Stripped back and filled up

Written by Sarah Catherall
Photographed by Anna Briggs

Featured in Capital #71
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We met Katie Richardson back in 2013 when she talked to us about her café empire for our second ever issue of Capital. Seven years later she’s letting us look around home. Sarah Catherall visited Katie and her family in their Houghton Bay haven.

When they bought their first home more than 20 years ago, Katie Richardson and Rico Lane acquired a tiny house − at just 65 square metres, the 1928 cottage came with 1.5 bedrooms and a kitchen not much bigger than a large cupboard. Located in Houghton Bay, it ticked all the boxes on the couple’s wish-list: it was on the South Coast, close to the water with sea views, and under their $200,000 budget. “It was a dark little cottage sitting in overgrown bush. The dunny got the best sun,’’ Rico laughs.

Over the years, as the couple’s life, business, and family have grown, they’ve changed and expanded their home. When they bought the house, the couple co-owned Deluxe Cafe, which they sold five years ago. About 14 years ago, they set up Maranui Cafe, and more recently, Queen Sally’s Diamond Deli. They own the Lyall Bay cafes jointly with Bronwyn Kelly.

In 2003, Rico − who has a background building film sets − sat down at the kitchen table with his pencil and square ruler and drew up plans for a house extension. Son Aloysius, now 19, was a baby, and Katie was pregnant with their second child so they needed more room.

Rico, helped by builder friends, built the first extension, pushing out part of the house. They lost the lawn, but he turned the former kitchen into a deck, and the former bathroom into the current kitchen. “The carpet went down the day I went into labour, and I came home with our new baby as the carpet layers were here,” Katie says.

Adding on 70 square metres, they acquired another bedroom and what they now affectionately call “the noise room’’ − a den which houses the TV and computer. Filled with art and objects, including one of Rico’s yellow surfboards leaning against one wall, it’s one of Katie’s favourite rooms. She sometimes sleeps there in a roaring southerly: “It feels protected, like a bunker,” she says.

The kitchen and open plan living space is where the couple and their children Ava, 16, and Zebedee, 11, spend a lot of their time (Aloysius now lives and works in Raglan). Katie cooks vegan and vegetarian meals in what she describes as her perfectly-sized small kitchen. The kitchen’s interior style is eclectic, with many vintage and secondhand pieces dotted around, resembling the look of Queen Sally’s Diamond Deli. Katie’s cookbooks are stacked along open shelves, and a mix of vintage and new crockery sits on shelves nearby.

Katie has been collecting religious iconography for many years, and she has been given or bought the colourful crosses hanging on one kitchen wall. Rico was given the wooden figurine of Mary and baby Jesus, which was carved by his uncle who intended to become a priest until he met Rico’s aunty. “I love a vintage and eclectic look,’’ she says.

Rico lined the new walls with boards from the original cottage − a mix of red, white and natural timber boards line the kitchen and living room walls; they used to cover the original red porch, white kitchen, and wooden bathroom. “We mixed them up and laid them as they came off the pile,” Rico says. “I don’t like gib board. You end up spending more on the finishing materials and then you constantly have to repaint them. This way, it feels like an evolving house. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect, although Katie is fastidious about cleaning.’’

Their home is filled with treasures, many of which have been gifts or family pieces. Art works from 20 years at Deluxe Café hang on the living room wall near pieces they’ve bought or been given by artist friends over the years.

A washstand from Katie’s childhood bedroom sits in one corner of the dining area, which her mother bought in the 1960s for $10 and stripped back. Katie’s parents gave the couple their dining table as a wedding gift in 1998, along with the Turkish and assorted rugs scattered on the living room floor.

Terracotta pots in the garden are also from her parents’ former Auckland home. “Every time my parents downsize we acquire their old things,’’ Katie says. Rico loves ferreting and finding things. Their garden, planted along a steep path, is sprinkled with sea glass, paua shells, and rusting “junk’’ he has picked up from his beach visits over the years.

One of his best finds was three retro glass doors with sand-blasted images of fantails, which came from an Island Bay house that was being renovated. They are now a feature in the hallway and lead to the new bathrooom which was added in 2013, when Doug Weir, of Architectural Services, designed the second extension.

Sleeping in what they call “the south wing”, Ava has one of the best views in the house, from the expansive windows of her second-storey bedroom lined with ply. The stairs to her room are covered in skateboard deck covers, with no two alike. The couple’s bedroom and adjoining wet room have views of the Houghton Bay bush. “It has changed so much since we came here all those years ago, when it was essentially all gorse. It’s a really private house too, because we’re not too close to neighbours,’’ Katie says.

Their home is close to their work and favourite places, and they have very few reasons to go into the CBD. Three mornings a week, Katie drives a few kilometres to her commercial kitchen and bakery in Berhampore, where she cooks and prepares food for her cafes. Rico loves nothing more than donning his wetsuit and walking down to Houghton Bay for a surf. “We live pretty much in a five-kilometre radius. I love the fact there’s no shop in the valley, and so the kids were never dairy kids,” he says. The family love living near the sea, and, after 23 years, Katie still wouldn’t have it any other way.


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