In this series we will be giving you a glimpse into the places our designers & team call home. Take a tour and gain a personal insight into some of the treasured interiors of our team. We hope it fills you with inspiration!
This week’s blog features the home of Sue James-Moore, Interiors Sales Consultant for McKenzie & Willis Wanaka. Constructed using the unique rammed earth method, Sue’s house pulls together metals, velvet, and wood grains for a luxe look.
How would you describe the Interior Design style of your home?
I guess the closest description would be ‘luxe’ due to a large portion of the decor featuring shiny metals, velvet, and wood grains. It is also a mix of eras. The strongest presence is the Art Deco period with a healthy dose of modern minimalism.
I am not one for having a lot of things. Pieces of furniture are kept to minimum and I decorate with only a few ornaments and accessories. I treat pendant lights or any light features as an art form. I like them to be the focus without distractions.
Where did you find inspiration for your home?
I am a big fan of ‘Autoban’ who are an established interior design company in Istanbul. They have an extensive back catalogue of exciting (and mostly commercial) commissions such as the Turkish airport, the Manchester Stock Exchange Hotel and the Duck and Blue restaurant in London to name a few. Their aesthetic is very complex, a lot of detail and mix of materials heavily dependent on marbles, metals and exotic wood grain. This is expertly incorporated into existing historical detail and created with a very disciplined colour palette.
We understand your home is a rammed earth house, can you tell us more about that?
Yes, half of our house is comprised of rammed earth walls! It is a really exciting process to watch, a bit like seeing a large sandcastle being formed. The earth mix is prepared on site, which is then pushed and pressed down bit by bit with a hydraulic press (that’s the ramming) into a temporary wall cavity created by two parallel large plywood sheets (called shutters). Once this is completed to the top of the shutters, they are taken away exposing the completely formed earth wall. The process then repeats itself depending on how many widths are required. There is nothing else required, no gib or cladding!
There is a lot of background preparation to allow for earth walls to form though. The foundation needs to be particularly strong and deep and full of steel support as the walls are very heavy. Also to attached a roof on the top of the earth in most cases requires a concrete bond beam to be formed on top of the wall, so there is a bit of work in boxing that out and pouring the concrete. And of course all your wiring needs to be pre-done thought out and placed inside during the earth ramming process.
I totally believe it was worth it in the end. Rammed earth, once at temperature will keep a room a consistent heat as it stores the warmth. Visually it is also really interesting as it is imperfect in some parts but mostly (if compacted well) has a smoothness not dissimilar to marble. It’s a very interesting raw product. The walls are 300mm thick allowing for deep window recesses.
Do you have a favourite space in your home and why?
My living space, because it is the hub, it’s where the family gets together, where we eat, cook and hang out. It contains all my favourite furniture and design pieces. I like the light of it too, even though I have dark walls and floors, the quantity of windows allows it to stay light.
Tell us about some of your most loved pieces in your home?
That would have to be the front door handle and my lounge suite. Both are from the 1920’s. The door handle (seen in the photo with steel kitchen cabinet) is a reclaimed item from the Imperial Theatre in Ponsonby that was pulled down a few years ago. It was originally chrome, but it was very worn. I went to have it re-chromed but to my surprise I discovered in the process that it was brass underneath. This was too beautiful to re-chrome so I kept it brass, hence the difference between the locks and catches on my front door being silver, anticipating the arrival of a chrome door handle.
My lounge suite is very classic 1920’s style and I recovered it in the velvet Warwick ‘Ella’ colour Ocean. It is a piece I enjoy every day!