magic.
I’m turned off by anything that’s too trendy. There are plenty of on-trend elements in Our Spaces, but I wanted readers to be able to leaf through it in five years and still find inspiration. I like to call it ‘timeless but right on time’.
What was your vision for this book? I wanted Our Spaces to have a Pinterest- like digestibility — to be not too wordy and have hundreds of images, tips and takeaways. I also wanted it to be more aspirational than instructional. The person reading Our Spaces wants to be given some new insights and ideas, but they’re also smart enough to glean their own from the photographs.
In saying that, although I had this idea of an image-rich, text-light coffee-table book, I didn’t want it to be purely about aesthetics. I’m passionate about the notion that design is the art of living well, so I wanted to touch on minimalism and intentional design, and how these approaches can enhance our lives.
Why you should buy less, but better, for example, and why you should be very intentional in what you choose to surround yourself with.
What other themes emerged along the way? That the definition of luxury is changing. These days, luxury isn’t excess or expense — it’s time, presence, meaning, beauty. We can design our homes to embody our own definition of luxury.
Another key theme is confidence. The spaces included in the book are nuanced reflections of the people who’ve made them. It’s about knowing who you are, being self-assured in what you like and what you value, and reflecting those things in your home, irrespective of trends.
Another common thread is that good things take time. Crafting a home with soul is a long game — it’ll take years to create, so have patience and layer slowly.
Is there such a thing as a ‘New Zealand’ interior aesthetic? Architecturally there are some typologies, but in interiors it’s becoming harder to define a New Zealand aesthetic. Every year, we diversify more and more, which is exciting. You can sometimes pick a New Zealand home by a piece of furniture or lighting that’s become popular here. More often than not, these are local pieces, which I think is lovely because it shows we’re developing a lexicon of our own design icons.
One thing I believe we do brilliantly in New Zealand is ‘informal excellence’. We know how to deliver clean and classy in a casual, down-to-earth way. I’d say that’s a signature of New Zealand design — refined but relaxed.
We love that in the book you celebrate small interior moments as much as whole rooms — what’s the secret to styling beautiful and purposeful vignettes? I love an interior moment, because it doesn’t matter if you’re renting, have limited funds or share your home with a messy family — you can create one anywhere. There are some basic styling principles that will help you get started: go for odd rather than even numbers of items; try objects of varying heights; and pick one piece as the focal point, then gather others around it. But my best advice? Just have a play. Move things around, stand back, take a photo, rinse and repeat. Actually, there’s something about looking at photos that instantly helps your clarity and objectivity — you can swipe through and get a clearer feel for your favourite.
I also love to think about where in the house the sunlight hits at various times of the day, then create a moment in that place. The interplay of light and shadow sprinkles magic on an otherwise ordinary scene.
What do you think is essential to creating a meaningful interior? The key is to be true to you. Plan and design your home with intention but don’t follow anyone else’s ideals. There’s
a saying that goes, “Style… is just a matter of being yourself on purpose.”
I love that. I think that’s why the homes in Our Spaces resonate with me so much — you can feel the realness.
What does living well at home mean to you? To me, it means consciously designing a home for the life I want to live in it. Regardless of budget, we can make choices in terms of decorating and layout that will enhance our wellbeing and inspire us to live better. Eliminating tiny annoyances creates a life that feels and flows better; you might put up some stylish hooks in your bathroom so your clothes don’t get dumped on the floor when you shower, or instead of having three teapots clattering around in the cupboard, just have one beautifully made one that you use every day.
Living well at home also means elevating the everyday to make mundane rituals more special and joyful — not saving things for a special occasion, but making your life the special occasion.