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Making Home: Objets d’art (Part 2)

Nana's pot planted with Mother-in-law's Tongue and West German vase

There have been a few highs and lows lately, a few changes too. This post has been sitting in draft form for nearly six weeks – I’ve just been either too busy or too distracted to finish it. Don’t get me wrong, busy is exciting, and rollercoasters remind me that I’m alive and still have much to learn, but it’s time for a withdrawal all the same; time to balance out my public self, which is showing signs of frazzle. Maybe I need a sleep in, a yoga class, or just to spend a bit more time writing here, in my creative space. Whatever it is, I am craving a weekend of quiet and slow, at home, doors closed, bowl of pasta and red wine in hand.

One meaning of home is sanctuary, a place of comfort, rest and refuge. It’s an idea that we have sought to create in every place we’ve lived, but especially in this one. The warm and cosy interior of our apartment is like a blanket against the world, especially at night when the dim lighting wraps the darkness closely around. No matter how cold, noisy, and crowded it gets outside, home always feels like an escape (and yes, we should all be so lucky).

Inside our apartment I have numerous small treasures collected over the last four years. I have mostly found these at charity/op shops (thrift stores), but some have been received as gifts, passed on as family heirlooms, or occasionally purchased brand new in moments of why not? Last year I featured many of these objects in a post (see here), and although it’s a bit weird to quote myself, what I wrote then is still what I want to say: “a sense of home is [partly] created by the accumulation of beloved objects…these are “my things” but it’s also true that they are me; repositories for my memories, constellations of family connections, and a partial reflection of who I am or who I want to be.”

For example, the photo above features a retro plant pot that used to grace Nana’s lounge when she lived in Auckland during the 1960s and 70s. Nana always had an eye for fashion, and Mum remembers that Nana bought the pot as a stylish ornament for her newly renovated lounge. She planted it with Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, therefore so did I (nothing else would do) and it now sits as an authentic mid-century-modern antique in my own lounge. That’s a nice little full circle, right there. The photo also features a West German vase found at a local antique store after a friend said that he could just “see” one sitting there. Now I think of him every time I see it. In some way, these objects are all pieces of me.

I’m wary of rampant accumulation so selecting objects with a story as well as a function has helped me make decisions about what to bring into my home. The following photos present the treasures that I’ve collected over the past 12 months. Bit by bit by bit, my sanctuary is slowly and carefully created by the presence of these things.

Tea cosy by Mum, pom-pom's by Hunter and teapot by P&K

Above: Tea-cosy knitted by Mum in classic 70s colours, topped with pom-pom’s made by my six-year-old niece, Hunter, who is so into knitting right now. The tea-cosy now covers a brown English teapot (by P&K, possibly from the 1950s?), found at a local antique store on one of my weekend ramblings.

Marimekko mug, T2 tin, kumara plant and 70s little dishes

Above: Marimekko mug for my desk at my new job, a bright green T2 tin which holds the most delicious oolong tea (a gift from my work mates at my old job), and a kumara (New Zealand sweet potato) propped up in a jar, on its way to becoming a house plant. I remember growing kumara plants like this as a child, but had forgotten all about them until I spotted a one at an organic cafe a few months ago.

Mum's white and brown enamel casserole dish

Above: Mum’s white and brown enamel casserole dish – the scene of many an overcooked dinner during the first years of her married life in the early 70s. I think that for Mum, this dish is a bit tainted by these failures, but I’ve promised to try and give it a new lease of life.

New linen tea towels - Kiwiana and Marimekko

Above: The Marimekko obsession continues with two colourful linen tea towels designed by Sanna Annukka. Also, the most wonderfully kitsch New Zealand tea towel, a gift from sister Kirsty. Normally I insist that all my treasures must be used as they were intended to be…but so far I haven’t been able to use any of these three divine tea towels to actually dry dishes. It’s a dilemma.

Glass bowl and orange milk jug

Above: Cut glass bowl with an interesting zig-zag edge, found at a local charity store, and an orange and white milk jug from Lorae’s place, rescued by my brother-in-law, Alan. I love it when people set aside things that I might like.

Retro Jason's Placemats - New Zealand landmarks

Above: Retro Jason’s placemats! Stashed away for decades by my mother-in-law Lorae, these placemats feature famous New Zealand landmarks like Cape Reinga, Mitre Peak and Mt Cook. The photographs are presented in all seriousness, as vignettes, set off by white space and elegant gold edging. When you open the box, you get that wonderful whiff of “old”.

Green pottery cake stand

Above: Green pottery cake stand, found at a local charity store. It took me a few minutes of hmmm to decide if it was hideous or special. I decided on the latter, and since buying it, all I ever see are plain white ceramic or glass cake stands. This one is definitely unique! It set off my Pear & Pistachio Cake really well (recipe here).

Vintage coasters

Above: Vintage coaster collection, bought in two’s and three’s from local charity stores. My favourites are the Japanese souvenir coasters featuring scenes from Ageo.

Danish yellow bowl and olive green goblet

Above: Yellow Danish bowl, sold as an antique, but possibly we were simply dazzled by the bright glaze because I can’t identify the designer. Olive-green glass goblet in a pretty tulip shape, so mid-century, but beyond that, also a mystery. African Violet, rescued from work, and Nunzilla, a Christmas present from years ago, courtesy of Gordon and Anne. Kitschy plastic Nunzilla shoots sparks out of her mouth when she is wound up.


  1. I love this post. Wonderful pics and a delightful tour of your treasures. So many of these could have ended up Chez Moi. I need Nunzilla!

    • Nunzilla is pretty awesome! She’s getting on a bit, so her sparks aren’t as intense as they used to be but she’s still good for a laugh. Thanks for stopping by John.

  2. I love the pot with the mother-in-law’s tongue! Your Nana has great taste!

    Mother-in-law’s tongue is so hardy; it’s the only houseplant I haven’t killed. I keep leaves of it in a tall vase with just water, no soil. I just have to remember to top the water up every so often.

  3. You’re spot on about the interpretation of things! Love the teapot (and knitted cozy). The style of teapot is called a Brown Betty and was quite common in Britain until quite recently – now considered old fashioned. Mine has lost its lid, but is still useful as a plant pot.

    • Thanks Debi, I googled the teapot and thought that it was a Brown Betty, but wasn’t sure. I used to have a miniature one (a one cup pot) that I broke ages ago so it’s good to have a replacement. It might be old fashioned, but no other teapot design comes close in terms of pour-ability!

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