Cacti and succulents in rounded pots of all sizes create a relaxed vibe by the front door as Jenna Broad invites me into her Kaiapoi home. Inside, more beautiful succulents are arranged neatly on a coffee table. It’s a delight to see how Jenna’s passion for plants is expressed throughout this home: chain of hearts trailers elegantly twirl down stereo speakers and custom drawers, spider plants dangle from little tables and hanging pots, philodendron cascades down a pantry wall and broad-leaved plants stand tall in big corner pots.
Jenna, who grew up in Rangiora, spent 11 years living in Australia and says her taste for indoor greenery was sparked by her return to New Zealand in 2015. ‘When I was living in Perth, I couldn’t keep anything alive – the climate was too hot,’ she says. ‘It was great to be able to grow plants again here and see them thrive!’
It was in Perth that she met her husband Steven, a fabricator by trade. As fate would have it, he was originally from Kaiapoi so moving back here was a move home for both of them. Six months after returning to North Canterbury, Jenna launched Niche Gifts in Rangiora’s Conway Lane.
‘I’m a real homebody and have always been into homewares, organic materials and things that make you feel good. It’s something I’ve long had a passion for and I always dreamed of setting up a gifts and homewares store, stocked with things that people would love. My husband totally backed the idea and persuaded me that the time was right to do it. When a spot came up in Conway Lane he said, “We’ll take it!” so I got thrown into it there and then!’
Rather than following trends or picking stock from trade fairs, Jenna has learned to trust her own aesthetic judgement when sourcing items for Niche. She is a talented artist in her own right, who loves creating abstract works in acrylic or watercolour. As she recalls, art was the one subject at which she excelled at school. In Australia, she worked at a variety of jobs including in cafés and colour consulting, with that experience further honing her eye for colour/interiors.
At home, her approach to furnishing involves planning spaces, room by room. In the main living area, she and Steven started with a comfortable corner suite in a soft grey. ‘I love my greys and that natural look, because you can then add a bright throw if you want to; it’s much easier to change things up. We then added a bigger leather suite to make more of a statement, while still keeping with that natural theme. The plants tie everything together.’
Layering with soft furnishings – throws and cushions – is something Jenna really enjoys, in terms of how this can transform a space. The simple timber dining table also has chairs in grey – ‘Steven loves the diamond stitch in those’ – complemented by bench seating.
Art selected for display includes her own work, a Ruben Ireland print (Marianna), hand-painted mandalas by local artist India Waters and a Pablo Picasso print (Head of a Woman). Her favourite art piece is a striking work by Danish artist Leise Dich Abrahamsen (Curves), comprised of a series of abstract wavy lines.
Old and new elements are used interchangeably in their home. Jenna says Steven often drives her around second-hand shops and garage sales in search of treasures. Finds include an old cane magazine rack for a study nook and a pre-loved cane headboard that they picked up from a garage sale for $20. A second-hand piano stool covered with new fabric serves as a side table in the living room and on the other side of the room is an old leather-topped stool. A macramé creation hanging down one wall was a gift from Jenna’s mum, Gail.
‘I think it’s important to choose things that bring you joy, whether that’s because it’s connected with a good memory or it’s something you’ve fallen in love with. If you love something, you’ll find a space for it.’
A pair of brass swan bookends is Jenna’s favourite second-hand find. ‘I found them in this massive old warehouse. They were completely black. I loved them as they were, but Steven then polished them up for me and they look absolutely gorgeous.’
In the living room are clues to what has influenced Jenna’s thinking. On the coffee table is a book titled Wabi-Sabi Welcome, referencing the Japanese concept that honours natural imperfection and simplicity. Sharing space on the table is a rustic pine bowl by Rangiora woodturner Noel Graham that perfectly embodies that philosophy.
Jenna has been guided by the things that she loves at Niche to evolve today’s eclectic range of beautiful gifts, homewares, art and infant clothing. ‘When we were living in Australia, the boutiques seemed to offer everything you could want so that’s why I decided to include some babywear by Jamie Kay. It has been so popular.’
Much of her stock is sourced locally with favourites including Sophie Store, Jamie Kay, Eversweet and Candle Co. ‘I started out with a local woman, Lee Sinclair of Cloud Nine Jewels, who does amazing artwork and jewellery. We were on the same page with having our own businesses – she’s almost been like a mentor to me.’ As well as hunting for potential new stockists online, Jenna says customers often come to her with useful leads too. ‘Our local community has been very good to us.’
At home, the focus for 2020 is on landscaping. ‘When we bought this place, it was a rebuild after the earthquakes so it was just bare!’
Currently, there is a substantial smoker/cooker in the backyard that Jenna says is Steven’s handiwork. ‘He builds barbecues and is going to start doing that as a business, which is really exciting for us too.’
Five quick questions
How often should we consider refreshing our home furnishings?
You can filter things in and out when it suits you. Don’t be afraid to get rid of stuff and move things along. It can be fun to free up a little space for some new goodies!
Do you have a couple of tips on how else to reinvigorate a home if it’s looking a little tired?
Try moving things around, such as artwork. Clean your surfaces – take everything off and then only put back the things you love.
What colours are trending in homewares for 2020?
Moss green, olives, terracotta, stronger mustards. Bolder patterns are coming through too.
What are some easy-care house plants you’d recommend?
Spider plants are really easy and they do well in nice filtered light. A bird of paradise plant is another easy one.
Who is your favourite New Zealand artist?
I studied Colin McCahon at school and still love his work.
Words Kim Newth Images Charlie Jackson