Scent company Ashley & Co’s founders’ sensory sanctuary

For Jackie Ashley, it’s the little things in a home that count. The co-founder of fragrance company Ashley & Co understands the emotional connection we have with our abodes — the well-known scent that greets us when we walk through the door, the comforting touch of the sofa we sink into at the end of each day. The renovation of the Birkenhead, Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland home she shares with her co-founder husband Ben and their children Will (16), Miller (13) and Walt (6) meant turning their red-brick house into a heightened sensory experience.

TOP & ABOVE Texture, pattern and fragrance speak to the senses in this open-plan dining and kitchen area, from the wall-to-wall tiles, flame flickering in a Wax Perfume XL candle by Ashley & Co, concrete floor and dark-stained cedar, to the dining table bought off Trade Me, chairs by Kai Kristiansen from The Vintage Shop, rug from Bricolage and sofa from Babelogue. MIDDLE Reeded glass doors define the threshold where the original house meets the new addition. By letting through diffused light, they enhance the feeling of residing in balance with nature, while providing a little more separation from the private portion of the house. Widening as they make their way down into the extension, the mataī stairs mark the spot where the back door once was.

Public reserve Wai Manawa/Le Roys Bush lines the back of this property, so the journey through the four-bedroom house culminates here, where birdsong is abundant. This lush backdrop seems perfect for someone who deeply understands how appealing to the senses can elevate a situation. Jackie says making perfume a valued part of daily life equates to getting things in order.

ABOVE Standing out among the collectibles on the kitchen’s open shelving is a dark, glossy Verso jug by Ferm Living from Slow. Of course, ever ready beside the sink are Ashley & Co’s Benchpress bench spray, Insink dishwashing liquid and Washup handwash. “I love that the kitchen really is the heart of our home,” says Jackie. “The big island we can all can sit around makes it a very inclusive space.”

“If your home has just been cleaned, scent is the next thing that makes it complete. For our family, it’s an essential part of our home. The uplift of lighting a candle or walking in and smelling that familiar fragrance you’re used to makes you feel at ease.”

TOP An artwork by Anne Reithmaier punctuates the wall beside the stairs. ABOVE Babylon Gardens replaced the existing lawn with a Vitex hardwood deck and custom sandstone crazy paving (pictured on page 78). On the family’s Luxembourg table (with matching chairs) by Fermob from Jardin is a Sloane vase by Marloe Marloe from Slow.

This sense of transformation is also something Jackie’s familiar with. She and Ben bought this property as a deceased estate in 2010, its large, sloping back lawn and the bush being big drawcards. Embarking on an overhaul, they gutted and reconfigured the house internally to make updates that included creating a central hallway and additional bedrooms. Initially, they worked within the existing 100m2 brick structure, but this approach evolved in 2012, when they decided to engage architects Lloyd Hartley to craft an extension that would deliver open-plan kitchen and dining spaces flowing into an outdoor area, plus a living room that could be closed off when required.

ABOVE The new Float sofa by Sarah Ellison from Slow in the living room in the extension is a lush place to land. Beside a lamp from a now-closed vintage store on a Haller table by USM from ECC, a limited-edition Ashley & Co x Asobimasu Clay candle is an essential inclusion to set the mood.

Although they had to give up that lovely big lawn (the silver lining? “There’s not much gardening to do!”), the existing house remained untouched. It’s connected to the extension by some steps, from which the original hallway widens to embrace the kitchen, and an angled ceiling lowers to increase the sense of space, drawing the eye down to the kitchen and up toward the native vista.
“It was important to us to maximise the section by taking it as far back towards the bush as we could and making the most of the sun,” says Jackie.

ABOVE On the wall in the new living room is a large-scale painting by Ruidan Tomkins and a small, untitled artwork bought from Webb’s auction house. This new space is accessed through a cavity slider that means it can be made more private if required.

In the zone closest to all that greenery, the new living room, natural rays stream in from midday onwards, filtered by linen curtains and blinds that protect a favourite new piece of furniture: the velvet sofa. “We had a couch for seven years that got quite sun damaged, so we’re up and down with the blinds with this one,” says Jackie. “I wanted to get a couch all five of us could fit on; now nobody has to sit on a funny corner or down the side.”

TOP & MIDDLE Alongside a timber spirit level Jackie found at a fleamarket in Taupō, another artwork by Anne Reithmaier perks up Will’s bedroom wall painted in Resene Half Black White. Jackie found his vintage lamp at a Cordys auction; it’s standing on an A2 stool by IMO, on Waldorf Aragon carpet by Artisan Collective. The cabinetry in this room is by Sharp & Page, and the Antique Round stool is from Città. ABOVE A wall was inserted to create Walt’s bedroom as it was previously part of the original home’s dining area. Now, all four walls are in Karen Walker for Resene Half Robin Egg Blue. On a Beni Ourain rug, his chest of drawers is a family heirloom and his Cosh lamp is from Freedom.

North-facing sliders open onto a two-tiered deck and paved area with a fireplace, pool and hot tub, all designed by Babylon Gardens to take in the vast view. “Babylon put the pool in an area down the side of the section that got the least use but great sun, so that was clever,” says Jackie. “We also wanted a hot tub as opposed to a spa, as it fits the setting so well.”

ABOVE Jackie pads along the pavers towards Walt in the hot tub by Mason Ridge. “We love how seamlessly it fits into the landscape,” she says. “We enjoy sitting out here at night and watching the stars.”

The typical timber window frames remain in place at the front of the house, while efficient aluminium ones modernise the rear. “It’s very much business out the front and party in the back!” says Jackie. “There was no point bringing the old through, though, as the original windows are so small.
“We love how low-maintenance the extension is,” she continues. “The cedar just needs a lick of stain on it every few years, and we’re set.”
Of course, low-maintenance doesn’t mean low-interest, and compelling finishes and details fill the new spaces: textural white paint, sumptuous brick-red tiles, stainless-steel benchtops, a marble table and pebbled concrete floors.

TOP On the crazy paving in front of the fireplace surrounded by Mini Kayoborder tiles from Academy Tiles, Tio Easy chairs by Massproductions from Simon James gather around an Arnold Circus stool by Martino Gamper. ABOVE “We wanted a pool that was a bit bigger than a plunge pool but for it to take up only a little of the existing area,” says Jackie of the pool installed by Hansen Pools. She and Ben considered plastering it a dark colour but love the blue/green and the Mini Iriede tiles from Academy Tiles they decided on. “It gets quite deep, so it really needed to be a lighter shade,” she explains.

Jackie’s awareness of how to create a beautiful home stems from her childhood in Hong Kong, where her mother, Carolyn Oram, influenced her love of collecting. “The little pieces that make a home come from Mum. She loved decorating our Hong Kong apartment and I have such fond memories of that. As a teenager, I’d go to auctions with her, which has played a huge part in my interior style.
“I’m a bit of a collector and changer, and I like things to have had a life before they enter our home. There’s joy in seeing something repurposed. When Ben and I were in between houses, I’d turn up after going to an auction with the boot of the car full of stuff we didn’t even have a house for! I still get a rush when I walk into an auction now.”

ABOVE Another Arnold Circus stool by Martino Gamper hangs out with a sofa from Homage on the deck connected to the living space. Creeping towards them, Coprosma hawera and muehlenbeckia form a sculptural groundcover around the pavers.

Jackie recounts this while standing in her kitchen, gazing at the trees. “I do love having these doors open and looking out toward the bush,” she says. Where better to make a home for her collectables than in her favourite place? 

Words Catherine Steel
Photography Michelle Weir

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