NZ House & Garden

Home of the Month: A Wellington family embraces a quirky and iconic seaside design.

After years of apartment living, this family now own an iconic home in coastal Wellington

- Words SHARON STEPHENSON Photograph­s PAUL McCREDIE

Frances Shoemack is used to taking risks that pay off. First there was the 2011 move from Auckland to Amsterdam, armed only with husband David and a freshly minted EU passport. Then there was Abel (pronounced Ah-bell), the boutique natural perfume company Frances started at her kitchen table.

Although she’s a trained winemaker and worked in the New Zealand wine industry, similar jobs were hard to come by in her new home. “There aren’t any vineyards in Amsterdam. But wine and perfume are closely related and having become frustrated with the lack of natural, sustainabl­e perfumes, I decided to start my own brand.”

That was in 2013 and today, Abel has staff in Wellington, Amsterdam and Boston in the US and is sold around the globe.

But moving back to New Zealand from Holland was always on the cards and in January 2020 the couple and their children Rufus, six, and Arthur, four, took another risk – choosing to make Wellington their home.

“I’m from South Canterbury, David’s from Tauranga and we’d lived in Auckland for seven years. But we settled on Wellington because it has a similar creative vibe to Amsterdam.”

‘I’m attracted to the simple clean lines of mid-century modern pieces’

Having sold their compact Dutch apartment, they spent hours trolling through real estate sites. This house, designed in 1999 by architect Roger Walker, caught their eye not only because of its contempora­ry design but also because it’s in their desired location of Ōwhiro Bay, sandwiched between the ocean and native bush.

Not surprising­ly, the gobsmackin­g views were a huge selling point – across Cook Strait where passenger ferries ply the waters and, on good days, as far as the Kaikōura Ranges which look so close you could almost reach out and touch them.

But having great views usually means steps – 102 steps, to be precise, from the road. “You have to earn the view,” laughs Frances.

Buying the three-level house sight unseen from the other side of the world did cause a few anxious moments, but Frances admits it was another risk that paid off.

The family moved in eight weeks before their furniture arrived from Holland, but sleeping on temporary beds with only a few suitcases made it easier to renovate their new home.

The first thing they did was make friends with a painter and decorator. “The walls were a range of bright colours, from yellow and blue to purple and red in one bedroom,” recalls Frances. “It was all a bit 90s for us.”

Enter litres of white paint which not only makes the 105sqm space look bigger, but also provides a neutral backdrop that doesn’t compete with the views.

Thankfully, their house had good bones, so there was little structural work to be done, aside from

removing a wall in the third floor ensuite which had previously been used as a photograph­ic dark room.

“It gives us a more room, which is also why I opted for open shelving to create a sense of space.”

Both Frances and David, a chief of staff for a Dutch e-bike company, are fans of mid-century modern furniture and spent a decade trawling Europe for covetable examples.

“I’m a minimalist which is why I’m attracted to the simple clean lines of mid-century modern pieces.”

That includes the wooden cabinet that greets visitors in the entrance. It was bought in 2012 and is home to the couple’s book collection and pottery by Frances’ mother, Jacqui Durcan.

The vintage gramophone was Frances’ 30th birthday present, found by David in an Amsterdam antique store.

The only furniture the couple had to buy was a fold-out sofa which they slept on until their furniture arrived. That now lives in the second floor office where David works remotely.

The boys share a room on the first floor, sleeping in German custom-made bunk beds. “David is six foot six and the boys are also tall so we had to get generous bunk beds.”

A treasured piece in the boys’ room is the vintage luggage trunk the couple bought in Cologne, Germany, and lugged back to Amsterdam on the train. It’s now home to the boys’ dress-up clothes.

Along with carpeting the chipboard floors and changing all the light fittings, blinds and door handles, Frances also tiled the bathroom floors.

In the third floor master bedroom, a 1950s Danish rocking chair is perfectly positioned in front of the bank of windows.

Draped over it is a reindeer skin bought during a holiday to Finland, while the minimalist wooden block table came from Abel’s showroom at a perfume fair in Florence. “It’s really heavy but I loved it so much I ended up carrying it back to Amsterdam on the plane, which was a bit of a mission.”

Although Frances misses Amsterdam, she says the family is thrilled to be back in New Zealand.

“We’re really lucky to be here but also able to carry on our global businesses from this compact house up 102 steps with these fantastic views!”

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 ??  ?? THIS PAGE Frances Shoemack stands in the master bedroom on the top floor of her and husband David’s Wellington home; it has the best views in the house but can also feel like sleeping in a boat when it bears the full brunt of the area’s infamous winds. OPPOSITE The family barbecues on the deck when the wind allows for it; on a clear day the view extends out across the water to Tapuae-o-Uenuku on the Kaiko¯ura coastline, the highest peak in the South Island’s north-east.
THIS PAGE Frances Shoemack stands in the master bedroom on the top floor of her and husband David’s Wellington home; it has the best views in the house but can also feel like sleeping in a boat when it bears the full brunt of the area’s infamous winds. OPPOSITE The family barbecues on the deck when the wind allows for it; on a clear day the view extends out across the water to Tapuae-o-Uenuku on the Kaiko¯ura coastline, the highest peak in the South Island’s north-east.
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 ??  ?? THESE PAGES (from left) Two of Frances’ favourite pastimes, travelling and cooking, mean the kitchen is filled with treasures from around the world including Japanese knives and pottery, Moroccan tagines and a Danish Arne Jacobsen clock. The mid-century dining set by Dutch furniture maker Fristho came with the family from Amsterdam.
THESE PAGES (from left) Two of Frances’ favourite pastimes, travelling and cooking, mean the kitchen is filled with treasures from around the world including Japanese knives and pottery, Moroccan tagines and a Danish Arne Jacobsen clock. The mid-century dining set by Dutch furniture maker Fristho came with the family from Amsterdam.
 ??  ?? THIS PAGE (clockwise from top) Carefully selected mid-century furniture from northern Europe fills the living area including a Martin Visser lounge chair. The vintage gramophone rests on an art deco table found at the markets for 20 euros in Haarlem during one of the couple’s first weeks in Holland. The Amsterdam School-era cabinet is perfect for displaying the family’s books. OPPOSITE Rufus and Arthur have a game of giant pick-up sticks on the deck upstairs; the outdoor furniture is from the Palissade collection by Hay, the only furniture Frances bought to ship to New Zealand with the new house in mind.
THIS PAGE (clockwise from top) Carefully selected mid-century furniture from northern Europe fills the living area including a Martin Visser lounge chair. The vintage gramophone rests on an art deco table found at the markets for 20 euros in Haarlem during one of the couple’s first weeks in Holland. The Amsterdam School-era cabinet is perfect for displaying the family’s books. OPPOSITE Rufus and Arthur have a game of giant pick-up sticks on the deck upstairs; the outdoor furniture is from the Palissade collection by Hay, the only furniture Frances bought to ship to New Zealand with the new house in mind.
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 ??  ?? THIS PAGE (from top) Frances and David Shoemack with sons Rufus, left, and Arthur; rather than renovating the kitchen, the couple chose to only replace the fittings and tile the back wall. Two Abel fragrances sit alongside Amsterdam memorabili­a on the Danish Frama shelves; the portrait of the family was taken in a wet plate photograph­y studio in Amsterdam for family gifts.
THIS PAGE (from top) Frances and David Shoemack with sons Rufus, left, and Arthur; rather than renovating the kitchen, the couple chose to only replace the fittings and tile the back wall. Two Abel fragrances sit alongside Amsterdam memorabili­a on the Danish Frama shelves; the portrait of the family was taken in a wet plate photograph­y studio in Amsterdam for family gifts.
 ??  ?? THIS PAGE (clockwise from top) The couple bought the 1950s Danish rocking chair in the corner of the master bedroom to use as a breastfeed­ing chair when Frances was pregnant with Rufus. There is more shelving and furniture from Danish brand Frama in the master ensuite as well as a Nemo light by Le Corbusier. A narrow winding staircase links the house’s three floors to access the bedrooms and an office.
THIS PAGE (clockwise from top) The couple bought the 1950s Danish rocking chair in the corner of the master bedroom to use as a breastfeed­ing chair when Frances was pregnant with Rufus. There is more shelving and furniture from Danish brand Frama in the master ensuite as well as a Nemo light by Le Corbusier. A narrow winding staircase links the house’s three floors to access the bedrooms and an office.
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 ??  ?? THESE PAGES The couple love the clever design of the stacked bedrooms which means all rooms have windows on three sides, making the house feel more spacious than its compact footprint; tackling the gorse is next on Frances’ to-do list.
THESE PAGES The couple love the clever design of the stacked bedrooms which means all rooms have windows on three sides, making the house feel more spacious than its compact footprint; tackling the gorse is next on Frances’ to-do list.
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