Living Local /
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.