Archive for the ‘home decor’ Category

no ordinary person

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Before I left New Zealand I ruminated to the point of obsession on what I would miss once I left. I thought if I did this ahead of time I’d avoid unexpected attacks of sadness. No matter how much love your new home there is always something you will MISS. For me, it’s people. My dearest friends are there and it was very hard to leave them.

This is Dave Harré and his wife Barbara, two of the most extraordinary people you could ever meet.

They have several kids and grandchildren, all of whom lead fruitful and busy lives of their own, but can often be found helping out around the family homestead, or cooking one of the delicious meals that are always offered to the revolving parade of visitors. Everyone is welcome at Dave and Barbara’s house. And what a house it is. A 19th century homestead in Oratia on the outskirts of Auckland. Dave likes to restore and protect old things. The house is one of these. It was his family’s home, where his mother supported the family by running a restaurant on the premises. It’s a beautiful old villa set back from the road.

There is always a project on the offing, and collections of things that might be needed for that project

A recent undertaking was the wallpapering of a bedroom. Barb was papering the old fashioned way, on scrim.

Dave loves to restore things. He once heard of a prayer house that was tagged for demolition, rescued it and placed it on his land. He organizes recitals there in summer time. But trams and trains are his passion. He has already restored one and given it to the city of Whanganui. This is a train carriage he brought all the way from Arizona. He shortened it and is turning it into a self-powering tram, the track for which is being laid across the lawn. It will be a moving guest house when it’s finished. I can’t wait to try it!

his workshop

The whole property is in a state of elegant and controlled decay. That’s the way they like it. Location scouts do too.

Everything is perfect in its wildness. Whenever I’m there, I get inspired by the way nature is left to take it’s course with the minimum of interference. No perfectly mowed lawns or  preened flower beds here.

A vineyard on the property. The wine is good, and the bottles recycled.

Betsy trying her come hither look.


Let’s go inside the house. The dining room is lined with native kauri planks, on the walls and floor. Sitting at the table you feel like you’ve dropped in on another century. When I first met Dave it was at this table, over which hung a flickering light that was powered from a dam on a stream that crosses the property.  His very own hydro-electric power. Dave is inventive and prescient. He was doing things the authentic, slow way before the green movement was in diapers.

early New Zealand pottery

hand made textiles on every chair



Dave is a francophile. He ends most statements with total! pronounced the French way, and keeps this 2CV, bought during a family trip to France where they lived for a year in the Pyrénées.

No story of Dave would be complete without this one: on a trip to visit his nephew in Paris, he was wandering home one evening and found a pile of stuff discarded from a nearby building. Never one to lose an opportunity for a good fossick, he rescued a set of architectural drawings of a neo-classical house and this coat. Both came home in his suitcase. This is his attempt at a Napoleonic pose, sans chaussure.

A sense of mischief keeps Dave younger than his years. So does his generous spirit. When I was there taking photos for Everyday Finery, he appeared at lunchtime with a pot of hot soup for our whole team, models, photographer makeup and me. Thank you Dave. You’re a treasure.

Dave and Barbara created a folk art museum on their property which you can visit by appointment. It’s open Sundays 1-4 pm, at 527 West Coast Road, Oratia, Auckland. Phone number is 09 813 3884

Woodstock revisited

Monday, February 25th, 2013


Well, January was hijacked by the flu, so I have been silent. I really didn’t think a flu could be as bad as it was. I kept hoping it would be over in a couple of days, but oh, no. It’s a sneaky little virus that keeps returning for impromptu visits when you think you’re finally rid of it. But rid of it I now am, in Los Angeles too, and enjoying the sunny weather.

Now for my news. Knitters have been emailing me to ask when South Seas Knitting will be back in business. I’m sorry to say that it’s not going to be returning. David and I have made the decision to return to live in California for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is our kids and David’s Mum. We want to spend more time with them. Los Angeles will be our home once again.

What am I going to do with my incredibly large stash of yarn? I do have a plan. I’ll keep you posted as soon as I settle in here.

For now, I’d like to share with you another beautiful place in Woodstock. We love  that town and found ourselves heading back there after a snow storm.

This cottage was just across the road and down a bit from the last one and every bit as charming. We met the delightful owners Phil and Sarah, an English couple, in Brooklyn.

I’ll start with the outdoors:

Phil and Sarah’s place (which you can find here and here) is called Bearsville Retreat. It’s two small houses with a gorgeous swimming pool which we didn’t see because it was covered in snow!

It’s next to a family farm where they sell their own fresh maple syrup tapped from trees on the property, and where the owner rebuilt board by board the red barn that his thrifty father had taken down and stored.

a snowbound scottie


and a real dog, Rosie

bothering chipmunks under the house

from one apple tree to another……do you see why I want to return in spring?

to sit in this glider

or read Mrs Dalloway while sipping iced tea?

Stepping inside we took off our brand new sorels.

everything I love: color, crockery, hand made things


and a clean, well-equipped kitchen

We loved this place and I really do want to return in spring to swing in the hammock under the apple blossoms.

We said our goodbyes to Phil and Sarah

and they to us

Driving back to Brooklyn, David decided to take the New Jersey route which involved crossing Manhattan. By the way, the Apple navigation app works great. Ours has an Aussie accent because Davids’ phone was bought in NZ, so we call her Sheila and she guided us with 100% accuracy from start to finish with no annoying bells or “recalculating route” delays. She just gets on with the job and doesn’t make a fuss, a typical Down Under kind of a gal.

Crossing Manhattan, past the Chrysler building!

across the 59th Street bridge…….feelin’ groovy to be almost home

and what a view. I’m a nervous nelly in the passenger seat, but I sure was glad David was driving on this gorgeous day.




more home decor knitting

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Hi Knitters,

This is a photo of my friend Alison, a fellow kiwi-American expat, outside Imagiknit in San Francisco, where she spied my book in the window display! It’s in the bottom right of the photo. I was quite excited about this. Check out their website. They have an astonishing selection of yarns including the best selection of Madelinetosh colours I’ve seen anywhere.

I waited patiently through the Olympic closing ceremony, was brought to tears by John Lennon singing Imagine – what a beautiful touch – and by the end, still no Elton. I’d imagined him bringing it to a rocking close. No Sting, The Clash (how could London Calling not be included?), Eric Clapton? And may I ask why George Michael had two songs, one of them a new single to be released the following day and therefore hardly appropriate for a retrospective selection of popular British music. Who let that one through? That’s my only grumble. I enjoyed the ceremony, and after Lennon, my favourite moment was Ray Davies singing Waterloo Sunset. No lip synching thank you very much, and no pitch correction. Reaching for the high notes. What a brave man, and in the spirit of the Olympics. The Kinks were my teen heart throbs, so I’m biased.

What did you knit during the Olympics?

I made this bath mat as part of a spring home-sprucing.

It took 3 hanks of Allhemp6, doubled stranded on size 5.5 mm needles. The stitch pattern is an easy rickrack that goes like this with a multiple of 4 stitches (I cast on 56):

Row 1: K1, * take right-hand needle behind work, skip 1 st and knit the 2nd st through the back of the loop and leave on needle; then knit the skipped st through the front loop; then slide both sts from the needle together; k2; repeat from *, ending last repeat k1.

Row 2: K1, *p2, k2; repeat from *, ending last repeat k1.

Repeat Rows 1 & 2.

I worked a single crochet around the edge of my mat, but it’s not necessary.

I love making things for my house, don’t you?

I’m still using the bath mat I made for Knit 2 Together. Six years on, it’s still going strong. What a great investment of time and materials.