Design: Individuality rules

This colourful family retreat is a cache of treasures, both handmade and collected from around the globe

Erin O'Malley and Darran Mangelsdorf's barn holiday home is styled with Madder and Rouge furnishings. Photo / Babiche Martens

It's the type of place where we would want to stay, filled with the stuff we love, but that wouldn't cost a fortune. Erin O'Malley has hand-painted vibrant triangles over the large barn doors of her family's Point Wells retreat, creating a pair of eye-catching moving murals.

Erin is fond of triangles. A lampshade across the room, in one of the French striped fabrics that she and her husband Darran Mangelsdorf sell from their Auckland interiors store, Madder and Rouge, has been given a similar treatment. Hand-painted again, these triangles float over the woven stripes, bringing new interest to one of the timeless cotton fabrics they first discovered 12 years ago. Erin is designing a screen-printed version to sell for soft furnishings soon.

The lampshade brings more texture into an open-plan living space that offers something new at every turn. "I love a bit of everything," Erin says, "but it all starts with texture, then pattern and colour. Colour isn't essential. It needs heaviness to pull it back. That's why we have dark charcoal walls in the shop."

In contrast, the coastal barn, a custom kitset modified to suit their laid-back weekend lifestyle, has been painted white throughout so as not to compete with the pleasing mix of fabrics, ethnic finds, vintage furniture and art - much of it Erin's own work. She exhibits her paintings once a year.

"Fresh white walls stop old things from looking fusty," she adds. "Lots of stuff here was brought from our travels around the world. It's amazing how much we had. I can't resist collecting but Darran doesn't get it sometimes."

Often, she confesses, pieces sourced for the shop will never quite make it there, ending up instead at their Ponsonby home.

In the barn, living, cooking and dining are conducted in the rectangular space that leads to a bedroom for Erin and Darran and another for son Toby, 12. Daughter Sophia, 7, sleeps in a linen-curtained snug between the two.

Erin confesses, somewhat unnecessarily, about her current passion for skins and fur. The proof is there on the concrete flooring that's softened throughout with sheepskins, kilims, small calf hides and spotted deer skins, also sold in the shop.

While, she says, as a couple they love nothing more than entertaining friends, the joy, for her, has never extended to cooking. "I have a rotating menu of about five meals," she adds.

Fortunately, a large new stove in the kitchen area is helping change all that. "Cooking and I are beginning to be friends, but Darran is the cook."

A durable concrete bench sits alongside the stove. Vintage French factory lights hover above. Underneath, large cane washing baskets keep utensils handy but out of the way. Distressed metal shelves hold colourful patterned plates and Afghan pottery bowls and jugs sit atop tables and on the chunky French green shop counter, which provides extra bench space and storage.

In the living area there's a softly worn leather couch, an Indian cabinet, rustic woven daybed and an array of other seating options. All are linked with colourful cushions and ethnic weaves. A grid of aluminium doors fills a wall and leads to the garden behind. Even the bathroom and bedrooms are given international touches with old Chinese lantern shades, Turkish cotton towels, Egyptian lights and Nepalese hangings.

The couple travel to France every 18 months to find new suppliers and designers for the store. A trip to India to source textiles beckons soon, too.

In Erin and Darran's bedroom, the double fabric drapes feature sheer linen scrim on top and Madder and Rouge's Tom Noir stripe on the bottom - the woven striped cottons coming from a mill in the south of France. Erin says these and the other Gallic pieces they stock - including genuine Tolix metal stools and Tse & Tse plates - offer a point of difference for customers.

Erin and Darran stay at the barn whenever they can but are now also opening it up to holidaying guests. "It's the type of place where we would want to stay, filled with the stuff we love, but that wouldn't cost a fortune." Sleeping five, it is available for rent for $280 a night for a minimum two-night stay in the low season and seven nights in December and January. All linen and cleaning are supplied.

"We loved creating this," Erin says. "We enjoy the open-plan space and Point Wells has a lush, green feel to it. As well, it's close to Omaha Beach. It's an old seaside settlement and it's great to jump off one of the piers into the water on a hot day."

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