Former fashionista Megan Douglas was drawn to the clean lines and simplicity of a mid-century masterpiece that has stood the test of time
Inside a mid-century masterpiece in Remuera that’s stood the test of time
The moment Megan Douglas caught sight of the slightly wild, well-established garden at the end of a long driveway she was captivated. The cube-like building partially hidden by the foliage further intrigued her. When she stepped inside the timber-panelled entrance of the architect-designed, mid-century Remuera house she knew she had found somewhere to call home.
“I was immediately drawn to the beauty of the garden, the way the foliage had been planted to frame the design of the house. Inside, it felt like we had found the place we had been searching for,” says the former New Zealand model and international fashion designer.
The clean lines and thoughtful simplicity of the house are typical of the Auckland homes designed by the late Czech-born architect Vladimir Cacala. Its elegant two-storey elevated box design, sheathed in painted vertical cedar with large windows and a north-facing timber deck, has stood the test of time.
It offered plenty of space for Douglas and her partner of 21 years, Richard Cesan, their children, Ruby, 20, and Bruno, 17, as well as the comings and goings of Richard’s older children. The couple has a lifestyle block in South Auckland but they were looking for a rental property closer to the city.
“I’m a great fan of the modernist housing movement of the 50s and 60s and this particular period of New Zealand architecture,” says Douglas. “This house is of the same era as the family home we own – currently rented out – and the previous home in Titirangi we owned. The fact that this feels, in so many ways, like the homes we brought our kids up in is very appealing.”
Another factor that sealed the deal three years ago was that the home had plenty of room for their beauty products company World Organics. Douglas had turned her back on the fashion industry some years ago in favour of natural skincare products and the couple ran the company from their previous home for several years.
The rapidly expanding business needed more space so a self-contained apartment on the ground floor (one of Cacala’s signatures) offered the ideal base for the company offices.
Cacala’s design is a powerful combination of form and practicality. The stone entranceway, with its contrasting white pointing, flows to a stairwell where horizontal and vertical lines artfully intersect. The stairs lead to a generous-sized landing on the upper level.
From this stunning wood-panelled hub, the living and bedroom wings radiate in different directions. The upstairs floor plan is basically two rectangles in the shape of a T. The living space is in the smaller rectangle and the five bedrooms and two bathrooms are in the other. The separate living and sleeping zones have been ideal for the dynamics of a blended family.
“It has worked perfectly as we’ve all had the necessary space to gather or find a quiet sanctuary,” says Douglas. The combined kitchen and dining area, innovative for its time, allows the home chef to be involved in social gatherings while preparing food. “Richard’s an amazing cook and he enjoys creating delicious smells and tastes in the kitchen, generally while listening to some Latin music. We tend to gather around, sometimes with a glass of wine, while he cooks,” she says.
“This home has been a fabulous gathering place for different generations and celebrations. We are very social and love music and a good dance with friends and family. The blessing of this house is that it’s so large we’ve been able to have a music room that is so far away from my bedroom that I can’t hear it if I want a quiet night,” says Douglas.
Although they rent the house, Douglas and Cesan have made it their own by surrounding themselves with things that bring them comfort. They have infused it with personality and style through the intuitive choices they have made with art and furnishings.
Not one to follow trends, Douglas has a non-traditional approach to interior décor. “I love to mix different eras and aspects together. I also treasure family heirlooms and things that have been given to me or brought home from my travels. I’m not one for buying new furniture and if I need something it’s a joy to go foraging in a second-hand shop.”
When it comes to colour, she likes to team soft pink, red and orange with the warmth of the timber. Soothing green tones from the surrounding treetops are framed by the floor-to-ceiling glazing. “Having such large windows means the outside is always present. I love the way there is green flora everywhere I look.”
The garden brings Douglas a great sense of peace but the upkeep of the grounds is not her thing. “I appreciate a beautiful garden but if I was left in charge it would not look nearly as good as it does. Luckily, Richard is a talented gardener.” One side of the house overlooks a reserve, adding another aspect to the layers of calming greenery. “The view from the kitchen window is never boring, especially if you like people and dog-watching.”
The home works well for entertaining and is equally suited to rest and relaxation. Douglas enjoys downtime in the sauna that they brought with them from their previous home. And as the household has gradually emptied, she has been able to transform one of the bedrooms into a retreat for yoga.
Breakfast, her favourite time of day, has become a daily ritual. “I prepare fruit, eggs and a pot of tea for the two of us. We eat breakfast in bed and read the newspaper – the paper version!” The main bedroom is also a retreat of sorts, positioned at the far end of the long hallway, away from the hustle and bustle of the living area.
Only Bruno remains at home now and that, coupled with another growth spurt in their World Organics business, has prompted Douglas and Cesan to consider a move. The company office has already decamped from downstairs to a new base in Kingsland. “Family have come and gone, as has the business, so the house is extra large for our current needs. The design of this home is just as relevant for contemporary living as it was the day it was built 50 years ago.”
Words by: Leanne Moore/Cave. Photography by: Helen Bankers/Cave.