Favourite Space | Marilyn Perko

It’s time for another of our ‘Favourite Space’ blog posts. We get to meet so many fabulous and talented people in our job, and when we see an interior that is really special and a true reflection of its owner, we just want to share it with you. Marilyn is a client of ours and was kind enough to allow us to photograph her home and share a bit of her journey with us.

Marilyn in her living room, which for some time during the renovation was her bedroom | photo: Florence Charvin

Before we get to Marilyn’s story though, I wanted to tell you a bit about our relationship with her. The way we worked with her is not our usual process. Normally, with a renovation like hers we are a lot more hands-on, but we quickly learnt how capable Marilyn was with managing her own renovation. A long-term Piha resident, upon arriving in Hawke’s Bay she came to us for advice on colours and fabrics, and we helped her choose, make and install all of her curtains and wooden shutters; we purchased her wallpaper for her bedroom study, bedlinen, and a lot of fabric for countless beautiful cushions and squabs we had custom made. We worked with Marilyn on an hourly rate for design advice and whenever something arose that she needed a second opinion on, she’d pop in to see us. We have the utmost admiration for how she handled her renovation (which we know can be a stressful experience) and for the beautiful home that she has created for herself. Marilyn, you’re a star, and now over to you…

We supplied fabric for curtains, window squab, cushions & furniture | photo: Florence Charvin

About your renovation:

B+B: How long did you live in Piha, and what made you choose Napier to relocate?

I lived in Piha for 21 years, it was my retreat from the world of work. I decided to retire in 2017 and I knew it was time for a move, much as I loved Piha I wanted to be closer to amenities, theatres, galleries. I initially looked at inner city properties but the escalating real estate prices in Auckland put that out of reach and I wasn’t quite ready for apartment life. So I set about looking out of Auckland, my check list was to be near the sea, walking distance to shops, not too far from an airport and room for visiting friends and family. North of Auckland was a contender and no further South than Hawke’s Bay or New Plymouth.

A beautiful side table spied by Marilyn and sourced by Bibby + Brady | photo: Florence Charvin

B+B: Did it take you long to find your Napier home?

I spent some time checking out a number of areas but I was drawn to Hawke’s Bay. I narrowed my search to Napier and, as I hadn’t been there for some time, I flew down one weekend just to look around. Or so I thought - I ended up putting in an offer on a 1920’s bungalow on the hill, and that was the end of my search! I have renovated several times and I knew this property needed serious work but I feel in love with the view, I could hear the sound of the waves, it was close to Napier City and less than 10 minutes to the airport. All my boxes ticked! Something I didn’t expect living so close to the city was the bird life; Tuis, Bellbirds and Kereru.

Marilyn’s living room with views over Napier and out to Cape Kidnappers | photo: Florence Charvin

B+B: What is your favourite space in the house, now that it’s all finished?

It has to be my bedroom area with ensuite, walk in wardrobe, study nook and view of sea and city. I just love the wallpaper, an indulgent Designer Guild feature wall in the study nook, expertly papered by Claire Condon.

We had beautiful wooden shutters installed in Marilyn’s bedroom | photo: Florence Charvin

B+B: What were the highlights and lowlights of your renovation?

The completed renovation took 10 months and with old houses there are always surprises (and there were a few), but I was fortunate to have a wonderful builder, "Wayne Reid Builders", and a band of exceptional tradies. An Auckland friend put me in contact with his friends in Napier who had recently completed renovations and they passed on all their contacts. The difficult part for me was living around the renovation, moving from room to room, no laundry or kitchen, inadequate heating…...I’ve been down this path before but it does get more challenging with age, however I am thrilled with the end result. A big thank you to Dael and Vic who have been there to give advice on colours and furnishings, and for their never ending enthusiasm for my project.

We sourced the Designers Guild wallpaper from our friends at Icon Textiles | photo: Florence Charvin

B+B: Do you have any advice for others undergoing their own renovation?

Take your time to find a builder, someone who sees your vision, and if you require Council consents/plans include your builder at the planning stage if you can. You must be well organised, living on site was an advantage as often quick decisions need to be made, but most importantly keep a detailed account of what you are spending.

Beautiful linen curtains over French doors seperate the inside & outside dining areas | photo: Florence Charvin

Getting to know you better:

B+B: What’s your favourite time of day?

Dusk, the fading light as the sun disappears and the city lights begin to twinkle. A time for quiet contemplation and a glass of wine.

B+B: Who or what inspires you?

I’m inspired by the generosity and kindness of those who give to their communities. The hours and hours of voluntary time caring for the young, our precious environment, the disabled and elderly.

Marilyn’s love of art is evident in her kitchen and dining area | photo: Florence Charvin

B+B: What are you reading/listening to right now?

One of the first things I did when I moved to Napier was to find a book club, at the moment we are reading “The Forest of Wool and Steel” written by Japanese writer Natsu Miyashita. I’ve just finished reading “Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead” - hard to pin point the genre but described as ‘a meditation on human compassion and a murder mystery’. With the longer nights I enjoy listening to my Jazz collection.

Marilyn brought these tiles into us for our approval. We love them, of course | photo: Florence Charvin

B+B: Sweet or savoury?

Definitely savoury.

B+B: Favourite drink?

Depending on the occasion - Celebrate with Champagne, Martinborough Pinot Noir and a single malt by the fire.

The dining table is one of our favourites in recycled oak | photo: Florence Charvin

B+B: Favourite thing you own?

My painting by Dean Buchanan is a favourite and I have it in my lounge, I never tire of looking at it. Dean lives in Karekare just over the hill from Piha, the painting is of Cathedral Cave at Mercer Bay. I bought it from Dean’s studio in Karekare and he told me how he would climb down to the cave to get mussels.

The painting by Dean Buchanan is very special to Marilyn and reflects colours found in the living room | photo: Florence Charvin

B+B: Do you have any future plans for your home?

Scaffolding and building clutter took its toll on the garden, so I've been busy outside. I’m looking forward to Spring! I'm also toying with the idea of developing a studio/bedsit under the house.

Accents of black in the dining room add a touch of depth | photo: Florence Charvin

Thank you so much Marilyn for letting us be a part of your renovation story, for allowing us to share your home with our readers, and for the celebratory champagne on the deck ;)

Rocking Colour on a Dark Background

Over the last six months Dael & I have addressed the question about "how to find your interior style" at several workshops. One of the things we suggest is to look to your wardrobe to see what colours, patterns and even style of clothing you're attracted to - relaxed, Boho, tailored... I was in Auckland this weekend with three girlfriends and we know each other so well we can virtually pick the clothes our friends are going to make a bee-line for. "Oh, that is so you, try it on", we'd say. Your home should be the same. When your friends come over they should instantly be able to see that it's a reflection of your style, taste and lifestyle.

While shopping with my friends this weekend I tried on this gorgeous shirt (above) from Stolen Girlfriends Club. It is a classic example of my taste in fashion mirroring my taste in interiors. I love the drama of colour against a dark background, whether it's a fabric, a wallpaper, a piece of art, or a room. The dark base is deep and moody, and any colour layered on top just seems to jump out at you. I couldn't stop thinking about that shirt and I'm very happy to say that it's now hanging happily in my wardrobe.

A couple of my favourite James Dunlop fabrics display the same qualities - love them!

Of course metallics look stunning on a dark background. The gold pineapples on this black wallpaper by Rifle Paper Co create a look that is both fun and glamorous.

I've recently painted my living room a deep, inky blue and I love how my brass and light wood accents are dramatically lifted by the dark colour. Artwork, cushions, flowers and greenery all look amazing against a dark base.

If you want some ideas about working with, and mixing colours in your home or wardrobe, one of my favourite websites is Design Seeds. Here you'll find thousands of beautiful colour palettes mostly inspired by nature. Browse the latest or search by 'colour' or 'collection'.

Does your home look anything like your wardrobe, can you see a common thread? I'd love to hear your thoughts, so feel free to leave me a message below.

Simple Interior Design Tips

When we're working with our Bibby + Brady interior clients, there are some basic tips and tricks that we use again and again. It seems many Kiwis own black leather sofas. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but they can dominate a room with their heaviness. If that is the case, cushions and throws are your best friend.




Layering throws, sheepskins and cushions will help to soften your dark sofa, as well as adding great texture.


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If there was one item of furniture I would recommend you invest in and don't scrimp on, it's your sofa (and your bed). You spend a lot of time on it, so you want it to be comfy, and you want it to last. With a more expensive sofa you're paying for quality - instead of foam cushions, which will wear out more quickly, you get feather and down cushions. A cheap sofa may have a plywood frame stapled together that just won't last as long as one made from hardwood and held together with glue and dowels, or tongue-and-groove joints. Effectively you will have to replace a cheap sofa a lot quicker than a quality sofa, so my argument is that in the end you're saving money.




We often look to use a light neutral coloured sofa in our interiors. If you do invest in a quality sofa, a neutral colour will not date and works with so many different looks. A new selection of cushions will transform it when you're ready for a change.




But, of course, we do love our colour at Bibby + Brady. This stunning soft pink sofa with wooden buttons is a winner. It's still quite a neutral tone, adding lovely warmth, and would work in a quiet Scandi room just as well as a more colourful space. It's also available in grey if you prefer.




If you do want to be a bit more dramatic and sophisticated, you can't go past this divine blue velvet sofa with elegant brass legs. It's a darker colour, but the velvet fabric means it's softer than leather. All four of these sofas are available to purchase through us at Bibby + Brady, contact me for more details.




Another of our favourite tips is to take your curtains right up to the ceiling. It will create the illusion of height, and will add instant sophistication.




Often people will hang their curtains just above the window, but you can see from the pic below what a difference it can make hanging them as high as possible.  It's an optical illusion, the window on the right looks bigger when in fact they are both the same size. As well as the height, make sure your tracks are wide enough so that when you pull the curtains back you're getting maximum light. This also makes your window look larger, and we all love natural light in our homes.




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My final tip for this post has to be about vignettes - my favourite thing in the home. A good vignette will tell a story, as well as make a room look beautifully styled, lived in and loved. The most basic thing to know when you're creating a vignette is to use different heights, shapes and textures.




Lamps, flowers and foliage are great for adding height to your vignette. Books are brilliant for grounding smaller objects. As well as books and vases, use more unusual or quirky pieces to express your personality - a camera, a spool of cotton... whatever makes you happy.




Don't just layer from the base upwards, you should also layer from front to back to add depth. Artwork hung or propped up on the wall behind is the best way to do this. Nature always adds amazing life and texture to a display. Sometimes the most beautiful is the most simple, like some branches in a jar.




Remember the space underneath. If it's a console table you can place a basket or a small stool below it. Some side tables have a lower shelf great for a stack of books topped with a bowl or dish. I love the repetition of orange in this vignette (below), it draws your eye up and down over the entire scene.


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These are just three tips to help create a stylish home, there are many more. If you want help with your home or workspace, we're here for you. You can send us photos of the area/s you want our advice and we can put together individual tips and tricks especially for you. Of course we can also help you source and purchase the perfect pieces for your home too, be it furniture, fabric, art or homewares. Drop us a line, we'd love to hear from you.