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A Scandinavian-style Christmas in Dunedin

Christmas at this gorgeous Dunedin villa is a cool, crisp, pine-scented affair like a Norwegian wood in winter

Sandy Cubitt, Dunedin, Christmas, home feature, villa

As an interior designer and owner of home and giftware institution Moi on George in Dunedin, Sandy Cubitt has her finger on the pulse when it comes to style, trends and design ideas. She has a strong Scandinavian aesthetic, which she wasted no time in implementing when she and her husband, Allan, purchased their villa on the hills of St Clair six years ago.

“When we first moved in, the interior had been painted in a multitude of colours which actually looked really lovely – we could have moved in and not touched a thing,” says Sandy.

However, being the ambitious interior designer that I am, I was determined to create a restful interior with a neutral, Scandi-esque palette

It’s no surprise, then, that Sandy’s minimalistic Nordic approach extends to the Christmas styling of her home. The tree is pared back and simple with elegant ornaments, and the gift wrap on the presents beneath has been kept clean and uncomplicated to create a beautiful and effortless Scandinavian theme.

Since living here, Allan and Sandy have made numerous alterations including painting the exterior and every room in the house – some of them twice (the white shade Dulux ‘Quarter St Clair’ is a favourite). They also removed the faux ceiling in the hallway to expose the original board and batten ceiling underneath. All the floor coverings were removed and timber flooring installed and, more recently, the couple embarked on a major renovation of the home’s two bathrooms, as well as the kitchen and living area.

“Now that we only have Annabelle, 16, at home with us, we chose to make the family bathroom smaller and the ensuite bigger to create a luxurious master suite,” says Sandy.

Sandy had once seen an image online of a fireplace recessed into a concrete wall and had never forgotten it, so when she and Allan came to renovate the living area, they had their hearts set on creating something similar. But this project proved easier said than done when an engineering report showed that the weight of a concrete wall would require extensive reinforcement of the foundations. Luckily, their builder, Ryan Whiston, came up with the savvy idea of a faux concrete wall. It was then the turn of talented plasterer Dave White to apply a plaster coating that resembled the colour and texture of concrete over Ryan’s timber framing. The result is nothing short of a masterpiece.

The large open-plan living space opens directly onto a beautiful garden and north-facing courtyard with extensive sea views to enjoy. It is here that Sandy, Allan and their close blended family of seven kids and three grandchildren congregate for a traditional Christmas lunch every year.

Christmas in the Cubitt household is exactly how the festive season should be, revolving around family, traditions, food and festivities. Sandy, whose love of Christmas is equal to her love of Scandinavian design, sets two dining tables (one inside, one in the courtyard) simply with elegant white candles and beautiful floral arrangements by local florist Carly Jones of Joseph Jones.


Christmas Day always begins the same way: Sandy’s two daughters, who own a cafe in the city, brew fresh coffee for the family to enjoy over a cooked breakfast and croissants. This is followed by a late lunch enjoyed in the courtyard with extended family and friends. “It is our tradition that my children all create a dish for Christmas lunch. Every year we attend Judith Cullen’s Christmas cooking class for inspiration, and we always make something, if not a few things, from her menu,” says Sandy.

With a keen eye on burgeoning design trends and ideas, Sandy predicts this year’s festive season will be all about natural elements, metallics and marble. Most of all, it will be a day spent enjoying a long, lazy lunch in the company of good friends and a close blended family, while drinking in beautiful sea views from high on the hills of St Clair.

Words by: Annick Larkin. Photography by: Emma MacDonald.

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