Waking Up With: Alex Walls
Alex Walls owns and runs the New Zealand based A&C Homestore with her husband Corbin. Her thoughtful approach to interiors is not only reflected in the assortment at A&C Homestore, but also in the amazing sustainability focused house she and her husband built. Here, we chat about her path before starting A&C Homestore, the five year process of designing and building their home, and being a parent of two.
Hello! First off, tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been up to lately.
My name is Alex and I am a mother of two beautiful kids, Austen (4) and Goldie (1). I am also the owner of a homewares and lifestyle store called A&C Homestore in New Zealand. I have a pretty hectic life schedule, juggling between mum (NZ spells Mom, Mum), and business owner. My absolute priority is my family, but I also just love my business. It has been very hard to learn how to have balance between these two very demanding roles, but we are getting there now that the kids are getting a little older. This last couple of years has been a focus on growing our family, and also building our family home. Corban has been co-designing and project managing the build of our home over the last 5 years, for us to finally have moved in early 2020.
What is your morning ritual?
As a mum, I consider myself very very lucky to have Corban agree to alternate sleep in mornings. So every second morning I get a little mini sleep in to 7:30/8am, starting a little slower allows me time to just catch up with myself, sleep, read or even go for a walk. On the alternate mornings, I get up with the kids around 6, get them breakfast, have a pretend play in Goldie’s kitchen, prep the meals for the day, and by 8:30 have everyone fed, showered, dressed and ready to go for the day (including myself). The key part of this morning ritual is a VERY LARGE milky coffee I make at home.
You run a New Zealand based store called A&C Homestore, tell us a little bit about it and how it came to be.
My husband Corban and I once were on a home renovation reality tv show, so we made our mark in our little country as people who like to think outside of the box and push the limits with design, functionality, and detail when it comes to home design. On the back of that, I started A&C Homestore as I saw a real gap in the market in NZ for access to beautiful homewares.
What was your path before starting A & C Homestore?
Before starting A&C, I was a fashion buyer for a clothing brand here in New Zealand. I loved my job as it allowed me to travel the world, be creative, but also remain involved in the retail industry. I personally love being in a role that allows me to challenge myself to create products that customers need, want, and love, and then getting to watch sales results affirm good and bad product decisions is super exciting to me.
You and your husband recently completed a huge project building your stunning home. Tell us a little bit about that process.
Back in 2014 with our plans to start a family, came the need for our own family home. With Corban as an experienced project manager and design engineer, him and our Architect friend Fraser designed and managed the project themselves. We purchased an empty section that had been available for over 20 years, which presented a tricky and steep site that at sometimes has felt near impossible to build on. After three and a half years of designing and battling local councils to get consents, we finally got the documents to get underway with our build. The plan was to design a small-medium sized minimalist house that utilises an otherwise unusable site, and with sustainability as a key priority for our home.
Two kids later and five years of Corban working full time on designing and building our home, we finally moved in at the end of 2019. Our final home is our absolute dream house. We decided to say yes to all the interior plans I had (some restricted by budget), but overall are very happy with the key features and flow created within the home. The house is completely off the grid- supported by solar energy. In fact we get paid by the power company some days when we put power back onto the grid. The house has used recycled products where we can, we run off tank water, and also have plans to plant our fruit and veges around the property.
Aside from the house ticking off all our sustainability checklists, we also designed the layout to perfectly accommodate how we live. We love entertaining, so the house is focussed around our kitchen and dining areas, with a fabulous outdoor flow to the backyard and pool area for Summer entertaining.
What were the biggest challenges through that process? What are you most excited about / proud of in the completed project?
The biggest challenges were that it was a very difficult site to be building on in the first place and offered some pretty major restrictions. This is what challenged us to have to end up using some pretty unconventional building materials and methods. The Architect said this has been the hardest site he has had to work on. I am most proud of the fact that we stuck to the plan and made it out the other side with a better house than we could have ever imagined. I just love everything about the house interiors, which was my contribution. We are also very proud to say that this house has won some awards within the New Zealand design industry. This week we have won a Gold award for the Interior Design of the home, and Silver for Architecture.
What has been your favorite part of growing from a family of three to a family of four? What has been the most surprising?
It has been a bit of a journey that’s for sure. But my favorite part is seeing how Austen has gone from being a bit traumatized that a baby has come and changed his life around, to now watching him become protective of her, teaching her things, guiding her around and showing her off to strangers when he goes out in public. It’s been so nice to see how he has taken on a role of big and responsible brother, I hope it always stays that way.
The most surprising thing is seeing how different boys and girls are… in almost every way and without any guidance or direction towards gender specific things. For Goldie she is inherently gentle and sweet, attracted to pink, colorful tactile things and puts cars and trucks to bed with blankets and kisses them. Austen, a typical boy is loud, rough, loves to wrestle and loves all things mechanical. I intentionally never wanted to push either kids in a gender specific direction, but with these two, the gender specific stereotypes are so inherently built in, right from the beginning.
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The coolest place I’ve ever woken up in is: I am struggling to remember - I definitely know I’ve stayed at some amazing places. But one recent memory is waking up in our new house after waiting 5 years…. waking up that first morning looking out into the bush with the most beautiful natural light pouring in was quite heavenly. Both Corban and I sighed a major sigh of relief that we did it!
The best cup of coffee/tea is at: Our house! I love having my morning coffee in the quiet chaos of home with our fancy-as Rocket machine, I used to make coffee at a local cafe as a kid… so I know just enough to make a coffee I enjoy.
A thing about mornings I’ll never get sick of is: Sleep ins. But who's got time for that right now? At the moment when I get Goldie out of bed and she nestles in for the sweetest morning snuggle. I will never get sick of that, and will painfully miss it when she grows out of it.