Creative Sammy-Rose Scapens does her Homewerk and can be hired via Tradespeople too

Designer, writer and mum of two Sammy-Rose Scapens grew up between Tauranga and Christchurch in a wonderfully artistic family, with parents who encouraged individuality and innovation. She was regularly left to her own devices to make up her own games, and a lot of her time was spent with her head in a book, then debating with her parents about what she’d read. All this instilled in her an ability to imagine and think outside of her own small sphere — something she’s very grateful for today. She says books inform all areas of her life and practice, which includes Homewerk — the business she started with her partner Oliver Starr — and the services she provides via Tradespeople’s national directory of women and gender-diverse tradies.

ABOVE They bring different skills and strengths to their work, but Sammy (seen here at home in Tauranga) says she and Oliver share a lot of it, “like client meetings, design strategy, furniture-making concepts, site time… We debate all aspects of our jobs, mostly at night once the kids are in bed. We’re polar opposites in our opinions and ways of approaching tasks, and although that results in a hefty number of arguments, it generally means the final result is well-considered and the best approach wins.”

So Sammy, Homewerk sounds pretty interesting — what’s it all about? Homewerk’s a multi-functional building and design practice that creates homes, spaces and furniture that make people feel alive, self-actualised and fab. We aim to help people run their projects in ways that avoid financial strain, and to offer innovative and fun solutions. We’re dedicated to allowing as many people as possible to create spaces that feel good because they’re healthy, functional and aesthetically exciting, and we also have a growing desire to create sustainable and alternative housing solutions.

It encompasses a broad range of projects — how has it evolved? We began Homewerk in lockdown and it’s been a natural evolution of both Oli’s and my personal interests. I often look to companies doing similar things overseas, and offering multiple services seems to work really well for them, whereas in New Zealand, I feel pressure to be very specific about what we do: are we a building or an interior design company, do we make furniture or are we a spatial solutions practice? We decided to be whatever we’re comfortable with and not feel the need to package ourselves in a certain way, so we’re just delivering whatever sparks our interest, primarily within the building and design sector.

Tell us about your new fit-out for the Sea People ice-cream shop in Mt Maunganui… That was such a fun project. The owners had a very distinct vision for what they were trying to achieve, so we were lucky that they let us go wild. My favourite part was custom-making all of the furniture and the beautiful wavy island inside. It was such a pleasure creating something with clients who had zero interest in trying to appeal to a specific audience — they didn’t want to fit in or to be accessible, they just wanted to be interesting and progressive in their approach. I also worked with a range of artisans on that project, which really filled my love tank.

ABOVE Scenes from ice-cream store Sea People. The flags were designed in collaboration with Parkby Projects and the ply furniture alongside cabinet-maker Paul Mossong; furniture restorer Avi Koifman of Dovetail Restorations made the squabs; the steel furniture was crafted by the couple’s friend Kolyade Reijger of Sigma Sheetmetal Products; and the lights are by late American artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi.

What new projects are on the horizon? We’re working on a range of metal furniture and about to embark on a small series of self-contained artist cabins that act as minor dwellings. This is an exciting long-term project offering beautiful alternative dwellings for people wanting to house more family or earn extra income with rent. I think in future we’ll see Homewerk come out with more long-term projects and solutions to the housing issues in New Zealand.

What makes you hopeful in these strange times? I’m a natural optimist, a big-time “Yes!” woman, a real cup- half-full person, so to be honest I feel endlessly hopeful all the time. I’m trying my hardest to raise our kids as aware, kind, passionate people who’ll do everything they can to make the world a better, more accountable place, and that’s all I can really do, while showing them how to take care of the planet; how to notice and feel the seasons; how to sharpen a knife, build a pot, write a story; how to be really alive in themselves and reflective in their interiority.

TOP Sammy has an affinity for character-filled finds, like her and Oliver’s “incredibly beautiful and wildly ugly sculptural tree” by their friend Debbie Harris. ABOVE The couple with their children Eugene (4) and Sybil (2). They’re also renovating their own home at the moment, though Sammy says it’s slow going, as it’s always the last thing on the to-do list. “I find it frustrating because I always focus on the bits that aren’t done, but the flipside of that is it’s exciting knowing there’s so much potential — so many more walls to fill with art, and more bookshelf space. I’m looking forward to getting all of our art pieces out of storage, arranging the cupboards, hosting friends, having a fire pit and challenging myself to a little contentment.”

What else would you do if you weren’t doing what you’re doing? If I could do anything else, I’d run an alternative school. I’d like to see myself as a principal! And to see our education system become more progressive, allowing children and young adults to be fully themselves. Or maybe I’d run an organic orchard in Northland, or be a wool spinner in Central Otago…

Is there anything else we should know about you? Well, I mean, it’s hard to shut me up, so you could always find out more!;

Interview Emma Kanuik
Photography Claire Mossong

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