Claudia Zinzan, interior designer and co-founder of homeware store Father Rabbit, shows that west is best in her bush-clad Auckland suburb.
Where do you live?
We live in Titirangi, Auckland, on a ridge overlooking a beautiful valley of nīkau, pōhutukawa, and kahikatea. We share the streets with a zillion kererū, ducks, chooks, kingfishers and tūī, and one peacock.
What is your house like?
It faces north-west and is very sunny. It was built in the 1950s and majorly extended in the 70s and 80s, so now it’s a threestorey wedding cake! It had many dated features when we bought it, but we are slowly refurbishing it.
Who lives here?
Nick [Hutchinson] and I live here with our two children – Tony, 11, and Michaela, 7, plus our lovely cat, Puss Puss.
How important is texture and colour in the interior design of your home?
I used to be a professional colour consultant, at Aalto Colour and when I was running my interior design practice in Wellington – so colour is extremely important to me. I notice all the shades of white and love unusual colour combinations.
We’ve painted our interiors white as it’s a fussy home with lots of inconsistent details but I bring colour through books, art, cushions and fabrics. Texture is important – it is something I have to remind myself to think about. My first thoughts are always around colour. I love monochromatic schemes that are brought to life with different textures.
Tell us about your neighbourhood.
Titirangi is quite an unusual suburb compared with the rest of Auckland. We are surrounded by bush and are in between the city and the west coast beaches. We feel very lucky to be living in a healthy forest environment. Titirangi has lots of nearby beaches and bush walks.
We also have market days, and an amazing art gallery, and there are lots of places where you can get a great view of the city and Manukau Harbour. It’s so quick to whip over to Cornwallis Beach to kick a ball and it’s also close to Piha, so we can get our taco fix at Murray.
How long have you lived here?
Seven years. We moved from Grey Lynn before Tony started school.
What do you love about your neighbourhood?
I love that it is very low-fi and easy-going. I enjoy the feeling of leaving the city on the way home from work. Going for a walk here really feels different. Walking through the forest gives you an uplifting saturation of oxygen – it’s like the energised feeling you get from an ocean swim.
What nearby cafés and restaurants do you like to visit?
We often pop down to Settebello pizzeria and Musashi Japanese tapas bar in New Lynn, and Kampung Style Malaysian Café in Glen Eden. Closer to home, we go to Soy & Ginger for takeaways.
What is your favourite spot for a coffee or drink?
Like when we are waiting for the school disco to finish? We all pop up to Deco Eatery for a drink!
Any natural wonders nearby?
Other than the beautiful walks and stunning beaches, we love taking the kids to Arataki Visitor Centre to learn all about the natural wonders around us. It’s perfect for killing an hour on a rainy day. We love walking along Exhibition Drive [a bush track] and up around the Huia dam.
Best place to soak up the sun this summer?
What are your favourite places to shop?
If I’m not shopping at our store, my favourite stores are Blush for flowers, Tessuti for treasures, and Madder & Rouge for those unique interior pieces.
Where do you take visitors when they come to stay?
We often head down to French Bay. There are regular food truck markets on weekend evenings, with delicious offerings from so many vendors – they are licensed to sell alcohol and you can buy amazing gelato. It feels so unique. French Bay is stunning at high tide. Tony is there on Saturdays, learning to sail.
What is your favourite memory from living here?
It wasn’t so great for the poor kererū, but we rescued one from the side of the road and looked after him for the night. They are just absolutely gorgeous. We took him to the nearby bird-rescue sanctuary in the morning.
Any top tips or secret hidden spots to check out in Titirangi?
Kōpiko micro-bakery offers West Auckland bread deliveries – that in itself is a reason to move here. Also, there is a beach that I discovered in lockdown (probably everyone else knows about it) called Davies Bay. It’s a lovely short walk from our place, and is so peaceful.
How do you balance work and play?
When Nick and I first started Father Rabbit, we used to compete about who would get to stop looking after the kids and do “work” in the evenings. Now the novelty has worn off and I try to treat the business like normal employment.
When I’m at home, I’m at home. There is the odd night that I have to do an urgent thing but, generally, our goal is to stick to nine to five, Monday to Friday. We also don’t have an office at home so we have to go to work, which helps with the work-life balance.
Where is your office, and what does it look like?
Our office is in Morningside. It’s an old industrial warehouse that we have painted all white as, again, it’s not perfect at all, so painting it all white has hidden a lot of blemishes! It is a very light-filled space. It’s open-plan and very busy. Our desks, photography area and packing for online orders is all done in the one space.
You must always be looking at beautiful things for your stores. What do you look for when deciding what to stock?
I look for a good brand story or a sense of nostalgia. So many timeless products have been around for generations. I want them to be well-made, practical and provide solutions to our customers. With clothing or footwear, I look for items that will be worn beyond one fashion cycle, time and time again, year after year.
A lot of Father Rabbit products end up at home but not everything! I like a layered interior with finds from lots of different places, so I interweave our products with art and interior pieces from other stores. I don’t want it to look like I live in a showroom.