Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Now this could be MY villa life.

How great are the houses here?  It is has a veranda where Mr VillaLife would find plenty of serenity.  And it's in a lovely part of Auckland. And  you can keep your grass that green here. Water, water everywhere.

My 5 year old wants a pool. I told him he might have to wait until he gets a job.

If you like it there's more here

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Renting vs buying

There is something so grounding about buying a house.
I even planted pots this summer.... twice. (they died of neglect over Christmas)

I think Australians and New Zealanders share the property dream and certainly the English do too... owning your space just makes it feel so much more like home.

It doesn't make much financial sense (so I'm told but would rather not believe) and I know many Europeans live in beautifully decorated rented homes all their lives. But here and in Australia and the UK you're very limited as a tenant and have to ask before putting in a picture hook.  And I always felt like a naughty child on inspection day - even when I was older than the estate agent!

We bought our first place together in London. It wasn't a house of course - just half a house - but we loved it.  I'm writing this at the small desk that was our dining table and can't believe we used to get four around it for dinner. I could turn around in my seat to reach the oven and whoever was opposite could get into the fridge while at the table. It was tiny but it was ours - even the crazy yellow walls in our bedroom! They didn't last long.

After renting three houses in another two cities we bought a house here in New Zealand and it feels good. Actually, really good.

It made the move much more exciting and I felt I could really put the effort into becoming part of the local community - and put effort too into decorating.

As tenants we were hopelessly unsettled. We had the three week rule.  If the pictures weren't on the wall in the first three weeks that was that. There they stayed stacked in groups next to the books with no shelves and the blinds that didn't fit but might in another house.

Not to say there aren't a few pictures stacked in this house but they ARE going on a wall...

Monday, March 29, 2010

The map obsession...

The nice thing about blog hopping is the lovely things you find on Etsy without actually having to spend hours searching the site. It's too hard for a lazy shopper like me.

This will be be perfect for my littlest boy's room - he's not a William but Sweet Prints will make it just for him.

It's cute but not too cute. After all he's nearly two and about to grow out of the baby stuff.

Janette has some other lovely things she blogs about.

Maybe I should ease up on the map obsession and we'll stay put for a while?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Boy racer...

My five year old suddenly seems a little too old for the trucks and cars that adorn his bed. The Husband - who never shops - went shopping and now this is the starting point for our boy's new grown up room...

We got it here but I would probably rather have picked it up here. Great blog and a fantastic shop in Melbourne's Fitzroy - if only we lived a little closer.

I'm having it framed in white, with a new white bed and trundle on order. With white walls I need a bit of colour so I'm searching for a doona cover - duvet cover to all you non-Australians! Cushions too...

Of course the three men in my family couldn't give two hoots what colour their bed linen is. I am rising above their disinterest.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The villas in My Villa Life

I had no idea how beautiful the homes in New Zealand are. Auckland has suburb after suburb of beautifully restored tradition wooden houses - known here as villas.

We fell in love with the villa and were lucky enough to buy our own. Villas can be drafty, cold, noisy and damp. But they have soaring ceilings, lovely proportions, gorgeous detailing and many have been beautifully done up with fabulous extensions to the rear. Well almost all have...

They were built in suburbs like Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, Herne Bay, Mt Eden and Devonport between 1880 and 1940 - ours is a 1910 gem. Many are now painted in fashionable greys, whites, taupe and cream with the windows and lacework trimmed in white or black. An old man told me with some regret that they all used to be painted in ice cream colours... I think I prefer them this way.

Most are immaculately kept. Our neighbour has spent the summer painting her already sparkling white villa. I fear our mouldy white fence is letting the side down...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wall art

It can be hard to find European designer homewares in New Zealand - luckily there are a few clever people importing them.

Here's a selection from a new online venture paper room set up by a friend of a friend. I'm slowly learning that Auckland is all about friends of friends.

They have beautiful wallpapers and fabrics and one of the best ranges of wallstickers I've seen here.


World map wall sticker by Ferm Living. $199

Paperbacks wallpaper by Tracey Kendall, $595 per roll

Cool Britannia Royale wall mural by wallpaperspace $675

I love the grey wall map... such a lovely subtle choice for a kid's room.

The stack of books wallpaper is fabulous - they have stacks of plates too but I think there are too many stacks of junk in my house already. Of course fabulous prices too but a girl can dream.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Day tripping...

A trip to Devonport was our first adventure in Auckland.  It's now one of our favourites.

View across to Rangitoto - the big daddy of Auckland's volcanoes

Like most cities divided by water there is a very healthy north/south divide and we'd heard a lot of reasons why we shouldn't live on the north shore. But Devonport is divine and after ten minutes we both wanted to move there.

It takes ten minutes from the city. When you arrive at the ferry terminal it feels as though you have stepped back twenty years. In a good way. Like Manly might have been once.

A short stroll up the main street and just behind the shops rises Mt Victoria - one of Auckland's many volcanoes. It's a steep but pleasant walk (with kids in tow) along a path that winds through the grass and around the side of the hill.

It is a lovely way to while away a sunny morning. Just don't take friends with hayfever... although there are three pharmacies in the main street.

The "toadstools" are vents to the underground storage bunkers and there's still a disappearing gun you can explore that was built to defend against the Russians. It was fired once in a drill but shattered windows in the surrounding villas and was never fired again!

You can find out more here - I've made a list for our next trip across. Next time I'll take some pics of the charming villas... the real reason I wanted to move here...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

All mapped out

God bless google and its online street maps but they are simply not up to the real thing... an antique map, a creased city guide on a weekend trip or the thick bound atlas on the newsroom's foreign desk.

That creamy paper in your hands, those gorgeous faded colours and lightly drawn contour lines. Endlessly fascinating. Full of places you'd love to go back to, those you'd forgotten existed and the ones you can't quite place. To the right of Afghanistan or below?

A little while ago on the covetable Velvet and Linen blog I found this beautiful room that California designers Brooke and Steve Gianetti put together for a client.

They created a map room complete with room for lounging and planning the family's next trip. The maps have been framed without glass so the client's children can use pins and mark where they'd been. Love it.

Love too the thought of a house with an office, playroom, garden room, television room AND map room. Cancel the en suite I want one of these.

We've collected a few maps over the years - the favourite is the London A-Z. We lived in London in the pre-iPhone age (the five year old calls it the Olden Days which is enough to give me another wrinkle). A tatty A-Z lived in the handbag, another in the car and a few littered the house. When I shared a house there was a poster version on the kitchen wall - it was always a conversation starter.

You can buy your own poster on the A-Z website, have one custom made or get an A-Z application for your iPhone.

Ours has waited five years for a wall. Now it's going in a frame and I can stroll the streets of my favourite city.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A start

It has taken me six months to feel at home in my new city and to start writing.

We moved to Auckland in July last year. I think. I can't remember the date. It was not one of our easiest moves. We're lucky, professionals do all the packing and paperwork for us but I was wrong to think that experience would make it easy. A bout of swine flu the day before moving day was the icing on the cake. Got to love Tamiflu.

We moved to New Zealand from Sydney. Quite out of the blue but a better option for the family than Asia or back to Europe. My husband broke the news almost a year ago by bringing home a lovely bottle of NZ pinot (more on that later) and making me drink a glass or two to soften the blow.

My first impressions of my new home. Well, it rains in Auckland. A lot. It's not that cold here but it rains.

Here's the proof.

Coromandel Peninsula

It doesn't get that green without water. Buckets of it.

Now though after a pretty long six months we are happy. My five year old has started Big School (it is always spoken in capital letters in our house as it is a Very Big Deal). My youngest is nearly two and very happy although I think he'd be happy anywhere. And I'm happy. I wasn't for a while - blamed the rain mostly - but I knew it would just take time to find a friend or two and a couple of places that made me feel like it was home.

So what am I doing here? I have had a lot of time to myself as a new stay-at-home mother and blogs have become a way to connect with an amazing array of interesting people, artists, craftspeople, designers and thinkers so I thought I'd join in. I don't really belong in that list but I like lovely things. Is that enough? We'll see.


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