Tauranga Art Station
Ruthie Day’s mum, Sally, jokes that her daughter needs to install an armchair in her guest bathroom. “It’s just so beautiful,” says Sally. “It’s more like a mini art gallery.”
The room’s large, gilded mirror proves her point, reflecting as it does the glory of a mosaic torso, a buttock sculpture and huge candles that flicker in the evening. A series of hand-carved pieces on the wall have made the long journey from consecrated ground to this less-hallowed space – they’re made from stone sourced from the restoration of English cathedrals.
A racing greyhound by Joanna Braithwaite hangs above the dining room table.
This smallest room heralds what is ahead in Ruthie and Pete Day’s sprawling, single-storey home in Tauriko, on the outskirts of Tauranga.
Ruthie acknowledges that their house – which is also home to Lewis, thirteen, and Fraser, ten – has often been likened to an art gallery. The reasons for this are immediately apparent.
Pete, an Air New Zealand pilot, and Ruthie are lovers of contemporary art and have filled their house with it. Much of it is by Kiwi artists – Agnes Wood, Lois McIvor, Leah Fletcher and Neil Frazer – with a few Aussies also in the mix.
The large wooden front door swings in to expose a vibrant three-by-two-metre oil on canvas called Fold. The piece can be viewed in eight different ways, as its “pages” can be turned according to season, mood or mere whim.
This creation, by New Zealand artist Philippa Blair, keeps good company. On the opposite wall hang a Gretchen Albrecht work and a Jodie Hope-Gibbons piece that uses an unlikely pairing of bitumen and gold paint.
In the dining room, a large oil painting of a greyhound in mid flight has pride of place over the table. This painting was done by yet another New Zealand artist, Joanna Braithwaite, who is a friend of the Days.
In addition, Ruthie has steadily been making a name for herself in the mosaic art field. She is one of three New Zealand artists to feature in a yet-to-be-published coffee-table book on mosaic art called Outside the Box. One of her creations, a mosaic heart, graces a passage wall leading to the adults’ wing of the house. “It’s a favourite, and now that it’s been hung I feel it has anchored our home,” she says.
Ruthie’s work can be found both inside and outside the house – she cheerily refers to her torsos as “her girls”. One in the entranceway hints at a melting pot of cultures with its Moroccan glass, Italian crystal and New Zealand paua adornment.
The Days opted for a four-metre-high ceiling stud in their kitchen, dining room, entrance and one of the hallways; the elevated space is perfect for displaying their art, as are the unpainted block walls that feature here and there throughout the house. The same material has been used outside in planter boxes and walls, where the raw grey contrasts dramatically with the black-stained cedar and deep red-brown of the exterior.
This repetition of product and colour is important to the couple.
“Structure, straight lines, repetition and ‘less is more’ is what we wanted for the house and the outdoor landscaping,” says Ruthie.
Jarrah cabinetry has been used in both the kitchen and the laundry, Italian linen drapes are repeated in the living areas and the master bedroom and the wide log burner in the living room matches the one on the deck. Splashes of red – a colour Ruthie can’t resist – provide warmth and drama.
Outside, mass planting rules with ‘Little Gem’ magnolias, corokia, gardenias, bangalow palms, ginger, griselinea and mondo grasses, all thriving in this young yet established-looking garden.
Though Ruthie has made the interior design decisions, Pete has had substantial input into the design of the house and garden, sharing his thoughts with landscaping designer Mark Cashmore, Tony Murrell of television’s Ground Force fame and architect Steven Chambers of Tauranga’s Chambers and Chambers. Their builder, Richard Strange, has become a good friend.
Pete says he is thrilled with the end result, describing the house, tucked away down a quiet, tree-lined lane, as a wonderful refuge to come home to. The covered deck with skylights is a favourite space in which to unwind.
“The deck is another room,” he says. “It’s easily accessible from the central living station and it’s a great place for socialising, with the fireplace a drawcard on chilly nights.”
Clever planning has resulted in a house where large windows offer appealing garden views from several different directions. Pete enthuses over its clean lines, wonderful living spaces, sense of light and space, relaxed feel and “fun family environment”.
Though his sons may not give a second thought to the virtues of clean lines, they exuberantly agree with the fun part. The half-hectare site is big enough to house a tennis court, a swimming pool, a skate ramp, a putting green and a pool house complete with gym equipment.
There’s also ample room for the boys to sprawl inside. They have a bedroom each, with a bathroom in between, and a family room with a computer nook.
A third bedroom in their wing of the house has been commandeered by their mother to use as her office. She has also taken over the back part of the garage with a substantial workbench, now covered in an intriguing array of diamantes, crystal beads and broken ceramic crockery, as well as grout, glue and a glass-cutting saw.
Not that Pete is complaining. He’s happy with a ten-by-eight-metre “man shed” of his own.
Please see the photo gallery for more photos from this story including some web exclusive images.
Story: Monique Balvert-O’Connor
Photographs: Nicola Topping