At home with Sala founder Sarah Lindsay

Sarah Lindsay’s life less ordinary began in a tiny coal-mining town outside of Birmingham, but funnily enough, fate had other plans, and after falling in love with a Kiwi in London, her now-husband Joshua, her next chapter is unfolding a world away in an 1800s villa in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. Just a block from their multidisciplinary Ponsonby movement studio, Sala, the couple has restored the bones of the house to create a nourishing foundation from which to grow with daughter Ophelia (2). 

ABOVE Wiggle candlesticks by Bias Editions pick up on the colour in paintings by Grace Bader in the dining room furnished with a handcrafted table Sarah and husband Joshua found on Trade Me. She explains it was sent up from Ōtautahi/Christchurch by a couple who had fed their family around it for 20 years. “I love that we’ll do the same for our family for the next 20 — a continuation of tenderness.”

That’s quite the evolution from there to here, Sarah… To be honest, it took me a while to get my head around living in a wooden house. We’d initially been looking for something brick, or a heritage apartment because I prefer more communal living, but I’m incredibly grateful to call this house home. It’s a little square-faced villa and I’ve always been a fan of Georgian symmetry, plus I love having a garden — I’ve planted lots of picking flowers for Ophelia so she can interact with it. 

TOP Pictured making a mug of ceremonial cacao, Sarah says, “Life is ceremonious, and the way you prepare your home supports your ability to be absorbed into the rituals you perform. ABOVE “I’m not a hoarder, but I’m definitely sentimental,” says Sarah. “I love the masks on our living room gallery wall, collected from places we’ve visited, like Finland, India and Africa. They add dimension and texture, both physically on the wall and emotionally, within the map of my life.” The artwork above it is by Grace Bader, and the one beside them is by Cora-Allan Wickliffe.

What aesthetic have you introduced to this historical canvas? It needed a major facelift when we found it, but I love that we’ve been able to make our mark on the place. I’m not precious about maintaining anything too polished. I try to buy secondhand and reclaimed wherever possible and look for pieces I’ll love for a long time. I think any good room has a balanced mix of old and new.

ABOVE “With the spotlight on fast fashion, many of us underestimate the wastefulness of fast interiors,” says Sarah. ”Nothing is really cheap — what you save on buying something has probably cost the Earth somewhere in the production line. Instead of looking for bargains, I’ve always been about self-made interiors sourced from markets, Trade Me and reclamation yards, and reupholstering to give older pieces new leases on life. I like to think of the evolution of a home rather than buying all new at once, and I like finding things myself. To me, it’s as much about the search as the final placement that makes a home.”

You’ve created a beautiful wellness sanctuary at Sala — have you done the same here? I suppose the concept is mirrored in the journey of our home and studio, from one state of consciousness to the next, carried by colour. I love colour and the idea that each room has a life of its own, with every doorway transporting you.
At home, one of the few rooms that’s not brightly coloured is the purposefully subdued living room, which is painted with Resene House White — white with a grey undertone — and has a grey velvet sofa and minimalist wire shelving. I wanted it to be a space to unload in before travelling through the rest of the house.

ABOVE As you might gather from their conversational seating set-ups, the couple enjoy hosting, “but at the moment,” says Sarah, “I prefer to be hosted. We live such busy lives and at the end of the day, I have decision fatigue, so I like switching off and surrendering to the choices of someone else’s menu.”

What are some of your favourite interior items? I’ve always loved art. Growing up on a small council estate, I didn’t have much access to it in a typical sense, but my mum used to save me all the catalogues that got delivered and I’d cut out the pages to make collages.
I think there’s an idea that it has to be expensive and only certain people can buy it, but I like the idea of gradually filling your home with art. In our own small way, Joshua and I wanted to combat those fixed ideas, and we decided we didn’t want permanent spaces for art in our home, but for pieces to move depending on our mood and needs. It helps me interact with the environment and makes the house feel more alive.
I try to support local artists whenever possible. I have pieces by Grace Bader, Nikau Hindin, Cora-Allan Wickliffe, Joseph Nerney and Holly Scholder at home, and Angus Muir light installations in the studio. I’d eventually love something by Jade Townsend. I’m incredibly lucky to have some very talented friends; some of my favourite pieces are by them. I love that Ophelia will grow up surrounded by the fruits of female creative labour.

ABOVE As well as her treasured record player, Sarah says her most prized possession might be copy of singer/songwriter Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids. “A friend bought it for me for my first trip to India, and it has since become my favourite book and travelled around the world with me.”

As a yoga instructor, you’re adept at tuning into energy — how does that translate at home? I definitely feel attuned to our changing needs as a family. We didn’t child-proof our home and instead let Ophelia know she has the freedom to explore and play, even with more delicate objects. This approach took a little patience but helps us feel connected as a family, as opposed to a separation of grown-up versus child. Everything is just us and ours.
There are a lot of moments of connection in our home. We enjoy our meals together phone-free and make sure Ophelia experiences us as her parents as often as possible, which can be challenging when Joshua and I are so busy running a studio together and always have things to discuss and work through. It’s so easy for the work-home merge to happen and for those conversations to dominate, so we actively work at being present with Ophelia at home. It’s still not perfect, but it’s something we’re continually prioritising.

Do you lean towards ‘hyper-organised’ or ‘happy mess’ and how does that approach gel with Joshua? Ha, did he ask this question?! I’m pure organised chaos and have stuff everywhere — notepads, teenage-esque piles of clothes, books I want to read plus two or three on the go at the same time. At the absolute opposite end of the spectrum, Joshua is ultra-tidy, using shoe trees, pressing shirts and minimising everything. It definitely causes some friction in our home.

What are some of the rituals you guys are dedicated to? To me, home is a way of infusing the mundane with the sacred. The process of making tea, preparing for bed; ceremony is definitely at the heart of our home.
On top of parenting, Joshua and I both work long hours, so we have to consciously devote time to our shared rituals. Our favourite way to unwind is with a glass of red wine while listening to music, so our turntable and records are important to us. Some of them came with us from London and some are fragments of this new life. We love playing music this way — the process of removing the vinyl from the sleeve and how once the record finishes, the sound doesn’t stop — it crackles and waits to be turned. 

What should every household ideally have one of? A coffee machine. It’s one of the easiest ways to ritualise your morning — and save money.

What could you happily live without? I’m actually not a very materialistic person, so I can go without quite a lot.

From an interiors perspective, what do you think is the secret to living well? Buy things that evoke a genuine emotional reaction. If you love an item others consider ugly or uncool, who cares? Life’s too short to contain yourself in a mould.

Words Philippa Prentice
Photography Larnie Nicolson

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