At home with

Im­pres­sive yet hum­ble, well-con­sid­ered yet with a view of the wild, this home has a be­guil­ing di­chotomy.

Homestyle New Zealand - - PEOPLE - WORDS PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Alice Lines Si­mon Wil­son

Fash­ion de­signer Mahsa Wil­lis’s cov­etable gar­ments skil­fully strike a bal­ance be­tween form and free­dom. She be­lieves there’s an art to know­ing what to leave out or take away, and this sense of thought­ful re­straint per­vades her West Auck­land home, too.

Mahsa, how did this house come to be your home?

My for­mer part­ner and I bought our modernist Ti­ti­rangi tree house in 2013 from the son of ar­chi­tect Ewen Wain­scott and his wife Eileen, both of whom are now de­ceased. Ewen was Auck­land City Coun­cil’s chief ar­chi­tect from the late 1960s to 1985, and this was his fam­ily home. Eileen in­flu­enced the de­sign of the house; she was in­ter­ested in the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of life. My young fam­ily con­nected with it im­me­di­ately. We needed more space, and wanted to leave in­ner-city Auck­land for a qui­eter en­vi­ron­ment.

What at­tracted you to the house?

Firstly, the set­ting. I started my life in a home sur­rounded by bush, and in many ways, af­ter years of trav­el­ling and liv­ing in apart­ments and vil­las, mov­ing here has brought me back to where I feel most at home. The house sits qui­etly and •

sym­pa­thet­i­cally in this set­ting, and its scale and the light make it pretty special.

Did you make any changes to it?

We did very lit­tle – just the es­sen­tials. We painted the walls a beau­ti­ful warm white; sanded the matai floors; stripped, sanded and oiled the cedar exterior cladding; and put cen­tral heat­ing in. I had grand plans for the gar­den, but then I started a business, and along with my chil­dren that has taken up all of my time. Hav­ing lived in the house for a while now, I know what I’d like to do, and I will up­date it even­tu­ally, but it’ll be more of a gen­tle restora­tion than a ren­o­va­tion.

What do you like most about liv­ing here?

I like the seren­ity: the still­ness of the night air, the sounds of the bush, the sun­light and shad­ows that dance across the house. And my lovely neigh­bours.

Util­ity and ro­mance are themes you draw on for the gar­ments you make – do they ap­ply to the way you ‘dress’ your home?

Yes – I like jux­ta­po­si­tion. I find the house po­etic and rus­tic, so adding modernist pieces to its in­te­rior makes it ‘sit up’ and adds to the en­dur­ing at­mos­phere. Ev­ery­thing for me is in­tu­itive and mood-driven – and I live by that. If an ob­ject makes me feel some­thing special, I en­joy liv­ing with it. I also like lay­er­ing dif­fer­ent tex­tures in the house; I don’t like any­thing too hard-edged and se­ri­ous, es­pe­cially in win­ter.

What has shaped your taste?

My un­con­ven­tional up­bring­ing, grow­ing up around mak­ers and a mother who al­ways wore some­thing tex­tu­ral and in­ter­est­ing; and hav­ing a glam­orous grand­mother with an amaz­ing eye for tweed, cash­mere and porce­lain – she drove a rac­ing-green •

Tri­umph at one point. I’ve also been in­flu­enced by my trav­els, liv­ing in Lon­don and Am­s­ter­dam, my friends with very good taste, and some of the in­cred­i­ble cre­atives I ad­mire and fol­low, like pho­tog­ra­pher Les­lie Williamson. Hav­ing my own fam­ily has in­formed how and why I need cer­tain things, my lifestyle and my in­ter­est in form, func­tion and com­fort.

This house must be a lovely rest­ful place in which to create – do you like to work from home?

Some­times my house is so mes­meris­ing from an out­ward/in­ward per­spec­tive that I don’t get work done! I find my­self study­ing the light and shadow play. I’ve al­ways loved nat­u­ral light, wak­ing up at dawn and then see­ing the sun set; be­ing present in these mo­ments makes me feel alive. One of the most pop­u­lar colours in my col­lec­tions has been jun­gle green, and this house and the land­scape were hugely in­flu­en­tial in that.

What things in your home do you hold dear?

Ev­ery­thing has a story. I like the mix­ture of old and new – re­cent finds and pieces I’ve ac­quired along the way. Edit­ing and find­ing that I ac­tu­ally en­joy hav­ing less has been a big dis­cov­ery re­cently.

What ev­ery­day rit­u­als do you en­joy?

So many – some ro­man­tic and some not so ro­man­tic. Wak­ing up in my bed with my two chil­dren and our dog and look­ing out the win­dows to the bush; the kids bringing me in some mag­i­cal cof­fee made the old-school way; hear­ing the kids and the neigh­bours’ kids play­ing out­side, and tui dur­ing the day and ruru on sum­mer nights; sit­ting on the deck in the sum­mer­time. They’re all sim­ple rit­u­als, noth­ing more.

ABOVE A month be­fore view­ing this house, Mahsa had read and loved an ar­ti­cle about Cana­dian artist Gor­don Smith’s modernist home, which is set in a for­est in Van­cou­ver, so when she saw this place, she knew it was meant to be. LEFT The bush out­side fil­ters dap­pled light into every room. OP­PO­SITE Mahsa (in the O’Ke­effe dress from her Yes­ter­day Mod­ern 2 col­lec­tion) de­scribes her de­signs as “a tex­tile ded­i­ca­tion to a wo­man’s ten­der­ness, grace and strength. A gift to our sis­ters, moth­ers and daugh­ters as a re­minder of what has come be­fore and what lies just ahead.”

ABOVE Apart from the ap­pli­ances, the kitchen is en­tirely orig­i­nal, with float­ing cab­i­netry that adds a sense of spa­cious­ness. The join­ery through­out the house is crafted from rimu tim­ber and the floors are matai. The clock seen here is a Vi­tra de­sign. TOP RIGHT Mahsa loves the at­mo­spheric light can­dles emit and al­ways has a few dot­ted around, like those in this U can­dle holder by Min­i­malux from Si­mon James (left) and Ild­hane can­dle holder by An­der­ssen & Voll from Ev­ery­day Needs.

TOP LEFT A wo­ven dish by Ruth Cas­tle dec­o­rates the wall be­side the shoji screen that slides open to re­veal the liv­ing area. The vin­tage art­work in the stair­well is a pre­cious fam­ily heir­loom.ABOVE A picture win­dow in the mas­ter bed­room frames an­other beau­ti­ful view of the bush. The Bulb lamp is by Min­i­malux from Si­mon James. LEFT Mahsa wears her Gen­tle­man blazer.

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