The house has always been a focal point of life for New Zealanders. Hospitality in the home has played a prominent part in our society. In the early days, a widely scattered and sparse population meant that friends and strangers alike were invited into the home, because there was nowhere else for them to go.
Overseas, people met in restaurants and cafes. In New Zealand, friends gathered in each other's houses for entertainment, because of the lack of communal facilities. This is a tradition which has continued into the present day not only in the country districts but in the towns and cities as well.
Because of this, there has never been any lack of interest in houses. New Zealanders spend far more personal effort, time and money than Europeans on improving and beautifying their homes. But though we are the great do-it-yourselfers, we have so far produced little that is distinctive or typical of the country in interior design.
People are beginning to realise that a new way of life needs a new style of living, new shapes in furniture, new things to decorate their homes, and that the things from a bygone generation no longer fit in.
There is handful of architects and designers trained in this country who are less influenced by England than their predecessors. They are trying to establish an indigenous New Zealand style.
New Zealand style doesn't mean Maori designs on fabrics or floor rugs or historic prints of the voyages of Cook on our walls, though these can have their place. It should be an expression of the way we live today, rather than how an older generation lived. It should show how were are different from the English, Americans and Australians and reflect the attitudes that make the atmosphere of Wellington or Auckland unlike that of Sydney or London.
We don't need to break completely with the past or cut ourselves off from what is happening to interior design overseas, but rather we should absorb the ideas, and then crate a style that has the stamp of local individuality.
Frequently a New Zealand family isn't strikingly different from a family in any other country with a similar standard of living. But there are nuances in our character. We are, on the whole, highly democratic, unostentatious, utility-conscious, conventional rather than individualistic, and with a fondness for that particular quality that makes us call a spade a spade. All this should be reflected in our interiors, in a New Zealand style.
Jim and Judy Siers, and Vivien Shelton.
A Guide to Home Decorating in New Zealand:
A H & A W Reed, 1971.