Latitude Magazine

Liv­ing Lo­cal /

- WORDS Kim Newth /

The beau­ti­ful home and world of Tessa Peach

Over built a the way past of life three cen­tred years, on Tessa Aotearoa Peach has New Zealand’s cul­ture and iden­tity. She has trav­elled the coun­try meet­ing our mak­ers and gath­er­ing qual­ity wares for Frances Na­tion, her Christchur­ch store at the Arts Cen­tre Te Matatiki Toi Ora. Her home is just a stone’s throw away.

A SUNNY DAY IN ŌTAU­TAHI CHRISTCHUR­CH SEEMS even brighter when viewed through cheer­ful yel­low glass pan­els, lined up like fin­gers of toast dunked in egg yolk at the front en­try of a small 1970s town­house. There is a paved court­yard out front with a strip of cot­tage gar­den flow­ers.

This lit­tle retro oa­sis in the city is home to Tessa Peach and her wife, artist Emma Fitts. They bought their house al­most three years ago, in the very same month that Tessa opened her home­wares shop in the Arts Cen­tre – Frances Na­tion – of­fer­ing an eclec­tic range of qual­ity New Zealand­made prod­ucts.

Tessa was liv­ing in Lon­don when she first be­gan plan­ning the shop. Her ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing ca­su­ally at a small gro­cer’s there helped in­spire her re­tail dream with a dis­tinctly New Zealand twist.

‘I re­alised I could have a very ful­fill­ing, cre­ative and com­mu­nity-ori­ented ca­reer by sim­ply own­ing a shop [and] in a way, the idea was also born out of a new­found in­ter­est in, and pas­sion for my own New Zealand cul­ture and iden­tity. My plan was to come home and travel my coun­try in search of great New Zealand-made prod­ucts, and that’s ex­actly what I did.’

While trav­el­ling over­seas in her twen­ties, Tessa had be­gun to no­tice that high streets in ma­jor ci­ties around the world were start­ing to look the same. It wor­ried her how lo­cal cul­ture and iden­tity was get­ting lost in the process. Frances Na­tion draws a line in the sand against such ho­mo­gene­ity. On the shop’s shelves can be found many fine ex­pres­sions of prac­ti­cal Kiwi can-do cul­ture in­clud­ing (from Can­ter­bury) fire pok­ers, toaster tongs and po­tato mash­ers.

‘I’m par­tic­u­larly keen to show­case more items by Māori and Pasi­fika com­mu­ni­ties. One item I sell by a Māori prac­ti­tioner is the waikawa, a food stor­age bas­ket wo­ven from harakeke flax. This is pos­si­bly one of the old­est New Zealand-made items and is still su­per pop­u­lar as a way to store root vegeta­bles!’

Named af­ter Tessa’s grand­mother, Frances Na­tion ac­knowl­edges an older gen­er­a­tion of New Zealan­ders who knew how to make things last. Tessa spent sum­mer hol­i­days as a child at her grand­par­ents’ farm­house near Pour­erere Beach in Hawke’s Bay. ‘They have both passed away now and the items we cher­ish most are small do­mes­tic items my mum now uses daily – like a mar­malade jar, a jew­ellery box and a sew­ing ta­ble.’

In­her­ited items from fam­ily have also made their way into the home that she and Emma pur­chased around the time Frances Na­tion be­gan trad­ing at the Arts Cen­tre. The house, in fairly orig­i­nal con­di­tion, was ‘a bit tired’ when they first moved in. They soon set to work on the in­te­rior, start­ing out by lift­ing the old car­pet and putting down cork floor­ing through­out, then paint­ing the walls and slowly adding drapes, rugs and other spe­cial touches.

Small and sim­ple, their 70 sqm home is a great lit­tle ex­am­ple of ‘the Christchur­ch Style’ of mod­ernist ar­chi­tec­ture that be­gan shap­ing the city from the 1950s on­wards.

De­signed by Luck­ing and Vial Ar­chi­tects, the concrete block town­house in­cludes two bed­rooms up­stairs and open-plan liv­ing down­stairs, open­ing to a pri­vate court­yard and gar­den at the back.

‘It is just what we need and no more…Our flat is cer­tainly noth­ing flash, but when you look closely, it’s well de­signed and has a good sense of space. We love the gar­den court­yard and the prox­im­ity to the city, which means we can walk and cy­cle around the in­ner city.’

Work­ing to a bud­get in­evitably means this makeover still has some way to go. Tessa likes to choose qual­ity, which she wryly ob­serves can some­times mean no cur­tains for a win­ter un­til fi­nally in­stalling that per­fect ro­man blind. In­te­rior fur­nish­ings are a mix of hand-me-down fur­ni­ture, op shop trea­sures and the oc­ca­sional new lamp or rug.

‘That’s where we are at in terms of bud­get. To make our old worn couch look okay, I cov­ered it in a new painter’s drop cloth from Mitre 10! Emma’s dad has gifted us this beau­ti­ful din­ing ta­ble and chairs, and I’m work­ing on restor­ing them. We just re­uphol­stered the bal­loon chairs in bright coloured linens.’

There are loose plans in place for a new bath­room and a new kitchen, but for now the kitchen is still in fairly orig­i­nal con­di­tion. Their kitchen shelves cost about $ 25, put to­gether from ba­sic brack­ets and some old tim­ber from a lo­cal de­mo­li­tion yard. The space has been re­freshed with ‘golden dawn’ paint – ‘which I some­times love and then some­times feel like I’m in a mus­tard cave!’

Tessa and Emma both en­joy colour and re­cently painted the stairs in an up­lift­ing Monet yel­low. Emma is a con­tem­po­rary vis­ual artist who works with tex­tiles, some­times us­ing silk, felt or weav­ing. At the time of writ­ing, some of her works were in their house be­fore head­ing to a show at

The Na­tional and then the Christchur­ch Art Gallery. A large colour­ful work be­hind their din­ing ta­ble and two small bright can­vas pieces in the stair­well are a tes­ta­ment to her cre­ativ­ity. Both women share a love of art. ‘We are ex­cited about a re­cent art­work we have ac­quired by artist and cu­ra­tor Nathan Po­hio.

Their 70 sqm home is a great lit­tle ex­am­ple of ‘the Christchur­ch Style’ of mod­ernist ar­chi­tec­ture that be­gan shap­ing the city from the 1950s on­wards.

 ?? IMAGES Char­lie Jack­son ??
IMAGES Char­lie Jack­son
 ??  ?? ABOVE Com­fort and style has been achieved on a bud­get. Nat­u­ral light fills the din­ing area, which has a rest­ful court­yard gar­den view.
ABOVE Com­fort and style has been achieved on a bud­get. Nat­u­ral light fills the din­ing area, which has a rest­ful court­yard gar­den view.
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