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Douglas and Bec’s Beautifully Understated New Zealand Home

PHOTOS BY PIPPA DRUMMOND

There are elements of Bec Dowie’s northern New Zealand home that are impossible to capture in photographs alone. One may not realize, for instance, the scope of its rural surroundings. It may be hard to detect the relative quiet in comparison to the city where the designer, her husband, and daughter previously made their home. And it most certainly may be difficult to grasp that, despite a noticeable lack of embellishment, it’s a multifaceted — and completely modifiable — space that belies its minimal appearance. To put it plainly: Its walls move.

“The bedrooms in our home are on movable pods,” says Dowie, who is half of the furniture and lighting design studio Douglas and Bec. “That way, our space can go from home to studio easily.” With a workshop a kilometer away, Dowie needed a house that could meet multiple personal and professional requirements. Once a barn, the building she and her family now call home was converted accordingly.

It’s appropriate that Dowie’s home epitomizes a seamless blend of work and living space — Douglas and Bec, after all, is a family business. Launched in 2006, the studio is a collaboration between Dowie, a designer with a fine arts background, and her father, furniture designer Douglas Snelling. “We decided we would start designing and making things, but we didn’t know what direction we would take. With my art background and his practical skills, however, we went into woodwork first. It all grew from there.”

Today, Douglas and Bec is a business with global reach, well-known for goods that marry outstanding materials with clean design and meticulous craftsmanship. And while the company has showrooms in Auckland and Melbourne, there’s likely no more attractive display of its wares than the Dowie home we’re featuring here today, furnished almost entirely with pieces of the family’s making.

Expanding beyond a twosome, the Douglas and Bec team has grown to include three full-time workers at Snelling’s workshop, and Dowie’s husband, Paul. “My husband and I run the production, marketing, and financial side of things,” Dowie explains. “As far as design goes, I’m the ideas person and my father is the maker. He loves building things that are strong and structural and functional, whereas I bring a softening aesthetic to our pieces.”

While business has expanded, the work dynamic at Douglas and Bec remains much the same as it’s ever been. “We’re still very small,” Dowie says. “We’re hands-on, we’re always making something. People ask, ‘What’s your next collection?’ And there is no next collection—we’re always rolling, all the time.”