One step inside Philippa Atkinson’s home and it’s crystal clear how much art means to her. Paintings by New Zealand artists Tony de Lautour and Heather Straka greet you at the entrance and works by other artists, both celebrated and less well known, line the walls throughout the rest of the home – even in the bathroom.
No matter where you walk in the house, painted faces and objects guide you along the way.
Even without the art, the two-storey villa in Herne Bay, Auckland, is enough to write home about all by itself. Built in 1910, the graceful home features period detailing, a wraparound balcony and winding staircase, all giving a nod to a bygone era. Inside, Atkinson’s art collection welcomes visitors back into the modern day and creates a contemporary buzz of its own.
The bedrooms and bathrooms are found upstairs, while downstairs there is a library, sitting room and kitchen. The wall-to-wall bi-fold kitchen doors open out onto a terraced outdoor living area, gradually stepping down to meet a lap pool and sleepout, which was designed in keeping with the style of the house.
When Atkinson, a media specialist, moved into the house 14 years ago it needed no structural work, it was perfect. Since then, the only work has been a fresh coat of paint inside and out. Originally the house had white interior walls. “They were painted in a ‘white’ white, it was too fresh,” Atkinson says. “So I introduced colour and painted it in a warm, neutral to soften it.”
The warm tone that now covers the walls throughout exudes a comforting elegance. In the kitchen warm white walls complement grey cabinetry, surrounding a solid rustic wooden dining table.
When Atkinson was ready to treat the worn wooden floorboards in the kitchen, she took the advice of her close friend and interior designer Vicki McCauley of Pacific Interiors. “Vicki suggested painting the floor white with grey stripes,” she says. “It was the best thing for the room as it made it so much lighter.”
“It’s easy to forget the good aspects about your home,” Atkinson says, “but this house is light, comfortable and has room to accommodate family and friends. For that reason, it’s special. I’ve always liked traditional homes and I’ve always lived in bungalows or villas. Plus, Herne Bay is a fantastic neighbourhood and so close to the city.”
With an interior style that Atkinson describes as eclectic, the home is an assemblage of items that she “sees and falls for”, many of which are sourced on her travels around the world. With a brother who works in the airline industry, she travels often and always picks up something while she’s away, whether it’s textiles from India, homeware from France or rugs from Africa.
Atkinson’s love of art began years ago and has grown steadily ever since. She says she simply made purchases when she was able to and her collection has gradually blossomed over the years. “I find art exciting,” she adds.
“Learning something new in the art world is always going to widen my perspective.”
Although her collection is large, she has no favourites. “There isn’t one work I put above the others. They all have their own story,” she says.
“Some people might use art to decorate a home and set a theme, but as my collection has grown over the years, I have simply hung work to suit,” she says. “Although I do move the works when I feel like a change.”
It makes sense for Atkinson to feature art so prominently in her home, as we all like to be surrounded by things we love. “Art is fabulous to look at and isn’t just meant to hang on special walls,” she says. “I like to see and feel it throughout the house.” Although it is not often that people hang artwork in their bathroom, or have the luxury to, it makes perfect sense given the bathroom is a haven for contemplation.
“The Peter Stichbury drawings in my upstairs bathroom look great there,” she says. “A friend of mine advised me to ensure there was plenty of ventilation in the room – and there is. At the end of the day it’s great to integrate art with everything we do.”
Words by: Catherine Steel
Photography by: Rebekah Robinson