Marlborough/Nelson/West Coast Design Directions - Sue Cunningham

Q&A with Nelson interior designer

Sue Cunningham

“I’ve lived in Nelson for the last 15 years, and it’s where I launched my interior design career. Nelson’s weather and proximity to natural pursuits both inspire and guide my decisions around design, as does the wide range of creative interests here. My favourite activities are cycling the Great Taste Trail, walking the many paths and tracks around Nelson and Tasman and attending film festival movies. My favourite spots are Tahunanui beach for people watching and walking and Rabbit Island for picnics and swimming with friends.”

Do you use your home as a testing ground for your ideas?

Yes, I do test theories and some styles in my own home. It’s only fair – most clients want to know that things work!

Describe your interior style at home.

It’s both casual and classic with the usual assortment of items collected over the years – after all, that’s what makes it home. Visitors tell me that they feel warm and relaxed in our house – a good benchmark.

Were you creative as a child?

I have fond memories of setting up the card table and drawing and painting pictures with my mother and sister. I’ve always loved colour and always insisted on a very coordinated wardrobe!

Tell us about your dream home.

My dream home is a chateau in France but I would be happy with a modernist black ‘box’ with lots of glass, some cedar features, fabulous lighting and a wide view over Tasman Bay.

What’s the most satisfying design project you’ve worked on?

I am especially pleased with the colour scheme for Prego and Comida in Nelson.

What’s your favourite recent design by another designer?

An apartment renovation in Auckland by Rachel Higgs of Integrado. Rachel has created an apartment that has an almost Parisian appearance with classic styling. The wonderful use of natural light pendant lighting, a pale neutral palette and the very high ceilings make it appear to have far more space than it actually has. It’s calm and elegant and provides a great space for city living.

What else inspires your work?

Nature is surely the greatest inspiration – every colour of the rainbow, often in very surprising combinations, along with the shapes and contrasts they provide. Reading copious magazines and books and surfing the web also provide inspiration – from small details to larger concepts.

Which New Zealand brand do you most admire?

Resene is a brand which features prominently in my life for obvious reasons. Two Resene colours I love are ‘White Pointer’, a warm grey and ‘Thorndon Cream’, an off white.

Do you have any tips for arranging spaces?

Declutter, declutter and declutter some more. Try to display just a few treasures and change them often.

What’s your favourite time of day?

Sunset over those western hills – oranges, pinks, reds – fills me with wonder.

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