At home with Gemma Muir

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Where the land meets the sea

29 Jul 2019 |  At home with

45 minutes from downtown Auckland and you'll find yourself in Muriwai on Auckland's west coast overlooking the Tasman Sea. This black sandy, rugged beach is home to a small community of creative people including architect Gemma Muir, her husband and their four children.

Tell us about your home and your plans for the build?
My partner (who is also an architect) and I noticed an opportunity a few years back to relocate and up-cycle an old statehouse. We had it moved onto an (unusually) flat section. Unusual for Muriwai anyway! A slightly unconventional way of creating a home for us and our two kids. And, in doing the majority of the work ourselves, agonising at times. But nevertheless a hugely satisfying… and thoughtful process at that. It’s nice to give something another go at life! After a few years, another couple of kids and numerous extension proposals drawn up – we settled on the idea of once again (after swearing never to again) relocate another house, alongside the first. The idea was to, again, renovate the interior and to open the two houses up to one another via a glazed ‘link’. So we have essentially got two gable forms – one sliding past another – joined by a section of flat roof. Simple but… considered (we hope). It will definitely be an ongoing project for years to come.

You’re an architect and a Mum to 4, how do you find balance?
Not easily to be honest! Because I’m heading into the studio some days but also doing a lot of work from home – I find it’s not always easy to just simply take my Mum hat off and put my working hat on. I seem to end up wearing both hats at once for the majority of most days! I’m still working on how best to separate work and family time. But one thing which has made a big difference for me, and I’m lucky that my colleagues also condone it, is not having my work emails on my phone. That way, I’m able to switch off more easily when I’m with the kids and it feels like I’m only working when I decide to head back to my desk or the drawing board.

Things you cannot live without?
Company.

Best advice for anyone about to embark on a build or renovation?
Bit boring – but know how much you want to and can spend. And make sure you truly understand what you can get for that. Also, know what makes you happy. And steer clear of fads!

Favourite fragrance?
A good friend introduced me to the Palm Beach Collection candles a few years ago and I loved the Lily’s and leather and clove and sandalwood scents, and I have had one (or more!) in our home ever since!