Raymond Henderson swears he has the best friends in the world and it's hard to disagree after spending time in his Parnell, Auckland house. Many of the most beautiful objets d'art gracing the interior are gifts from these best friends.
For instance, there's the unusual glass bud centrepiece made of medicine bottles, the twin silver roosters on the sideboard, the fez in a frame, the bird's nest with the tiny blue eggs decorating the orchids and a massive coffee table book on garden designer Piet Oudolf - all gifts from friends. The lavish cushions on the French sofa were handmade out of an old rug for him by yet another friend. Raymond even has friends who come in and rearrange his house if they feel so inclined.
"I have lovely friends who come here and start rearranging things but I don't mind. I'm always changing things anyway. And sometimes I rearrange friends' things if I think they need help."
A house, he says, should express the personality of the inhabitant. "I dislike houses where everything is the same. You wouldn't know whether a man or a dog lived in those houses."
So what can be deduced from looking around Raymond's home? That he likes travelling? Yup. That accounts for the masks from San Francisco, the rosary from Brazil and the figurines from Bali. That he loves glass and crystal and groupings of things? Correct. They are displayed everywhere. And that, from the looks of the sofa and French salon chairs and chandeliers, he's also fond of things French? Absolument.
Raymond calls his style fusion – a little bit French, a lot Asian, with a touch of the 60s courtesy of pieces he inherited from his family. Not to mention the odd bit of clutter in the corners.
The Henderson family radiogram still belts out a terrific Sound of Music, his father's old National transistor works a treat and his parents' wedding present crystal lamp sparkles on a side table. All fit into the fusion without a murmur of discord. "If you have got good pieces you can put whatever you like with them."
So, yes, his friends are marvellous but so, he says, is his sister Sharon Stuart, who still lives in his home town Dunedin and, like him, is a hairdresser with her own salon. His salon, Raymond Salon de Coiffure, is near his Parnell home and has, over the 26 years he has owned it, garnered a coterie of loyal clients. "No, not clients," he corrects me, wagging an admonishing finger. "Friends. They're all friends."
He's been dubbed "hairdresser to the stars" but Raymond says that was years ago, though there's an element of truth in it. Alas, squeezing gossip out of him is impossible. For one thing he says he is like a doctor – the consultation is confidential. But mostly he simply forgets. "It goes in one ear and out the other. It has to. Imagine if I retained everything people told me. I'd go mad."
Which is why his elegant retreat is so important. According to the architect who designed the house, Marshall Cook, it was a most difficult house to design since it was on such a small site. It basically takes up the whole site, even though it has a wonderful outdoor garden and a terrace lined with coiffured, topiaried buxus that Raymond trims himself. They too are his little family.
He wasn't the first owner of the 15-year-old home, but he declared he'd buy it as soon as he walked in – quite a claim from a man who'd lived on the other side of town in Ponsonby for 12 years and preferred not to live near his work. But the house had such lovely bones he was instantly won over and he says almost everyone who enters feels the same way.
Though the lounge catches the sun, wooden blinds sieve the light and, when Raymond lights the many candles around the room, the living area is transformed into a glowing, peaceful retreat in the evening. "I do appreciate my time alone here," he says. "It's a luxury."
Given the number of times the phone rings with social invitations, I'm beginning to see why. "I love people," says Raymond. "Imagine if no one loved or wanted you. How awful that would be!"
His friends even have the right to choose his interior paint colours. He's thinking of redoing the living area and plans to paint some testpot colours on the wall to see what friends think. "Well, they have to live here too," he says.
And they do. Often. Luckily for them, Raymond adores cooking and entertaining. "I love having people around. It always ends up as a concert with a lot of hilarity and carry-on."
He loves to travel and is a great advocate of going offshore. "The wonderful thing is that every time people travel they come back with another idea. Travel is what makes people evolve."
If it seems as if Raymond Henderson loves just about everything around him, it's true. He does. "I've got a fantastic life," he says. "I love going to work. I love my home. I've got a lot to be thankful for." And that he most definitely is.