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This colourful designer’s home gazes out over the North Otago countryside

A designer’s home on the edge of Oamaru gazes out over the rolling countryside and vast skies of North Otago. Inside, colour lifts the spirit at every turn. 

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Who lives here?

Annabel Berry (creative director of Design Federation and founding member of Grow North Otago and North Otago Creatives), Simon Berry (CEO of Whitestone Cheese), Mia, Jackson, and Boe, plus Pepper the springer spaniel, Itsy the ginger puss and three nameless chickens!

This colourful designer’s home gazes out over the North Otago countryside

When Annabel met her future husband, Simon Berry, he was already the proud owner of a section of land in Ardgowan on the western side of Oamaru. Once they’d got together and Annabel had made the move from Christchurch to North Otago, the couple turned their attention to that vacant plot and started to plan the dream home they would build there. It helped that Annabel had a passion for interiors and a Pinterest account brimming with ideas just waiting to be put into action.


The Berrys poured time and effort into the planning stage, making sure their floor plan worked with their lifestyle. They wanted a northwest-facing home (to capture the stunning North Otago landscape), a luxurious bathroom and a functional kitchen. Simon, an excellent cook, managed the kitchen design, while Annabel focused on creating a beautiful ensuite.

“We worked well during the process, sharing the decision-making every step of the way,” she recalls, looking back on the build five years ago. At that time, Annabel was pregnant with Mia, and the family has since welcomed two more babies, Jackson and Boe. With its interconnecting spaces and great indoor-outdoor flow, the home was designed for a growing family and their individual, ever-changing needs – and it’s performing its task beautifully.

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Bold colour

Walking through the house, you notice how colourful it is. Yet despite the colours changing from room to room, the interior feels cohesive, something Annabel puts down to having restful and coordinated background tones. “It all comes down to having a clear palette from the start and pulling together a timeless range of colours that work together,” she explains.

I have yet to meet a person

whose whole life is beige

“Colour is your opportunity to tell a story in each space, to complement the person or people who live there. I have yet to meet a person whose whole life is beige. If you don’t have confidence with colour then use an expert – they’ll find the right palette to work with your furniture, furnishings and accessories. You will be happier with a life that includes colour, trust me.”

Annabel believes passionately in the ability of colour to change how a person feels in a space. “It is really important to spend time understanding colour and the effect it has on you because it is really personal,” she advises.

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Designer style

Annabel – who started her own design business, Design Federation, in 2012 – was in her element when it came to decorating and creating different moods within the house. “For our main living space we wanted a relaxed, coastal feel to combat our busy household. We drew inspiration from our environment and supported local artists, photographers and designers as much as possible,” she says. Cosiness was the goal for the media room, a place where the couple can hunker down after a busy day and watch movies or sport or listen to music. The kids’ bedrooms are fun and playful and will be adapted to reflect each of them as they grow, says Annabel, who describes her home as a “constant evolution” where she has happily changed out wallpapers, feature walls and room colours over the past five years. “It would be a surprise to my husband if our house stayed the same for longer than a couple of months!” she laughs.

I am never satisfied –

it’s a lifetime commitment!

She can blame her job for that: “Being exposed to the possibilities of design locally and internationally has a great impact on my style. New products are being launched all the time – it keeps me on my toes. I’m always pushing myself to be better design-wise and ensuring I learn along the way. I am never satisfied – it’s a lifetime commitment!”

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She describes her personal style as “modern vintage”, an aesthetic that comes from her yearning to have older-style pieces in a contemporary space. Annabel regularly forages in secondhand and vintage shops, looking for treasures that resonate with her, especially china, Crown Lynn, old crystal and cutlery.

A happy accident

“I came home one day to find my children had decided to write all over our white fireplace surround with marker pens,” recounts Annabel. “I looked in our shed, found some paint and just painted over the top. I now love our fireplace surround – it’s more of a statement than white and it makes me smile every time I see it.”

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Taking it outside

After a couple of years in the home (and with a few more children under the roof), the Berrys added an extensive covered veranda across the front of the house. It has given them various outdoor-entertainment options and provides a great place for the children to play in, no matter what the weather. They divided this space into zones: one for the kids and another for adults. “We included an outdoor fire and barbecue, a sandpit and kids’ area, and multiple seating options for relaxing in the sun,” Annabel explains. Sectional outdoor furniture is the way to go, she insists. “It gives us the flexibility to have it as is, or pull part of it in front of the fire or into the sun.”

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Design Federation

Annabel and Simon may not have done any DIY on their new-build, but they got their fill when they renovated a turn-of-the-century house to use as the premises for Annabel’s business, Design Federation. They rolled their sleeves up and got stuck in, prepping spaces, ripping up carpet, painting, staining and decorating, all while continuing to run the business and look after three preschoolers.

It took them just four months. There’s a workroom, drawing room, test bedroom for custom-made headboards, a resource room to help inspire customers and other creatives, and a room for rambunctious children (Annabel’s and her clients’) to rollick in, all topped off by beautiful sea views.

Annabel wanted to show what a difference colour can make, so she went all out on the interior. She painted the entrance hallway (walls and ceiling) in Resene ‘Half Kumutoto’ and hung a range of pendant lights so clients could get a feel for the different options available. The office space went from apricot and purple to clean white (all the better to showcase their gallery of headboards) with a black ceiling, demonstrating that it’s not just walls that can carry colour in a home.

The next move

Annabel has lots of ideas bubbling in the pipeline. Next on the to-do list is the addition of a granny flat to provide extra accommodation for grandparents and friends with families. Eventually, the Berrys would like to add a pool and a pond down in the gully. “We are so lucky to live in Oamaru, with affordable housing, great schools, access to the great outdoors, opportunities to build and develop businesses, and only a five-minute commute to town – it doesn’t get much better. We won’t be leaving!” laughs Annabel.

Words by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Kate Claridge.

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