BLOCK JUDGE

JASON BONHAM’S OWN HOME

NZ House & Garden - - FRONT PAGE - WORDS CAROLINE BOTTING PHOTOGRAPHS JANE USSHER

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.

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