From the art on the walls to the purple floors, find out how intuition guides her.
‘Decisive’ could be interior designer Natalie Parke’s middle name — once her heart is set on something, the die is truly cast. She doesn’t really mind what you, I, or anyone else thinks of her off-the-clock choices, either — and the homes she reimagines for her family are all the more compelling for it.
An innately creative, “compulsive” doer-upper of houses, Natalie was ready for a challenge when she and her husband Gerry happened upon their new home — a neglected century-old villa on a sprawling 900m2 section in Auckland’s Grey Lynn. “It was in quite a state, but I’ve never been one to take the easy road,” she says.
To bring the dilapidated house up to scratch, with the help of CTL Construction, the couple redid the roof, relined the walls, ripped out three fireplaces (resulting in a thought-provoking discovery in the walls: stacks of 1941 newspapers filled with political cartoons predicting how easy Hitler was going to be to thwart), put in a new kitchen and heat pump, painted the walls and floor, and reinstated some heritage details. The instant they set foot inside, Natalie had envisaged not a run-of-the-mill villa reno but “some kind of French apartment job — super classical and finely detailed but with quirks. That’s why we put the villa skirtings and architraves back in — I really like the flourish of them, the twirliness and the drama.”
The lilac floorboards are in the same vein and were a typically instinctive choice. “I walked in and was just like, ‘This place is going to have purple floors,’” says Natalie. “I find it a really uplifting colour; it makes you feel safe and warm.”
Gerry didn’t take any convincing, and neither did their kids, Cassie and Oren. “I’ve been doing interesting things to houses for a while now, so it doesn’t come as a great shock,” says Natalie. “In my line of work, it’s important to consider other people’s opinions and it’s more of a guided process towards their desired outcome — but my personal taste is definitely very different to the mainstream.”
Natalie describes her aesthetic as “a bit of a mash-up but often quite stylised. I love using colour in unexpected ways,” she says. “At the moment, I’m leaning a lot towards colour blocking for a more relentless and uniform look. The interior of this home has grown organically but it’s quite intentional — it’s purposefully twisted.”
The kitchen is classic Natalie — khaki cabinetry, terrazzo tiles and a yellow rug, all against that purple floor — though she can’t say how she arrived at this combination.
“It’s the way my brain works; the process makes itself. To me, it’s about balance, harmony and intuition — feeling your way, seeing what happens. I think this palette works well and have no idea if anyone else agrees; when you get to the point where you’re putting lilac and yellow together, you can’t really worry what other people think! I feel as if that helps you to foster that creativity a bit more, stop second-guessing yourself and just own your decisions.”
Showcasing her affinity for mixing old and new, the décor in the lounge is dictated by a Togo sofa by Michel Ducaroy for Ligne Roset and a large-scale artwork (Deborah Enters, the Deed is Done) by Esther Stewart — bold choices anchored by a sculptural vintage coffee table from Babelogue, a bull-nose dresser from Mid Century Swag, shelving by Tomado from Mr Bigglesworthy and a 1970s chandelier bought off Trade Me.
Art also nurtures Natalie’s creativity and plays into her practice at her studio, Dessein Parke. “It’s always been central to my life and the way I put together interiors,” she says. “My approach comes down to colour, form and storytelling, and I love pieces that have a history. I don’t buy that much new stuff and a lot of what I do buy is made by people I know. There’s something really nice about having an emotional connection to the things in your home.”
As visually impressive as this décor is, it’s deeply felt — and suited to family life. “You can have all these ideas, but if they don’t function from a basic perspective, what’s the point?” says Natalie. “It needs to be practical — apart from the floor, but that’s cool, so I don’t care.”