Written by Mary Rean
Interior designer Anya Brighouse unapologetically loves colour, and owning a very old Mount Eden home has in no way cramped her style
Anya, her husband and four children have owned and lived for the past 10 years in an historic Mt Eden house built in 1865 by a pair of stonemason brothers.
When they bought the house, it needed modernising for family living, but Anya also wanted to retain the beautiful original detailing. During the project, she worked with heritage architects to understand what was original, what was added, what needed to stay or go.
Her intention was always to introduce lots of colour, and the result today shows that a bright and bold palette can be successful, even in a very old home.
We spoke to Anya about her love of colour, how she chooses and uses colour, and what it can do in a home.
First of all, what was the house like when you bought it, and how did you change the interior?
The house had been altered over the years, had a major renovation in the ‘70s, and not much had been done since then. We renovated throughout, removing older renovation decisions – arches, a hand-finished, Spanish-inspired, plaster finish on walls, a parquet floor over the original kauri floor. We uncovered the original battened ceiling in the lounge under two layers of plywood. But we didn’t move any walls because we loved the house as it was.
What influenced your choice of colours?
All the colours come back to the beautiful Cole and Son Circus wallpaper in the library. I love colour, obviously, and when we bought the house we knew it was to be a busy family home, and I wanted to use colour. The colours make it “happy”.
How would you describe the colours – warm, cold, earthy …..?
We used bold, bright, mostly clean colours, but with a little black added for complexity. Wall colours are by Porters Paints – I love their colours as they change a little through the day depending on the light. Doors and walls are painted different colours, and the children chose the colours for their rooms.
What is the impact of the colours on the spaces?
I am not of the “small space, should be white” school of thinking. Space is not the only feeling you can go for with a room. Colour can make a room dynamic, cosy, energising, soothing... I also like how colours interact with each other. My personal favourites are turquoise and pink together, mustard yellow and emerald green, orange and cobalt – so the wall colours and the furnishings work together throughout the house.
How do these colours work in a house from a bygone era? The house looks traditional outside and doesn’t hint at its vibrant interior. Was this intentional?
The traditional exterior and the bright internal colour palette was very intentional. I love old homes and traditional features, and I have a very eclectic approach to design. I like old and new, modern and antique. I organised the colour palette at the start of the build, even though the exterior wasn’t finished. The external colour is Old Church White and is a traditional cream with a deep grey roof (Grey Friars) and black guttering. The internal white is Porters Milk, a very, very soft white (it has orche added rather than a black) – making it work with the cream exterior. The joinery, inside and out, is also Milk. The two whites sit well together.
We worked with landscape designer Xanthe White to get vibrant colours into the garden while still having a traditional framework with plants like rhododendrons, magnolia, buxus, camelia and michelia, continuing the mix of traditional and unexpected.
Your colour palette is quite wide – lime, pink, blue, purple, green, stripes, mustard. How do you make this work?
The colours are all essentially the same “chroma” (colour saturation or intensity). My approach is to get most of the colours around the same intensity and then add something lighter (like blush pink or lilac) to mess with the colour palette a bit to make it less prescriptive. I like using black as it “grounds” everything, especially the colour palette. And I love white, too.
How have you accommodated the bold/bright colours? You also use a lot of white, and some rooms, apart from the furniture, are all white – why?
The white adds breathing space with all the colour, more, I think, for other people than for me. I love the intensity of colour and pattern.
The children’s bedrooms - who chose their colours – you or the children?
The children always chose their own colours but were happy to let me choose the shade if they didn’t have a specific colour in mind. The room that is currently black belonged to one of our daughters. Her brother moved into her room as soon as she left and he liked the black so it stayed. That gave me the opportunity to re-do his room with a wallpaper.
Did you buy furniture especially or already own it?
I am a bit of a hoarder with furniture. I keep all our furniture and recover or repaint it. Over the years, I have bought the antique pieces that have become our laundry cupboard, my trestle desk, our chest of drawers and our dining table, and I spend way too much time on TradeMe...
The floor lamp in the lounge is an Armlite from French company Tse and Tse. I love its quirky shape and it moves all over the house; it’s been over a desk, a reading chair, even next to a bed – I like pieces that aren’t static, that aren’t just for one spot. I love Tolix from France also – they did the powder-coated lockers and many of the stools and chairs around the house. I love their colour palette (obviously) and their durability, but most of all their versatility.
What’s with the pink pool fence?
It was almost always going to be pink. I admire architect Luis Barragan who had a great love affair with pink – he used pink liberally and it was a great inspiration for me. When we moved here, the house, fence, masonry and pool area were all a French grey/green – a perfectly nice colour, but not for the entire building! Colour helps separate and define the pool and house.
What is the house, with all this colour, like to live in?
It’s always felt happy to me, and I love the smile it puts on people’s faces when they visit. It’s been a wonderful home but it’s the right time to move. It’s at its best when there are visiting children, friends, dinners, parties. Equally, it’s a lovely quiet house when you want some space.
The colour is bold and a brave choice. How do people react?
Always positively (we had one negative at a garden tour once but I think she was just a bad-tempered old lady!) over the years. We have a box of cards from people who drive past and have said thank you for all the flowers and colour.
More generally, how do you make very bright and bold colours work? Is there a magic formula or a balance to maintain for it to work?
If there were a magic formula, I would make a fortune. But I think the amount of colour is personal. My kids are used to it, have grown up with it, and are more confident with colour than many people. With clients, I generally use a white base, and often for curtains, with colour added on walls and furnishings for the more adventurous. You have to find your level of colour, but the great thing is, as you start experimenting, it is just paint, and can be repainted. Easy to add, easy to take away.
Interior designer Anya Brighouse is now based in Point Wells, Matakana, but still works with clients in Auckland. Her husband describes her business, beautifulbedlam, as a good reflection of her home and working life!
Open Home: 12 March 2020, 6:00pm - 6:30pm
Please contact Robyn Ellson on 021 800 891 for scheduled open home times