For Steven Rowe and Yuki Suga, it was the feline-friendly nature of the brand-new property they’d chanced upon that sealed the deal.
Meet & Greet: Steven Rowe (learning and development manager, Flooring Xtra), Nobuyuki “Yuki” Suga (Air New Zealand cabin crew) and British shorthair cats Minty and Winston.
The Property: An airy, architect-designed four-bedroom house in Kumeū on the fringes of Auckland’s north-west.
Prospective buyers have myriad reasons for setting their hearts on particular properties. Sometimes the drawcard is the character or era of a house, while in other cases it’s the layout that strikes the right note. For Steven Rowe and Yuki Suga, it was the feline-friendly nature of the brand-new property they’d chanced upon that sealed the deal. “We bought the house because we wanted to get our two fur kids and needed outside space,” explains Steven. “It sounds silly, but it was literally the reason. We moved in during August 2018, the kids were born in October and they moved in over Christmas-New Year.”
While the garden and quiet locale are ideal for Minty and Winston, the 228 sqm two-level house designed by Michael Cooper Architects ticks a lot more boxes.
Many of the treasures homeowner Steven Rowe has acquired over the years are kept in this area and include a mix of high-end pieces and more affordable objects. The black shelving unit is from Freedom.
Steven and Yuki were living in a terraced house in a central-city Auckland suburb and had finished a reclad project when they started longing for a stand-alone home suitable for the cats they wanted. They realised they’d have to move further away from the city centre to find what they were looking for and so began their search.
“We stumbled across the Kumeū home and were really impressed with what our budget got us when we drove 30 minutes out of the city down the Northwestern motorway,” says Steven. Slightly elevated and with cedar, white brick and varying rooflines, the house had strong street appeal. “The pitched second level was cantilevered slightly to sit proud of the ground floor. We’ve been told it has that Arrowtown look about it on the outside,” he says. “We came inside and it was like we’d stumbled across a diamond.”
It was sparkling new with four bedrooms, three bathrooms and the all-important backyard. They also liked the location and its village feel. The house is on the old Matua Valley winery vineyard site. “We are on a street that only has houses on one side and overlooks a large green space.”
The couple has everything they need on their doorstep and, on a good traffic day, says Steven, it is only a 35-minute drive to Ponsonby.
The round mirror is from Bo Concept and the reupholstered Barcelona bench is from DerLook.
Talkin’ ’bout an evolution
The house was perfectly finished when Steven and Yuki moved in, but the interior has been an evolving project. “It began dark with lots of charcoal and black and now it’s warming and softer with the inclusion of natural finishes and colours,” explains Steven. They introduced off-whites, taupe and nude tones as well as textures and materials such as linen, wood and wool. Now, says Steven, the vibe is “Japandi”, a subtle fusion of Japanese and Scandinavian influences. It’s a nod to Yuki’s heritage – he hails from Japan, but has spent as long out of the country as he lived in it.
Change is no stranger to this house. Steven likes swapping things around, and new pieces regularly find homes on shelves, furniture, walls and the floor. The layout works, too – the open-plan spaces on the ground floor are ideal for entertaining, and the house has “more bedrooms that we could ever need. The fur kids have their own bedroom.”
The kitchen is designed by BMC Cabinetry and the bar stools are from Mitre 10. The engineered timber floor is Imperio in Natural Heritage Oak Oiled from Flooring Xtra.
Steven especially likes the upstairs lounge with its views over green spaces and down the street. But it’s the downstairs living zone, from which decks flow, that contain most of his assembled treasures. The dining room suite is a favourite – the Lattice table and Pier chairs. “They are just very special.”
One recent “love piece” is a Fourth Street egg. Other special finds include the Colin King Interconnect candleholder with exaggerated proportions, and the Ferm Living Fountain centrepiece, both of which have pride of place on the table. Steven had to wait months for the John Asbury-designed Margin pendant that now hovers above the dining table to arrive from Europe.
It’s not all high-end heaven, however. Among the designer pieces, you’ll also find items from the likes of Kmart and Briscoes. It’s about appreciating appearance and function, without being swayed by labels.
The well-designed kitchen has a gas stove that’s a dream to cook with, says Steven. Guests congregate at the island and “we often dine at the island ourselves”. His only complaint: the dark cabinetry colour tends to show fingerprints.
The three bathrooms have grey tiles, oak cabinets, walk-in showers and in one you’ll also find a big bathtub for serious soaking. On chilly winter evenings, underfloor heating in the bathrooms keeps things cosy.
In the downstairs lounge, the sofa is from Freedom, the Notre Monde nesting table set is from ECC and the Nebraska rug is from Flooring Xtra.
Make it flow
Easy access between the indoors and outside was important for both humans and their fur kids alike, and the house comes up trumps here, too. “We are lucky that at the end of the living space are large sliding glass doors that open the back of the house to the deck with the pergola,” says Steven. Two of the three downstairs bedrooms also have large sliding doors onto the same deck.
This outdoor entertaining space sits within a section of the garden with a retaining wall, and to one side is a row of cherry blossom trees that put on a show in summer. It’s another connection to Yuki’s homeland.
More sliders open to a smaller deck off the side of the house where you’ll find two Faye Toogood Roly Poly chairs, and out front, Steven has shaped the hedge into ball shapes.
For Steven and Yuki, this house works on many levels and the couple see it as their long-term home. The fur kids, for whom the whole move was engineered, are settled, too. It’s just as well – they are “the centre of this universe”, after all.
The outdoor furniture is from Modern Style and complements the cedar and white brick house.
What did you save on?
We saved by moving out of the city suburbs to Kumeū in Auckland’s northwest. Our money went so much further. We could not have got the home we have if we stayed in town.
Our dining-room furniture. It consists of a Lattice table designed by Norm Architects for Ariake, and Resident Pier chairs, all from Simon James. I’m a sucker for interiors. I recently purchased a big brass egg sculpture from Fourth Street and got grief from friends and workmates for spending more than $400 on it.
Best lessons learned?
Yuki and I complement each other. My impulsiveness is balanced by his cautiousness. Cats and carpet. Our carpet is in a sad state and is the next item on the wishlist. We’d love a textured wool like Bremworth Galet in dolomite.
The hunt for fabulous finds?
It’s ongoing. I come home with something for the house almost every week – anything from a candle to a cushion. I recently bought an ottoman, then that required cushions to coordinate with it.
Anything you’d change?
We changed direction with our interiors about a year ago. Out with the dark and cool, then the process of lightening up and warming up began. We welcomed the world of beige.
Our timber floor is a little warm, but we still love it. We’d probably go lighter next time. I’d love a scullery – I like to hide things away. My best buy recently was a little caddy that sits neatly in the kitchen sink and hides the kitchen sponge.
Go with your gut – it’s usually right. And don’t be afraid to move.
Text: Fiona Barber Photography: Babiche Martens