o will it make you happier?”
When NZ House & Garden’s associate editor Rosemary Barraclough told her uncle about plans for a fabulous new kitchen, he stopped her in her tracks with this question. The answer, she decided on reflection, was yes.
She thought it was interesting, though, that she hadn’t specifically considered that question before. She was doing the kitchen for all the usual reasons that people renovate: because it needed it, it would work better for her family, and so on. But her own happiness hadn’t particularly featured in her thinking.
Rosemary’s story is, I think, an intriguing one. Personal happiness is arguably the best and only real reason for home improvement, but it’s not one that most of us necessarily put top of our list when we are making decisions about what to do next around the house.
I am happy to report, then, that the Supreme Winner of our fourth Interior of the Year awards (featured on the cover of this special issue) is an exception. Angela Kemp’s winning space – a romantic, whimsical conservatory – was designed solely as a place of pleasure. It is a space to sit among flowers on a wet winter morning, to look out at the stars on a clear summer night. It delivers, Angela says, happy moments by the bucketload.
“And that is absolutely why I did it,” she says. “I’m not the most practical person. Happiness is the raison d’être for everything I do to my home.”
When she lived in Auckland and her kids were young, she loved to escape to the Auckland Domain’s Wintergardens on winter weekends. She loved the warm and plant-filled haven when it was cold outside. She wanted that in her own home.
And so after the kids left home and she found herself in an old villa on a windy site in Pukekawa in the north Waikato, she went to work on a Wintergardens-inspired conservatory. The Kemps had a small nest egg set aside for renovations: Angela found a used conservatory on Trade Me for $1000, and had it shipped up from Dunedin. It was installed to open off her kitchen, supported on a new deck, then a trickling water feature was added ($180 from Trade Me).
The whole thing cost less than $10,000 and the result is stunning. It wows Angela’s visitors when they walk into her kitchen and see the heavenly green oasis, and it wowed our judges: “A brave and audacious vision,” they said.
“It can be pouring down outside,” says Angela, “the wind can be howling, and there’s this little haven full of greenery just waiting there. You look at it and you can’t help but be happy.” Which says it all, really. There are plenty more pleasure spaces in our line-up of other winners, too, including a space that started out as a covered stage for a 60th birthday bash, decorated with a huge Mona Lisa, and a lavish room for champagne-sipping in Eltham.
When almost all we hear about are property prices and the housing crisis, it makes a heartwarming read. So turn to page 57 now: it’s bound to inspire your own renovations, and it might just make you happier, too.