Step Inside a New Zealand-Based Fashion Designer's Bohemian Home Studio

Updated 07/16/18

L.A.-born, N.Z.-based fashion designer Arielle Mermin’s home and studio is where bohemian meets eclectic with a hint of retro—exactly how you could describe Mermin’s collections from her eponymous label. The Californian native, who grew up in an eccentric Bohemian house north of San Francisco, is an avid weaver, artist, vintage collector, and surf enthusiast, which comes as no surprise after a tour through her charming, yet modest home. Located in Okato, a small quiet township on New Zealand’s north island, the 1960s home Mermin shares with her husband, Josh, and dog, Buddy, combines the laid-back style of L.A., nostalgic essence of San Francisco, and refined European style from her worldly travels.

Scroll on to take a tour of her dreamy, relaxed abode.

Katie O’Neill

How would you describe the street where your house is located?

Our house is nestled down a dirt road off a quiet dead end street. There are lots of native birds and trees surrounding the property. What’s quite special about our street is that it leads to an old swing bridge that’s two minutes away from a natural swimming hole and river.

Katie O’Neill

What do you love about the area?

So many things! Okato truly feels like a cosy, sleepy town and it seems like half the population is from all over the world so it has a really cool international, mellow, and slightly surfer vibe.

In terms of nature, we are five minutes away from several top-notch surf breaks and Mount Taranaki is our backyard. It’s amazing to see how it changes over the seasons. Even though our town only boasts about 500 people, we have a fantastic organic café, a beautiful restaurant, and mini grocery store. It’s like we never have to leave!

Katie O’Neill

How many years have you lived here?

For three years—and many more to come.

Katie O’Neill

What attracted you to the house and ultimately made you fall in love with it and buy it?

Honestly, my husband bought it before I even saw it. He saw it listed, drove the six hours put an offer on it, then told me about it later. We have had to put so much time and money into it, but now I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Katie O’Neill

How would you describe the style of the home?

Cosy and Californian in the middle of nowhere.

Katie O’Neill

Did you buy the home as is, or have you done renovations since you moved in? 

It is a 1960s home that we fully renovated. For the past three years, my husband and I (mostly my husband as I would be just a glorified painter!), gutted the home, insulated and re-jibbed the walls, sanded the floors, completely remodelled the bathroom and kitchen, changed out windows and doors—the whole lot.

We made a point to use mostly recycled materials and fittings, too. For instance, our kitchen counters are old bowling alleys and for the bathroom, I re-enamelled an old claw tub we found for $50. We even put in old French doors to open up to the deck Josh built—the before and afters are actually quite shocking. The place had never been touched before us and needed some major TLC. The beauty is that it has some really strong bones and so much potential.

Katie O’Neill

When you walk into your house what feelings does it evoke?

Honestly, it reminds me of California. I get so homesick sometimes so I just created a space that made me feel like I was in my house growing up. Lots of natural light, cacti and plants, arts and textiles thrown around, and Moroccan lights. At all times, you can hear the native birds sing, but then milk trucks go by. It’s just a really relaxing place.

Katie O’Neill

How many rooms and spaces does the home have?

It’s a small 100m2 home with three bedrooms and a bathroom. My husband built a massive deck that surrounds our home which we spend most of our summer time hanging out.

Katie O’Neill

What sort of home is yours –is it an entertaining type of house or is it more of your sanctuary where you get away?

A bit of both—since we live out of town, it’s always hard to wrangle our friends out here but when we do, it’s always a good party.

Katie O’Neill

Do you have a favourite room in the house? And why?

Yes, probably the kitchen. I waited three years for it and it was such a labour of love—from sanding back the bowling alley, to sourcing Mexican tiles in NZ. Even for the butcher’s block, we used the end cuts from the bowling alley and recycled rimu wood. Resources are hard to come by in NZ, especially for non-pedestrian items to fill the home, and I think the kitchen really showcases this while we were under a tight budget.

Katie O’Neill

What has influenced the design style and decorating of the house?

I grew up in an Old Victorian home with two beatnik and world travellers as parents, so that Californian Bohemian style kind of stuck. I basically think I’ve created another version of the house I grew up in.

Katie O’Neill

What do you love most about this house?

I love how quiet it can be.

Katie O’Neill

What are your favourite items in the home?

Either the weaving my mother made us for our wedding (in our bedroom photo above our bed) or any of the artwork my mother gave to me that was in our family home after my father passed away.

Katie O’Neill

What is the outlook from the house?

It’s a pretty big section that looks onto either our chicken coop or our neighbours paddock with their sheep busily mowing the lawn.

Katie Oneil

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