UNDER THE EXOTIC INFLUENCE
A century-old villa blessed with the relaxing vibe of a holiday resort
Lying on her floating beanbag in the pool, gazing up at the stars with a glass of wine in her hand – this is Laurinda Sutcliffe’s favourite chill-out ritual. “I’ve actually fallen asleep on it before,” she says. The pool is the standout feature of her Auckland home – it runs through the centre of the new extension on the back of the century-old villa. But in fact everything about Laurinda and husband Brent’s Herne Bay home exudes an exotic flavour with a luxurious, tranquil vibe: its clean lines, open spaces filled with natural light and furnishings with East Asian influences.
“I walk in the door at the end of a busy day and I’m in another world. It doesn’t matter how bad a day it was, I get such a sense of peace,” says Laurinda. >
“When we first bought the house, I saw a stunning property that was architecturally exciting, with the old and the new juxtaposed beautifully together, but didn’t see it would be such a retreat.”
The serenity they’ve created in the four-bedroom, threebathroom property is a far cry from the chaos overshadowing the couple seven years ago. Both had been in the fashion industry for decades – Laurinda as the creative director of a clothing company and Brent as the owner of a menswear business. He was looking for a change and, as Laurinda had been in her job for almost 20 years, they felt safe enough to go for it.
“We sold Brent’s business a week before I was made redundant. We found ourselves having had the full-on business and full-on career and it all went within a week. This was right in the middle of the global financial crisis.”
As often happens, there was a silver lining. For this couple, it was launching their own clothing label, Loobie’s Story. From the sale of Brent’s business, they had enough money to live on for a year – and to invest in a start-up.
“We thought, ‘When will we ever find ourselves in this situation again?’ And we’ve never looked back. I’m so grateful for being made redundant,” Laurinda says. >
But with a new business comes hard work and life was, and still is, hectic. Laurinda flies internationally every 10 weeks to destinations like Shanghai, Bali, London and Los Angeles.
So it’s lucky the house has proven to be such a sanctuary for the couple and their teenage son Zandi, 15. It was bought, with much relief, in September 2015, after a year and a half of house hunting.
“I’m certainly not in a hurry to move again as it took us 18 months to find this place and it was just hell,” says Laurinda. “I feel sorry for anybody looking for property in the Auckland market, particularly younger people, and it’s about to become almost impossible. It was so traumatic, and so stressful.”
She says the purchase price was “a bit of a gulp”, but they were impressed by how beautifully it had been renovated. Although the work had been done nine years previously, it had held up well. The turn-of-the-century villa had been “practically rebuilt” by builder Damon Heileson, a man with a keen eye for design. “It has been built so well and is so highly specced,” Laurinda says.
At some point the original villa had been converted into three flats and Damon demolished about half of it, leaving just 65sqm – the two front rooms and the hallway. >
“I WALK IN THE DOOR AT THE END OF A BUSY DAY AND I’M IN ANOTHER WORLD”
Architect Daniel Marshall drew up plans for a rebuild, which added a living room, kitchen, scullery and an upstairs teenage retreat. “Zandi’s got his own lounge, bedroom and bathroom. That works well – having some separation, but not to the extent of having his own entrance,” Laurinda says.
The property was subdivided and another house was built directly behind them.
“The back wall of our house is the retaining wall for their swimming pool, which is spooky sometimes. You’d think if there was ever a leak, the pool would be down in the house,” Laurinda says.
However, that was never going to deter the couple, whose own pool has become one of their favourite places to find some “me” time or to entertain. “On a beautiful evening when the doors are open and the lights are all on dim, it’s really quite spectacular,” Laurinda says. “It’s truly my happy place.”
THESE PAGES The floor-to-ceiling glass doors slide right back to let the outside in at Laurinda and Brent Sutcliffe’s home in Auckland’s Herne Bay; Laurinda says the living room was difficult to furnish as there is “so much glass and not a lot of wall space”; the poolside beanbags are from Balinese store Soo Santaï and the outdoor chairs are from Thread Design.
THIS PAGE (clockwise from top) The living room doors open onto the return verandah; Laurinda has owned the Simon James coffee table for 15 years. The Balinese Hindu wedding procession sculptures sit on a side table in the hall; the mirror was a 40th birthday gift from Laurinda’s parents and was her great-grandmother’s. Laurinda gave Brent the antique chess set, hoping he’d have more time to play when they started their business: “In fact he has less,” she says.