Objects with Meaning

We visit the home of Krista and Tim Plews, owners of Mount Maunganui homewares store, Paper Plane.

At the home of Krista and Tim Plews, of renowned Mount Maunganui homewares store Paper Plane, they tell the story
of their life through the objects they gather around them.

When Krista and Tim Plews opened Paper Plane store in July 2013, they set the bar for homewares retail in the Bay of Plenty. Their distinct style, strong vision and focus on quality have led the way
ever since. But it’s always been about more than just products for these two — they’re drawn to
items that tell a story and have meaning, and now they’re taking that same approach in renovating their Pitau Road home.

When you climb the steps to their four-bedroom, 1950s character cottage, you could be forgiven
for thinking you were in one of Wellington’s cool inner-city suburbs, given the 600m2 site’s elevation. As you enter the central Mount Maunganui property, you’re drawn in by a long hallway, past the original bedrooms that sprout like limbs off the home’s spine.

Krista says its original features won them over — the wood fireplace, joinery, and dented, native-wood floorboards. “We never felt comfortable with a new build where everything would be almost too perfect and lack the type of character that can only come with age,” she says.

As you walk down the hallway you get the first hints that there’s something a little different in this home — a matte black, hot-rolled steel staircase leads you down into a large, open-plan living, dining and kitchen area. The space, which was an extension added in 2011, is expansive and light-filled.
It is the beating heart of this home, filled with love and personality — especially from the couple’s
two huge, fluffy Main Coone kittens, Ernest and Oscar. “I love it down here — it’s so big, open and light, and it’s always warm,” Krista says. “In summer, with all these doors and windows open, it just feels like I’m on holiday all the time in this space. It feels really fresh.”

That fresh feeling is helped by the first decorating decision they made when they moved in — to white-out the interior. It was a deliberate choice to create a blank canvas. “I didn’t want to be limited by anything coming in here, so whiting it out just took away all the limitations, in terms of colour
and materials,” Krista says.

Consequently, the sparse, clean approach seen in Paper Plane is reflected in their home. And although their store is setting a new national standard in retail spaces — they are finalists in the Global Innovation Awards for homewares retail and will represent New Zealand at the world finals
in Chicago in 2018 — Krista says their personal style is more adventurous, pushing the limits.
“Our taste at home is a lot more quirky, we’re going to take a lot more risks,” she says.

As you look around, you can tell their home is full of things that have been gathered over time.
There are collections of strange cacti, wee vignettes and much of Tim’s work — including a huge
pair of felted black lightshades, made for an Urbis Design Day in Auckland, which are the biggest statement in the dining space.

Tim, who as a furniture and product designer exhibited internationally under the Timothy John
brand, says everything in their home has been a process. “With my furniture, it was always about
the process to come to that object, not the actual object itself. It’s about the story behind it.”

“With the store, we like all our brands and products to have a story and we applied that to the house as well,” says Krista. “If we didn’t really, really love it, then there’s no point in having it. You just end
up vacuuming round it,” Tim adds.

Though Krista says their approach has shifted slightly. “We had a bit of a reality check, you know,
all of our friends have kids, our family have kids, and we had to become more practical,” she says. “While we want to invest in pieces that are beautiful, they have to be hard-wearing and practical.
So, for instance, there’s no black wood. If it’s black, it’s steel, so that it’s not going to get gouged out and expose light wood underneath. And no pieces that are super-fragile, because the idea of spending thousands on a piece that just going to get trashed is heartbreaking.”

Krista says their dining room chairs are a great example of this. “We really admire Jamie McLellan, who designed these chairs for Resident. We’ve always thought of him as New Zealand’s best furniture designer and this chair is really practical — it fits any body, it’s really hard wearing and the materials aren’t going to age — it’s going to look really good in 10 years. And to really respect the designer and have history with him means it ticks all the boxes,” Krista says.

Tim’s handiwork imbues meaning into many objects throughout the house. He designed the kitchen table, office desk, various chairs and even the chopping board. It’s not unusual to find Tim, tools in hand.

Tim says patience has been an important part of the journey. “We didn’t want to do it fast — just slowly do things over time. It’s been fun,” he says. “It’s the story of your life, in your things.” Krista adds. “It reflects your travels, your experiences, the relationships you make with people you meet.”

The pair immediately point to a collection of items on their dining table — a bowl by Holly Houston (who is stocked at Paper Plane and admired by the pair), wooden items from a trip to Japan and
side plates from New York.

Tim’s handiwork imbues meaning into objects throughout the house. From the floor he laid to the
hot-rolled steel staircase he designed and installed, to the vintage European gym mat (from The Vitrine in Auckland), which he designed a steel frame for to create an ottoman-cum-coffee table.
He also designed the kitchen table, office desk, various chairs and even the kitchen chopping board. It’s not unusual when you pop around to find Tim, tools in hand.

The statement stairs are just the start. “We’d like to see more hot-rolled black steel in this space,” Krista says. “We want to get rid of the kitchen and bathrooms and redo them in black steel, too,
so more natural, harsher elements — raw steel, concrete, brass — that sort of thing. Playing with natural materials to create contrast.”

But first? “The next big quest is to find some good art,” Krista says. “We’d really, really love one of Gavin Hurley’s portraits, so that’s something we’re going to have to save up for. “And I’d really like
to learn more about the up-and-coming local artists and try to invest in them,” she says.

Her favourite piece is also one of the home’s standouts — a vintage Eames moulded fibreglass
chair, from Mr Bigglesworthy in Ponsonby. “It’s from the early 1950s, one of the original productions, made in Philadelphia. I’ve always, always wanted a piece of vintage Eames, ever since first year of design school, so to finally have found one here in New Zealand is pretty special. I love sitting in it every day when I work.”

One of Tim’s best-loved pieces is the gym mat ottoman. “The white-white-white has never really
been my thing, so I love bringing those rustic elements in, to soften the space.” But the lights are
also a favourite. “There’s history in them. I saved them from my collection with the idea that maybe one day I’d have a space big enough to hang them, so that is exciting,” he says. “They’re such a talking point,” adds Krista. “They’re so sculptural and a big part of our evolution — Tim’s evolution
as a designer, our history. I love that.” Ⓟ

large cactus from Monstera in Auckland, footed planter from Wellington’s Tamago Ceramics

A vintage Japanese quiver of arrows

Ernest sits pretty on Tim’s gym-mat ottoman, vintage rug from Babelogue in Auckland.

First published in issue 1 of Our Place magazine.

Story by Rosie Dawson-Hewes
Photography by Alice Veysey