An art-filled Auckland villa
Should fire ever threaten to engulf the home of Cathy Gould, out of all her carefully curated pieces and artefacts she would choose to hotfoot it with a bird's nest. "To me, it's art," she says.
The nest currently sits on a mantelpiece in Cathy's house, which itself occupies high ground on an Auckland inner-city street. Cathy, who has worked as a primary school teacher, and husband Roger Donald, who practises as a doctor in South Auckland, have lived here for five years - sometimes with their adult children, always with their two West Highland terriers.
When the couple moved into the three-storeyed villa, it had already been restored to a high standard. Even so, it has taken until now to make the house fit for purpose.
"Turning a house into a home takes time," says Cathy, who should know. She has renovated eight houses and been fully involved with building three more from scratch. Her job, she says, is to create "a sanctuary" for her whanau because "it's bloody hard out there at times".
Cathy furnishes and grooms her property with precision. To illustrate - she is currently renting a photograph of a stuffed sparrow by Michael Parekowhai, assessing whether it can hold its own amid diverse neighbours including a Fornasetti chair, an antique candelabra and a zebra pelt (from, she notes, a commercial farm in Africa that supports local villages).
"Rather than having everything minimal and modern, you can have it all," says Cathy of her acquisitions policy. Her Auckland hunting grounds are various: Mid Century Design for lamps, Design 55 and World for Fornasetti, The Vitrine for French antiques, Flotsam and Jetsam for pretty much anything, plus dealer galleries and auction houses. As for Cathy's organising principle: "I'm a Virgo, so I'm really fussy. I like things balanced, so I'm very aware of positioning."
And that positioning also extends to the house's human residents. One of the villa's advantages is the elbow room it provides, says Cathy. Son Tom and his girlfriend Anna occupy the top floor, with its bedroom, bathroom and study. The bottom floor is similarly plotted.
Cathy and Roger live mostly on the intervening storey, which comprises their bedroom, a formal living room and a generous hub - an open-plan kitchen/dining/living room.
Cathy's domestic style is particularly evident in the formal living room, dubbed "the chapel". The tone is set by a Ralph Hotere lithograph that draws on Catholic iconography. Cathy has also corralled some of her grandmothers' possessions. Everything in the room is beautiful, she says, including her paternal grandmother's silver thimble.
The walled back garden, accessed from the villa through glass doors, offers another living space, complete with a gazebo based on examples seen in Italy and commissioned from Cottage Iron Works in Onehunga. It's a favourite haunt for Cathy - a place to sit and think of an evening. That's after applying herself to her favourite pastime, "watering with wine", which involves standing with hose in one hand and glass of chardonnay in the other.
Cathy is a committed gardener with a problematic worksite: the soil is clay and some spots are desiccated. Her design incorporates hardy 'Golf Ball' pittosporums and star jasmine and is alternately formal and informal: crimped titoki trees surrounded by black cosmos and pansies, white alyssum and Queen Anne's lace, as well as vegetables, herbs and strawberries.
Cathy harvests seeds for friends, makes chutneys and jams and teaches children gardening skills through her involvement with the Garden to Table school programme. "Gardening is a meditation," she says. "It's seen me through really hard times."
She and Roger have recently laid mulch around 160 trees on their Matakana property, north of Auckland. "The result was so aesthetically pleasing," recalls Cathy, slightly shamefacedly.
"I really should lose that parks and reserves mentality."
Influential female forebears have helped to shape Cathy's aesthetic. Her paternal grandmother was a privileged woman who lived "an elegant life" in a house stocked with antiques. Freesias carpeted her garden, azaleas lined her drive - in Cathy's memory all as hyper-real as a Karl Maughan painting.
Cathy's maternal grandmother was a worker - "up at 4 o'clock in the morning, in the garden digging, building walls and ponds". Her house was a tip, says Cathy, but she appreciated beauty, as her Dresden clock in Cathy's bedroom attests.
Cathy's mother had an eye for interior design. She hung chocolate brown wallpaper in her dining room and painted the fire surround jade green. She was also of a liberal and encouraging disposition, allowing her 13-year-old daughter to decorate her own bedroom, ceiling included. Cathy chose pink and purple wallpaper (it was the 60s), offset by a shag pile carpet.
In another life Cathy would have liked to have been an interior designer although, she notes, she has ended up doing the job anyway. She is, she says, her own best client.
For more images including web-exclusive images click on the "photo gallery" link above.
Story: Frances Walsh
Photographs: Emma Bass