Designer, writer and mum of two Sammy-Rose Scapens grew up between Tauranga and Christchurch in a wonderfully artistic family, with parents who encouraged individuality and innovation. She was regularly left to her own devices to make up her own games, and a lot of her time was spent with her head in a book, then debating with her parents about what she’d read. All this instilled in her an ability to imagine and think outside of her own small sphere — something she’s very grateful for today. She says books inform all areas of her life and practice, which includes Homewerk — the business she started with her partner Oliver Starr — and the services she provides via Tradespeople’s national directory of women and gender-diverse tradies.
So Sammy, Homewerk sounds pretty interesting — what’s it all about? Homewerk’s a multi-functional building and design practice that creates homes, spaces and furniture that make people feel alive, self-actualised and fab. We aim to help people run their projects in ways that avoid financial strain, and to offer innovative and fun solutions. We’re dedicated to allowing as many people as possible to create spaces that feel good because they’re healthy, functional and aesthetically exciting, and we also have a growing desire to create sustainable and alternative housing solutions.
It encompasses a broad range of projects — how has it evolved? We began Homewerk in lockdown and it’s been a natural evolution of both Oli’s and my personal interests. I often look to companies doing similar things overseas, and offering multiple services seems to work really well for them, whereas in New Zealand, I feel pressure to be very specific about what we do: are we a building or an interior design company, do we make furniture or are we a spatial solutions practice? We decided to be whatever we’re comfortable with and not feel the need to package ourselves in a certain way, so we’re just delivering whatever sparks our interest, primarily within the building and design sector.
Tell us about your new fit-out for the Sea People ice-cream shop in Mt Maunganui… That was such a fun project. The owners had a very distinct vision for what they were trying to achieve, so we were lucky that they let us go wild. My favourite part was custom-making all of the furniture and the beautiful wavy island inside. It was such a pleasure creating something with clients who had zero interest in trying to appeal to a specific audience — they didn’t want to fit in or to be accessible, they just wanted to be interesting and progressive in their approach. I also worked with a range of artisans on that project, which really filled my love tank.
What new projects are on the horizon? We’re working on a range of metal furniture and about to embark on a small series of self-contained artist cabins that act as minor dwellings. This is an exciting long-term project offering beautiful alternative dwellings for people wanting to house more family or earn extra income with rent. I think in future we’ll see Homewerk come out with more long-term projects and solutions to the housing issues in New Zealand.
What makes you hopeful in these strange times? I’m a natural optimist, a big-time “Yes!” woman, a real cup- half-full person, so to be honest I feel endlessly hopeful all the time. I’m trying my hardest to raise our kids as aware, kind, passionate people who’ll do everything they can to make the world a better, more accountable place, and that’s all I can really do, while showing them how to take care of the planet; how to notice and feel the seasons; how to sharpen a knife, build a pot, write a story; how to be really alive in themselves and reflective in their interiority.
What else would you do if you weren’t doing what you’re doing? If I could do anything else, I’d run an alternative school. I’d like to see myself as a principal! And to see our education system become more progressive, allowing children and young adults to be fully themselves. Or maybe I’d run an organic orchard in Northland, or be a wool spinner in Central Otago…