plus in­side our win­ner’s home

Rachyl Abra­ham shares the de­sign se­crets that led to her In­te­rior of the Year suc­cess


In­te­rior de­signer Rachyl Abra­ham doesn’t fol­low the crowd. “If you just fol­low the lat­est trends, ev­ery­thing ends up look­ing the same,” says Rachyl, whose orig­i­nal­ity and so­phis­ti­cated style in her own home saw her clean up at this year’s In­te­rior of the Year awards – not only was she judged supreme win­ner (page 58), but she was a fi­nal­ist in two other cat­e­gories.

She’s al­ways on the look­out for that one in­trigu­ing item that will turn a beau­ti­ful room into a re­mark­able one. “I’m for­ever pop­ping in and out of an­tiques stores and fur­ni­ture and fab­ric show­rooms,” she says. “I love the hands-on as­pect of my work.” If she can’t find the per­fect piece, she might cre­ate it her­self – she painted the large ab­stract paint­ing that hangs in her hall­way (on this page) and col­lab­o­rated with her son to cre­ate a skate shoe clock for his bed­room wall (page 95). >

In her 14 years in the in­te­rior de­sign busi­ness, Rachyl has de­signed plenty of homes for other peo­ple, but there’s no bet­ter show­case for her tal­ents than the 150-year-old Mt Eden home she shares with her hus­band and three chil­dren.

Rachyl over­saw an end-to-end ren­o­va­tion of the villa, re­ori­ent­ing the liv­ing spa­ces to­wards the sweep­ing west­ward views and adding a third storey master suite.

To­day the in­te­rior fea­tures a mix of vin­tage finds and de­signer splurges, with work by lo­cal ar­ti­sans meet­ing big-hit­ting names from the de­sign world. Rachyl her­self has de­signed paint colours, cab­i­netry and fur­ni­ture. The re­sult is light yet lay­ered lux­ury with touches of whimsy.

So how ex­actly should we trans­form a nice look­ing room into an ex­cep­tional one? “Don’t buy ev­ery­thing at once,” she ad­vises. “And buy well. This makes spa­ces more in­ter­est­ing and things layer up bet­ter.” >

Rachyl gained her de­sign qual­i­fi­ca­tions at Lon­don’s Chelsea Col­lege of Arts, then re­turned to New Zealand and started a chil­dren’s fur­ni­ture busi­ness.

Cus­tomers who vis­ited her show­room sug­gested that she should move into in­te­rior de­sign. Feel­ing that de­mand was grow­ing for in­te­rior de­sign ser­vices and that it was now a vi­able ca­reer, she sold the busi­ness. She tried work­ing in-house at an ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tice at first, but found that col­lab­o­rat­ing with both the clients and ar­chi­tects suited her bet­ter. “I am in­ter­ested in the peo­ple who are go­ing to live in the home,” she says. “Who they are and what they love.” Now she has a hand­ful of reg­u­lar clients that she works with un­der the name Te­sori De­sign.

“I love the busi­ness but I don’t want to grow too big,” Rachyl says. “It’s bet­ter for me to be out sourc­ing, dis­cov­er­ing com­bi­na­tions of things and meet­ing in­ter­est­ing peo­ple. That’s why I do what I do.”

THIS PAGE A fig­ure by lo­cal sculp­tor Ra­mon Robert­son wel­comes vis­i­tors to the en­try­way at the Abra­ham fam­ily’s Mt Eden, Auck­land home.

OP­PO­SITE The villa has a 3.5m high stud; Rachyl painted the art­work on the left her­self and had it framed in gold; Mar­cel Wan­ders Sky­gar­den pen­dants line the hall­way; wide French oak floor­boards were given a light lime­wash and are laid in a her­ring­bone pat­tern, rem­i­nis­cent of the Euro­pean ar­chi­tec­ture Rachyl ad­mires.

THIS PAGE (clock­wise from top left) The house is de­signed to see the fam­ily through the chil­dren’s teenage years: Rachyl and son Dan, 11, col­lab­o­rated on the clock, which fea­tures Kartell arms and his favourite skate­board­ing shoes. Rachyl in the dress­ing room of the master suite. A La Palma cush­ion de­signed by Cather­ine Martin for Mokum sits on a pink chair.

OP­PO­SITE (clock­wise from top left) Char­lotte, 16, and Gabby, 14, share an en suite that has Éli­tis wall­cov­er­ing. Gabby’s room is pink and grey. Char­lotte’s room is lilac, white and sil­ver. Dan’s en suite bath­room tiles are from Tile Space.

THIS PAGE (clock­wise from top left) Rachyl de­signed the gar­dens her­self: “My mum’s a keen gar­dener so I’ve learned lots from her and I keep up with what’s hap­pen­ing with land­scape de­sign;” Stephan­otis flori­bunda grows up the side of the house; a bronze hoop sculp­ture was im­ported from over­seas. The wrap­around cov­ered deck has huge views, and fur­ni­ture from De­sign Ware­house. The 1444sqm grounds are un­usu­ally gen­er­ous for a prop­erty so close to Mt Eden vil­lage; the pool house was used as a mu­sic stu­dio by pre­vi­ous owner Ed­die Rayner from Split Enz.

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