“I’m a maximalist, always have been,” says Carol Thompson, owner of Eliot Jewel, a New Plymouth design store on the ground floor of a downtown 1940s building where she and her partner Lewis Roach also have an apartment. It’s no surprise, then, that their upstairs living quarters are teeming with art, color and treasures.
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And it does not stop there. In the basement, Lewis, a freelance plumber, has a workshop and a collection of retro scooters and bikes.
Lewis and Carol have owned the building for 17 years, but only moved in seven years ago. âIt’s the longest I’ve been there,â she said. After selling their old house, store and garden, they had to move quickly, which was a huge task. âIt was like moving two houses,â she says. “We’ve done so much, we’re falling for it – it’s like second nature to us.”
Carol is a woman who embraces the impermanence of life. âFor me, eternity is a scary thing. I tend to move, which drives Lewis crazy, âshe says.
âBy moving, you can create over and over again. I’ve been tinkering since I was 23, when I bought my first house. Since then, it has owned and renovated some fifteen buildings and houses, saving some from certain destruction.
One of them was a former dairy in a corner of town that housed his original designer store Bijou Eliot. Bijou is the French word for small and perfectly formed. âOr jewel, which is my mom’s name,â Carol says.
The current design store is full of gems – as is the two-bedroom apartment upstairs where the old open-plan office space with white walls has been divided up and a gray carpet has been brought up to reveal the now littered rimu floors. carpet.
Carol and Lewis went for a dramatic color using an olive green paint called Resene Easy Rider, punctuated with mustard-colored walls and areas of botanical wallpaper.
“I love flowers and being in an urban apartment is even more important to have something floral in a vase or in a wallpaper.”
As a downtown resident, Carol regrets having her own garden. “My salvation is freedom and the fresh air with the dog.” The dog is Frida, a Weimaraner who can also play search indoors: âWe can throw balls down the hall,â Carol says. Her favorite place to take a walk in the open air with Frida is the picturesque Te Henui Cemetery, which is maintained by volunteers.
At home, she has to be content to take care of her collection of large potted plants, which flourish in the warmth and light of the spacious apartment. âI put them all in the shower the other week to soak them,â says Carol.
Because the building faces north and has many windows, she chose darker wall colors and often pulls the blinds. “I wanted it to feel a little more pampered, being in the city center.”
Looking inward, the apartment is a showcase for artwork, mid-century furniture, bold upholstery, and Kartell items.
The interior designer and store owner says that “in another life” she was an antique dealer and has been collecting art since her teenage years. Paintings, mostly by New Zealand artists, adorn the walls and in particular the gallery-like hallway, and a collection of pottery lines a library shelf. âI sell earlier works by well-known artists to people who want to buy works at an affordable price.
She believes retrospective artwork is the best money you can spend: âIf something speaks to you, even if you don’t have the money, you’re going to get it somehow. I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager; you go up several notches in quality as you get older.
Surprising vases and cushions in multiple colors, most of which have migrated upstairs from the store below, join the artwork. More treasures were unearthed by Lewis who found a child-sized plastic girl sitting shot dead in an Auckland demolition site.
“He’s as bad as I am, really,” Carol says of her addiction to the collection. âShe has a new life and she is Ming Ming. She greets us when we go up the stairs.
There is order in the midst of this seemingly chaotic gathering of magnificent things. “I need a tidy house and the same for the store – or I can’t function.”
When the storefront items sell out, Carol spends a lot of time creating a new display. She admits to working long hours and has several interior design work in progress, including a complete renovation of Wilkinson Castle, an iconic arts and crafts house on the north coast of Taranaki. âYou’re supposed to slow down as you get older, not speed up. Carol’s response is to try not to work on weekends.
While she wants to live in France and has traveled the world to obtain items for Bijou Eliot, she says mentalities have changed during the Covid-19 pandemic. âPeople’s homes have become even more important because socializing isn’t such a big thing. “
Being surrounded by beauty is âa perk of my life. A clash doesn’t bother me, but it has to be the right clash. The art of mixing is truly a gift. There are no rules, but it has to be consistent in one form or another, even if it is a color you wear.
âThe building served as a place to do my work. It has great storage and character – and I love the character. I can live anywhere if I have the things that matter to me.
Q&A with Carol Thompson
My decoration style is: You can’t put me in a box; I like a lot of different genres.
A tip for other owners: If in doubt, seek advice, as you can waste money if you don’t.
Best Budget Advice: Buy once and buy well. Don’t compromise – save until you have enough to afford what you want.
Favorite kitchen appliance: My old 50’s Gullicansen blender, which I use to make my smoothies. If it ain’t broke …
Best advice I have ever received: I usually give advice!
New Favorite Find: I am in love with an emerald green cushion made by Elitis.
Favorite family treasure: Igniter by Maria Susanna Cummins, a book from my grandmother that she received when she left Birmingham school in 1907.
The first thing I do when I get home from work is: Go out with Frida and get some fresh air.
I can always count on: The day is never boring.
The least favorite household chore: All the housework, but I like a tidy house.
Over the next five years, I would like to: Live in France – we are looking for a property. We’re obsessed with it right now.
I love this part of New Zealand because: Nature and space to move around without a lot of people.
One thing you must see when you visit: The Coastal Walkway, because the long ocean promenade is quite invigorating, even in bad weather.
Favorite local store: Fashion store Et Vous.