Dots, stripes, zebra skin and leopard… Beauty brand manager Melinda Jones’ Auckland home is as vivacious as its owner
When Melinda Jones and her partner, Mark Ambrose, purchased their Remuera, Auckland, property 16 years ago, it bore almost no resemblance to the light, bright, easy-living home it is today. “The walls were all shocking pink with aqua accents and there were about 20 chandeliers – everywhere you looked there was a chandelier,” Melinda recalls.
The elaborate lighting is long gone along with the carpet that entirely covered up the home’s macrocarpa flooring. The bare boards, restored by the couple to their original form, now bring a modern touch to the single-level 1960s weatherboard. While the floorplan isn’t large, the space still comfortably fits two lounges, three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with a granite-benchtop kitchen and a courtyard at the rear which is perfect for entertaining, surrounded as it is by immaculately trimmed hedging and a manicured lawn, hydrangea bushes and fruit trees.
The walls were all a shocking pink with aqua accents...and there were about 20 chandeliers.
“I love entertaining; it’s my hobby,” says Melinda, who is a self-professed “fabulous” cook. One bite of her homemade Thai pesto will have you convinced, too. “I like to do tagines, lots of slow-roasted lamb, crêpes suzette for dessert… I’m always cooking.”
Her rhubarb is currently taking over the vege garden – “It looks like it’s on steroids” – and a mature plum tree in the backyard is already bursting with almost-ripe fruit during our shoot in late December. She’s likely to miss her opportunity to create a mouth-watering plum tart or preserves, though, given that Christmas is always spent down at the couple’s bach, accessible only by boat, in the Marlborough Sounds.
She made Christmas cake and panforte three months ago and had them sent south, ready for devouring over the festive season. As a seasoned diver, she’s also looking forward to catching and cooking crayfish in the diving spot located conveniently close to their holiday home.
At the Remuera pad, the lounge that Melinda has coined the ‘African room’ is used for entertaining or enjoying peace and quiet in front of the fireplace. There’s an animal theme throughout the house, but it’s most prominent in here, with a leopard-print chaise longue (from now-closed furniture company Zealous Design) alongside a leopard-print bench and matching cushions on the creamy beige sofa. The zebra-skin rug and the two porcupine lamps were all purchased during a trip to South Africa many years ago.
The artwork adorning most of the walls similarly came from a mix of local and far-flung sources. There’s the colourful painting (in the other lounge) of the couple’s boat shed on the Pauatahanui Inlet in Wellington and the still lifes (in the dining area) which Melinda bought from a gallery in London, where she lived for seven years from the age of 19. And, of course, the glamorous portrait of a 20-year-old Melinda which hangs in the entranceway, painted by a friend at the time who did Gauguin-inspired paintings and asked if Melinda would sit for her.
While Melinda is undoubtedly a fan of animal-themed interiors, she’s also an active animal rights supporter who has previously volunteered at the SPCA and will always put her hand up to fundraise for the charity during its annual campaigns. “You can find me when they’re fundraising, shaking my bucket in Newmarket. That’s my position, outside Smith and Caughey’s,” she says, while her seven-year-old silver toy poodle, Teacup, sits on her lap, waiting for a treat.
Teacup is a constant companion during the day while Melinda works from her home office – a converted space within the garage at the back of the property. The Bachelor of Business major is the New Zealand brand manager for La Prairie and has worked with the brand for a decade. Having a space dedicated to the business which can be kept separate from her home life is important because, she says, “It feels like I’m going to work in the morning”.
My friends said, ‘don’t do black and white – you’re mad. do a lovely, subtle cream.’...But when I had it done, I thought: this is perfect.
But having such clearly defined spaces, both in terms of purpose and decor, wasn’t intentional – “It just happened that way.” While the African room is a statement in itself, there’s also the bedroom at the front of the house, which is just as eclectic with its chequered theme and Zealous Design zebra-print, three-legged occasional chair in the corner. But the dining area is perhaps the grandest of them all. Having owned her walnut dining room set – which includes a table, chairs and cabinet – for 25 years, Melinda recently made the decision to give it all a new lease of life by having Bungalow Upholstery replace the fabric with a bold black and white striped Christian Lacroix design.
“My friends said, ‘Don’t do black and white – you’re mad. Do a lovely, subtle cream. You’ve already got spots, you’ve got beige, you’ve got zebra skin, you’ve got leopard – don’t tell me you’re now going to do black and white!’” she laughs. “But when I had it done, I thought, ‘Yes, this is perfect.’ Now they’re all saying, ‘Oh, it was the only fabric you could have put there’”. It’s true, when your style is as instinctual as Melinda’s, you should always back yourself.
Words by: Lucy Slight. Photography by: Helen Bankers.