Fashion designer Juliet Souter of Marle grounds herself at home in Mt Maunganui

Just like her coveted clothing, her renovated family abode is imbued with a laidback-luxe mood. 

When fashion designer Juliet Souter of womenswear label Marle and her husband Justin bought their first place together, they didn’t think they’d be able to make it their home. The couple’s lives were centred in Auckland at the time, so they considered the two-storey ’70s brick-and-tile townhouse they found in Mt Maunganui an investment, its solid bones, elevated site and location a stone’s throw from the beach stacking up to form a promising purchase. 

MAIN IMAGE The kitchen is decorated with A Gift for the Wall by Tom Mackie. ABOVE In the living area, a Joe sofa by MCM House (left) and Lowlife sofa from St Clements rest on a rug from Nodi with an Offset stool by Resident from Simon James.

Juggling two new businesses (Justin is co- founder of both Marle and fashion distribution agency The Market) with the arrival of their daughter Vita (now 7) saw life in the City of Sails become ever more hectic, however; so after some campaigning from Justin, Juliet ended up being convinced to give the Mount and its slower pace a go. “Justin grew up here and had always hoped to move home,” says Juliet. “I’ve been holidaying here since I was young and have always loved the area, but I wasn’t sold on the move because all of my family and friends were in Auckland. We made a deal to give it 18 months, then those months came and went and we didn’t even discuss it. It felt like home pretty quickly.”

TOP An LC1 chair by Le Corbusier found on Trade Me sits in front of the stairs, which feature a balustrade the couple had made as a nod to the home’s original architecture. ABOVE Juliet Souter.

Key to creating a happy new base was turning the rental property into one better suited to family life. “The house was rented out when we moved down, so for our first few months in the Bay of Plenty, we stayed with Justin’s parents,” says Juliet. “Then, once our tenants were gone, we gave ourselves about three weeks to complete a whirlwind initial reno. When I look back, it’s crazy to think how much we achieved in that time, including removing walls, updating the bathroom and adding a third bedroom downstairs.”

TOP Here, Tasmanian oak cabinetry crafted by Scott Eastwood of Eastwood Kitchens houses a thin-profile steel benchtop, flush-mounted Miele induction hob and integrated Smeg dishwasher. Juliet’s dedication to sourcing planet- friendly options that also look good saw her and Scott test multiple products, searching for a timber finish with depth. In the end, they settled on Osmo Oil Stain in 3590 Black. “Osmo use renewable oils and include a high amount of pigment in their product, so you don’t need as much of it,” says Juliet. ABOVE The kitchen extends into the laundry, which does double duty as a scullery that hides away messy necessities, so the lounge-facing portion of the kitchen neatly reads more like furniture than a workspace.

Painting the walls throughout in Dulux Cardrona gave the interior an instant refresh. Along with ripping up the carpet to reveal concrete that required little more than a polish to perfect, this established the starting point for the laidback-luxe aesthetic Juliet is known for at Marle. Low-impact design and natural materials are front of mind when she’s designing her collections, and she went down the same path here to devise a scheme built around a palette found in nature, including timber, veined marble and woven fibres. 

TOP Beneath North Otago Landscape by Colin McCahon, a dining table made by the couple’s friend Jason Dempsey is joined by Tangerine chairs by Simon James Design. The bust on the floor was rescued from Juliet’s mum’s garden and cleaned up to give it a second life. ABOVE After removing the existing entry foyer, the couple added a slated pergola to the front entrance. The joinery has been updated throughout the house, with aluminium bifolds and sliding windows creating the illusion of openness within the tightly configured interior.

The couple had been charmed by the home’s ’70s detailing — including the arched doorways and entry foyer with internal garden — but had to make the call to sacrifice these elements and others to gain extra space. Still, the interior footprint remained small, so outside, creating a good-sized exterior living space was a priority. Now, what was once a petite patio is a generous deck that allows for al fresco dining, lounging and showering after stints in the surf. 

TOP On the wall behind the couple’s bed is Billy Apple TM by Juliet’s uncle Billy Apple, an influential figure in her life who helped hone her creativity from a young age and champions her success in business. At night, a Tolomedo Basculante lamp by Aretemide from ECC casts a chic glow over the duvet by In Bed, pillowcases from Linenshed and cushion by Libeco from Everyday Needs. ABOVE Nero’s bedroom walls are in Chevron by Aalto Paint. Hero items in his room include a photo by Eugene Tan, toy sack by Play Pouch, duvet by Father Rabbit and wooden toys made by his grandad, Craig.

Following that three-week overhaul, the rest of the renovation was completed in stages as time allowed. “The house has definitely been an evolution,” says Juliet. “It’s seen many different configurations in the past seven years as we’ve figured out how it will work for us, especially when we became a family of four when our son Nero [now 4] was born.”
In a later phase of the renovation, reconfiguring what was once a separate, poky room into a galley kitchen connected to a laundry/scullery hugely improved the home’s flow. “My stepdad Sam Champion is an architectural designer and did an amazing job of devising the spatial functionality of the new kitchen,” says Juliet. “In fact, our entire family was integral to making our renovation happen. Justin used to be a builder, his dad Craig’s a builder and so is his brother Tony, so everyone mucked in and got things done together.” 

TOP Juliet makes herself comfortable in new-season Marle. “I like colour, but don’t like to surround myself with bright hues — it creates mental chaos for me,“ she says of her penchant for neutrals. She and Justin have toyed with the idea of repainting the pale brick behind her or recladding, but she says she loves its colour, texture and connection to the past. ABOVE The outdoor shower on the deck was built by the couple’s local plumbers, Pipe Masters. The Roman towel is by Baina.

Juliet’s passionate about seeking out second-hand objects and art instead of all-new everything. She finds herself attracted to the unusual and unique, and shares her collecting habit with her mum, Denise Champion; they regularly check in with each other on pieces of interest at Cordy’s auctioneers and get together at their favourite haunts to hunt for vintage treasures.
“My style isn’t dictated by eras — it’s materiality and form that interest me,” says Juliet. “I’m drawn to simple pieces that stand alone beautifully or sit with other objects yet have their own presence. I love antiques, adore mid-century design and I’m also into Brutalism… Our décor is a pretty eclectic mix! 

EXTERIOR Having the foresight to plant out the boundary with a row of olive trees early in the process has paid off — the family now enjoys complete privacy from their neighbours. The recent addition of a plaster wall has created an outdoor room well suited to dining at home at this raw concrete table from Design Warehouse with First chairs by Magis from ECC.

“I’m a sensitive being, and my surroundings are important for relaxing me,” she continues. “Home is where I go to recharge — it’s how I stay grounded. Almost everything in our house has sentimental value. For me, it’s about connection. Home is a place to be as a family, and a place to hold what’s meaningful to you. Justin and I enjoy having people around us, but we also love spending time here just connecting with our kids.”   

Words Alice Lines
Photography Simon Wilson

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