JASON BONHAM’S OWN HOME
Every client that interior designer and The Block NZ judge Jason Bonham works with “takes a little piece of his soul” and he’s okay with that. “You get to know them better than they know themselves sometimes,” he says. “It’s very personal. I have to ask questions like, ‘Where do you want to keep your knickers, do you have special ones and nonspecial ones, and how many pairs do you have?’ It’s that type of relationship. If you don’t know the detail you can’t design well… The whole point of interior design is to make your home an extension of who you are.”
Naturally, the three-bedroom townhouse in Herne Bay that Jason moved into 14 months ago is a reflection of how he likes to live – it’s individual, luxurious and an easy place to be in.
Working 70 hours a week with his interior design business Bonham Interior, along with judging season seven of The Block NZ and fitting in almost nightly social engagements, means Jason needs a home he “collapses into on a Friday night”.
“When things are in their place and sorted, I don’t have to think, I feel at ease and at peace,” he says of the stylish bachelor pad he extensively renovated.
“Mum said as a little boy I’d be crawling over to talk to people, even in nappies. I’ve always been a really social person. I love people and I get a lot of energy from people,” 40-year-old Jason says. “It’s important for me for people to enjoy my home, and to be able to sit and relax and not feel fussy about it.”
A Rubik’s cube and an array of small puzzles sit in a bowl on the bespoke silver coffee table for “people to fidget with”. There’s lighting for all sorts of social situations: uplighting in the open plan living and dining room can be dimmed to create a movie theatre ambience or a soft light for dinner parties. >
There’s a Google Home virtual assistant on the kitchen island for everyone to use. Even furniture is placed thoughtfully for guests – an outdoor chair is sited so Jason’s mother can enjoy people-watching over Cox’s Bay Reserve below.
“You can kick your shoes off, put your feet up on the sofa, have a few drinks, watch a movie and have a few laughs. I have friends who smoke, and they’ll go out onto the balcony,” says Jason, who sold a home with a larger garden on the North Shore to “escape the traffic” and move into the low-maintenance city townhouse.
Built in the early 2000s, the home hadn’t been touched since. “I ripped everything out; we had new floors, lighting, bathroom, kitchen, carpet, paint, new blinds and draperies, the whole lot. Even the laundry was pulled out, all the horrible white wire racking. I put in proper storage, tiling and a deep sink.”
Just like on The Block NZ, there were budget blow-outs and dramas, notably the installation of the floor.
“The original specification was a cheap three-strip ash. I tried to refinish it, but it just wouldn’t come up looking any good. At one stage I came home from Queenstown and the floors were literally blue. I had to move out again. In the end I had to rip the whole floor up and lay oak; it all turned out for the best but the process was horrific,” he says.
The arrival of the new kitchen lifted his spirits. “After weeks and weeks you really come to appreciate the small things like dishwashers and sinks. I got so sick of eating out. I just wanted to stay in and cook,” he says. >
Most importantly, Jason wants those invited into his private domain to feel his place is distinct from others they’ve visited before. “The country has adopted this semi-industrial beige, Scandinavian look and I don’t understand it. It feels hard, kind of cheap, and there’s no luxury, there’s no comfort, there’s no soul.”
Extensive travel and years spent living overseas influenced his tastes. “I’m more a get-it-now, catch-up-later type of guy. The thing with money is you can always make more of it,” he says.
“I had Elite [frequent flyer] status at 20 years old; I did more travel than some flight attendants,” he says with a laugh. “It exposed me to art, culture, fashion, food, galleries… that’s why I travel so much now, I have to be able to bring those ideas back.
“New Zealand design needs a shake-up – texture, layering luxury, lighting detail. We really need to be a bit braver, have more of a celebratory take on things, get the better things, stop being so cheap with everything,” says Jason.
“The Americans are wonderful as they celebrate success, they celebrate being a little ostentatious, whereas here culturally it’s very reserved. It’s changing with the influence of the Chinese. They appreciate quality even if it costs more, but culturally they want their homes to reflect who they are,” Jason says.
Jason studied under Pamela Pennington, the former president of the American Society of Interior Designers, but he credits his grandmothers with gifting him his designer’s eye. Both had beautiful homes, but it’s his paternal grandmother, Mary Bonham, who he has taken after most.
“She was very American in her approach, she spent so much time in Hawaii. Everything was oversized, big lamps, big beautiful rugs, interesting deco furniture, she always layered things.
“Subliminally I’ve always been attracted to fabrics, leather, the woods that were apparent in my childhood, but only when I’m older, I notice it now that I’ve honed my craft.”
“New Zealand design needs a shake-up… we need to be a bit braver, have more of a celebratory take on things”
THIS PAGE Jason Bonham in his Herne Bay, Auckland townhouse with his dog Flint on the newly laid oak floor; in the background is one of a set of lamps he bought in a closing down sale in Brighton 20 years ago: “They’re timeless – even the shades haven’t changed,” he says; the stairwell mud balls are from a Wanaka art gallery: “This is my version of Cylindro by Rodney Graham without the price tag,” Jason says.OPPOSITE The Tout Va Bien cabinet is designed by Antoine et Manuel for Barcelona Design; the large pastel artwork is by US artist Jon Von Letscher; the two smaller works were bought from Media Design School.
THIS PAGE Easy-clean, satin-finish stainless steel tiles have been used on the kitchen splashback: “I can cook but I don’t like cooking. I usually get a meal service during the week,” Jason says; a maquette of Max Patté’s Solace in the Wind sits on the quartzite island: “I have dinner parties, then often find he’ll be wearing an outfit, a napkin skirt, a hat,” Jason says.OPPOSITE (clockwise from top) The walnut dining table is from Tonon and extends to seat 12; the dining chairs are from Denmark and covered in tobacco-coloured leather; the hand on the wall is by New Zealand artist Peter Smith. The Flos table lamp is from ECC; the landscapes are by New Zealand artist Lois McIvor and the small cobalt blue work is by an unknown artist bought at Allpress Gallery. The other half of Jason’s Brighton lamp pair sits behind his Eames lounge chair.
THIS PAGE Jason stands on his deck and looks out across Cox’s Bay Reserve: “The view is incredibly calming and restful. Flint and I always take coffee there and walk during the week and weekends,” he says.OPPOSITE (clockwise from top left) In Jason’s spare bedroom the large purple paper artwork was bought at a King’s College art auction; the Lady on the Bike was from a gallery in Rarotonga: “It’s just a cute little piece that was fun and whimsical,” Jason says; the bedside table is from Sleep Gallery and the bedding is a mix of finds from Wallace Cotton, Élitis and Seneca. Jason had the retaining wall in his courtyard rebuilt and replanted; the iron resin dog sculpture is by Max Patté.