All right

There’s nothing in Tessuti director Ali McIntosh’s Auckland apartment that doesn’t feel like her.

For more than a decade, store owner Ali McIntosh has been seeking, spotting, sourcing and selling homeware treats and treasures for Tessuti, the Ponsonby institution that’s a longtime go-to of those in the know. She lives in an apartment not far from her store.

Ali, how do you like small-space living? Did you have to sacrifice much from your previous home when you moved in? I moved here from a slightly larger apartment, so the transition has been gradual. I did have to sacrifice a few things, but I’ve kept all of my favourite pieces of furniture. It makes you look hard at what you love and, of course, need.

TOP Both Ali and her labrador Monty make the most of the morning light that streams into the apartment’s front room. Working with a warm,textural palette, Ali has combined antique furniture she’s collected over the years with new pieces from Tessuti, including a rattan ottoman by Franco Albini, a braided jute rug by Nodi and a Dome pendant light by Monmouth Glass Studio. The L’Homme Bleu print (also pictured above) is by By Garmi.

What do you enjoy most about living here? This apartment doesn’t have an outdoor area, so the park next door is magic – it’s like a big, beautiful backyard. I love the New York vibe this home has, especially the brick wall that runs the length of the living, kitchen and dining areas, and being part of the vibrant community right outside is fun too.

How would you describe your interior style? It’s modest, refined and elegant. I collect objects and pieces that inspire me and feel authentic. I think creating a stylish home is about the pleasure of discovery and crafting moments of grace. At Tessuti, we gather together everything we love, and help others do the same for themselves; the store is a very personalised space, and a real reflection of what we’d like to live with ourselves. We have empathy for those we serve, and try to make something worth talking about and that people would miss if we were gone. Ethical business practices are something I grew up with, and a subject close to my heart, as is giving back to the community that supports you.

How do you select designers and products to stock? Tessuti has been trading for 28 years – I’ve owned it for eight, and managed it for four prior to that – and has a lot of long-standing relationships with suppliers. We tend to gravitate towards owner-operated businesses, so we can have a direct relationship with the designers and makers, both here and overseas.

TOP French brand Tsé & Tsé has long been a favourite at Tessuti, and its Pilaf Bracket wall lamp and Vase d’Avril (which Ali has filled with Japanese anemones) add a playfulness to Ali’s workspace, while plywood storage from Ikea puts a stylish twist on practical matters. An eclectic mix decorates the Joska & Sons’ Display shelves, from artwork from Anyonegirl (left) and Anna Gedson, to a trio of French butter presses. Hanging on the vintage pine chair is a bag handwoven by Marta Buda. ABOVE Shelves by String Furniture hold favourite finds in each of the apartment’s two living spaces; their lightweight look is ideal for small homes. The paintings seen here are by one of Ali’s friends, artist Max Thompson.

You’ve carved out an area of your front room for a home office – do you often work from here? Yes – I love having a dedicated office space where I can do admin and work on the website undisturbed. I make sure I always have flowers or foliage on the desk, and items on the shelves that are simple and calming.
My desk is long enough for two people to work at when required, but if I want to have a planning session and creative time, I tend to do it away from here.

TOP Vases by Astier de Villatte, a drawing by Christiane Spangsberg and the Ebony incense holder by Walk in the Park rub shoulders with an Akari light sculpture by Isamu Noguchi for Vitra. MIDDLE Ali uses lighting to create distinct zones within each space and likes to light from the side to set the mood. In the rear living room, the height of the Mantis floor lamp can be adjusted to suit over the Studio daybed by Ercol from Good Form. The Tassled Wool rug is from Nodi’s new range. ABOVE Who cares if your bedroom’s on the small side when it’s this beautifully airy? Here, sheer curtains, a Vida Stonewash linen duvet cover by Seneca and a Z5 Light by Ay Illuminate contrast with a chocolatey Velvet bolster, Round Velvet squab and Large Square squab by Klay. On the vintage stool in the corner is a Ritual oil diffuser by Bodha. The artwork is by Anne Schwalbe.

Do you have to resist buying things for yourself when you’re sourcing for the shop? All the time, although living in a small space means there’s not a lot of room for more, so I buy things for the store instead. Except jewellery – there’s always room for that.

What are some of your most treasured items that have come home from work with you? My Vase d’Avril by Tsé & Tsé, Mantis lamp by Bernard Schottlander, Case Study planter by Modernica, rugs by Nodi, cushions and throws by Missoni, Dome pendant and glasses by Monmouth Glass Studio, and Wundaire and Rachel Carley ceramics, because I love to cook and entertain.
I’m always buying candles and perfume, and some recent acquisitions I’m enjoying are my Astier de Villatte incense and ceramics. Oh dear, it sounds bad – but I’ve been with the store for a long time!

TOP A keen entertainer, Ali’s always on the lookout for ceramics. Among the items filling her Lundia shelving unit are hand-painted crystal Maja glasses by Orrefors designed in 1976, bowls by Rachel Carley and plates by Wundaire. The lamp is a Lampe Gras 210, and the painting is by Max Thompson. MIDDLE Making the most of the apartment’s modest kitchen has been a challenge, says Ali. “Winter entertaining usually involves slow cooking so I can prepare it ahead of time, and one-pot dinners are my best friend!” ABOVE In the dining area, vintage chairs by Baumann from The Vitrine surround an antique French wine-tasting table. Max Thompson strikes again on the wall. Ali also has a collapsible table she uses for guests when entertaining. “That’s one of the things I love most about this space: it can be easily adapted.”

What’s the secret to a perennially chic interior? Life is enriched by the small, good decisions we make every day, and by consuming with the very same care that things were created with – so make choices that make sense in your head and sit well in your heart. Select items that you connect to, with stories you love. To quote Rosita Missoni, “When you have confidence in the things you love, everything looks right together.”

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Michelle Weir

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