Policy advisors Tara Morton and Nick Walbridge updated this three-bedroom home plus studio in Waikanae for themselves and to rent on Airbnb.
market, it seemed as if the decision had been made. Tara assumed it had been sold and tried to move on — while keeping one eye on the property sites to see if it reappeared.
“It seemed to offer everything that big cities like New York and Cairo didn’t: lush greenery, wide open space, a tennis court, and a pool that was hard to believe,” she says. “The incredible mid-century architecture had a Japanese/Californian vibe that felt beautiful and relaxed.”
Months later, Nick was preparing for a trip home to New Zealand when Tara had a last look online. To her delight, there was Riverbank, with the auction set for two weeks later, the day after Nick arrived in Wellington. With no time for second thoughts, he flew in, caught a train from the city to Waikanae to view the house, and began to prepare for action at the auction the next day. As Tara waited eagerly on the phone in New York, he all but won the house at auction, and following a period of negotiation, their dreams were finally realised — in the spring of 2016, Riverbank was theirs.
The long settlement period gave the apartment-dwellers plenty of time to plot how they were going to fill a 410m2 home with three bedrooms, a study and a studio. “Tara had been dreaming about this place for so
long that she’d actually started scouting and selecting furniture before we bought it,” says Nick. “Using the floor plan as a guide, and a detailed spreadsheet, we effectively furnished it completely before moving in, all while living in New York.”
The modernist aesthetic of the home, built in 1965 by original owner Lloyd Parker, was well worth honouring, so the couple took a pared-back approach to their furnishings. “We were inspired by some of the innovative design happening in hotels in the US — The Standard Miami and Ace Hotel Palm Springs in particular,” says Tara. “We were also influenced by Scandinavian modernism and a bit of a laid-back surf/camp vibe, and wanted to mix all of that together.”
In April 2017, Tara and Nick moved in, giving themselves a month to paint the interior before they returned to work. “The previous owners had done some high-quality renovations, so we were lucky, but the walls packed a punch,” says Nick. “In the kitchen they were red, orange and purple, one bathroom was a dark metallic purple, and there was a yellow bathroom and a red-orange kitchenette in the studio.”
The couple enlisted the help of interior designer/stylist Katie Lockhart to come
up with a colour scheme, and the resulting palette blends seamlessly with the home’s architectural details while enhancing the peaceful ambiance of the interior.
At the centre of the house is an entrance hall where stone paving and a pair of potted palms give you a ‘just arrived in Palm Springs’ welcome. As you continue inside, your eye is naturally drawn out into the Japanese courtyard garden developed by a previous owner, a landscape architect.
Sun streams into the north-facing living and dining rooms all year round, and both spaces are kept cosy in winter by the log burner and gas central heating. Original features such as magnificent William Morris wallpaper offer charming Wes Andersonesque moments.
With a craft brewery and arthouse cinema within walking distance, Tara and Nick still enjoy some aspects of the life they had in Brooklyn, and with the picture completed by their straightforward train commute into the city for work, they say they don’t have a single regret about making the move.
“We love living in Waikanae,” says Tara. “Because it’s so completely different to the other places we’ve lived in recent years, we don’t really make any comparisons. We do miss the ease and affordability of online shopping in the US, and the somewhat limited nightlife options on the Kapiti Coast ensure we have to be a bit more organised about creating our own fun, but in many other places in the world, you couldn’t dream of living somewhere like this while working in a capital city. We consider ourselves very fortunate.”
ABOVE A Drop Leaf table by Ercol and chairs by Thonet sit in the breakfast nook in the kitchen, where the walls are painted in Everyday White from Katie Lockhart’s Everyday Needs x Drikolor range. OPPOSITE The couple love sharing meals at their long, farmhouse-style dining table by Restoration Hardware, with J104 chairs by Hay, but their daily commute doesn’t always allow time for weeknight home cooking. Instead, they get dishes delivered from wholefood café Sunday Cantina, whose food is “beyond incredible. It makes the commuter life so much better.” The dining room (and adjoining living room) is painted in Everyday Needs colour Holdaway.
ABOVE LEFT This Acapulco rocking chair was one of the many pieces of furniture the couple bought online in the US before they moved back. ABOVE RIGHT “Our book and magazine collection brings us a lot of enjoyment, even if we haven’t read all the books,” says Tara. “People often give us quizzical looks about the large number of Lonely Planet guides for New York City we own.” OPPOSITE Canvas, bamboo and leather safari chairs by We Do Wood create a conversation zone in the living area with the couple’s huge soft leather sofa by Hay, which they ordered online from My Deco Shop and had shipped directly to Waikanae. Tall, feathery potted palms provide visual balance.