All white in Parnell
Houses can be a bit like lifelong ambitions. Just when you think you have achieved your dream, life has something else in store and you find yourself travelling in an entirely different direction.
Take Jo Eddington. A few years ago she was living what she considered the ultimate residential dream – a beachfront house on Waiheke Island and an apartment in Auckland’s Viaduct. Then, after a relationship break-up, she found herself house-hunting on the mainland.
Through a process of elimination, Jo had pinpointed the city fringe suburb of Parnell as the place she wanted to live. It was close to work, had a great school for her daughter Lexi (now seven) and was within walking distance of the sea.
She’d accepted that, given the lofty property values, she would probably have to live in an apartment. But that posed two problems: first, she was wary of leaky building syndrome and, second, her business Coastal Design Co relied on her testing new ranges of outdoor furniture in her own outdoors. “That could be a challenge on a 1.2-metre deck.”
But she didn’t give up and, when an email alert let her know an early-1980s townhouse was about to go on the market, she made sure the real estate agent was showing her around within hours. “I walked in and thought, ‘This is it’,” remembers Jo.
That great first impression was perhaps surprising, considering that this diamond came in the rough. One of three in a block, the two-bedroom, four-level house – painted throughout in ‘Spanish White’, with dark timber beams and terracotta tiles on the floor – was in obvious need of a 21st century makeover. But, as Jo says, the bones were perfect. It was built to face the sun, had not just one but two terrace areas and a wonderful sloping wilderness garden.
“People keep on telling me to level it out, but I don’t play pétanque or bowls. We do have a water slide and the slope is perfect for that. A bit of detergent and the kids are away!”
Jo’s first job was to paint the entire interior white – including the wooden shutters that give it a distinctly Mediterranean feel.
“The overall plan was to go less Spanish hacienda and more Greek island,” says Jo, who was happy to say goodbye to the tiles and replace them with white wood veneer.
Next, the kitchen and dining areas were transformed from separate cave-like areas, with a tiny servery between them, to a bright, white, open area with a generous island bench.
“I used to call it the hobbit kitchen,” says Jo. “It was tiny, the benches were low and everything felt as if it had been built for someone who was four feet tall. Even my cutlery was too long for the drawers.”
The central island makes the kitchen a focal point of the home, says Jo. Although there is a dining area on the next level, this is where people tend to gravitate. “I don’t care who says what about dining tables, this is where we gather. Whoever is doing the cooking gets to be part of the conversation, Lexi sits here to do her homework – it’s just a great space.”
It provides great storage too. The kitchen side holds all the cooking equipment and the other side is Lexi’s domain. The generous cupboards store all the pens, pencils and craft paraphernalia so beloved by seven-year-olds.
The only disappointment with the kitchen was that Jo had to give up her plans for a mirrored splashback behind the gas hob. It would have been fine if she’d had electric elements, but safety restrictions ruled it out with gas.
Jo’s philosophy for her interiors is much the same as it is for her business. “I want my home to be the kind of place where kids can sit around eating raspberry iceblocks and my friends can lounge around without worrying about spilling their wine on the sofas. I like nice things, but they need to be bulletproof.”
As you’d expect, Jo’s decks are furnished with her own range of outdoor furniture (where there are always new pieces being tested for comfort, design and longevity), but her designs have ventured inside as well.
The living room sofas are from Coastal Design Co, equipped to survive anything family life can throw at them. With slip covers, Jo can easily change the look of the room. “In summer, the covers are white and can be thrown into the washing machine. In winter, it’s more about rich velvet texture, lots of throws and sitting around by the fire.”
Jo’s living room has proved to be the perfect place to test fabrics. When she first moved in, her lounge suite was brown, but one summer in the west-facing room turned it an unappealing cream. She has much higher expectations for the new slip covers, from her own brand, made in sturdy marine fabric.
Jo’s partner, Richard Moore, is a fashion designer whose love of texture and balance chimes well with Jo’s commitment to practicality. Though they do have “some great discussions,” she says with a laugh. “Fortunately there’s room for both our talents.”
Richard lives across the harbour on Cheltenham beach and reckons he could pretty much paddle over to meet them. So, when the discussions get too heated, they can take to the water. Jo and Lexi have both been introduced to paddleboarding and, with Judges Bay just down the road, they enjoy getting down to the shore for a serious aquatic workout.
Which just goes to show, you can take the girl away from the water, but you can’t stop her from finding another beach.
The best thing about owning a multi-level house: You get fit from running endlessly up and down stairs to retrieve forgotten items. And kids and adults have their own zones to hang out in.
Entertaining in this house involves: Good friends, food and wine, lounging on the deck enjoying the early evening sun (with the kids running amok down in the garden).
The best money I ever spent: Buying my first home.
The best piece of advice I ever received: Don’t take no for an answer. If you persevere there’s normally a workable solution to everything.
The bravest thing I did around the house: Removing walls to open up the interiors.
This weekend I will be: Working, then escaping to a little bach an hour and a half away at Langs Beach with our paddleboards on the roof rack and a chilly bin laden with goodies.
My favourite part of the house: My deck in the late afternoon sun.
At the moment I am enjoying eating: Antipasto salads with grilled haloumi and, for breakfast, fresh fruit with a dollop of thick Greek yoghurt.
And drinking: Right now, I’m loving New Zealand syrah.
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Story: Hannah Dickson
Photographs: Emma Bass