A bach-style home is given glamour and a warm heart by the young family that lives there
In the heart of Auckland’s Northcote Point sits what Hamilton Brooks and Yelena Bebich call their little black shack. Their small, bach-style house has all the warmth of a family home, minus the clutter. Rocket, the five-month-old short-haired rescue kitten flits back and forth at speed from the house, to the garden and back again, hiding within the cushions of the new St Clements sofa in the living room of her “forever home”. Yelena, a yoga instructor at Maa Chandra Yoga and her husband Hamilton – owner of Hamilton Brooks Hairdressing in Newmarket – purchased the house at auction two years ago and immediately began renovating; removing the dimpled ceiling tiles and retro brown carpet, replacing it with oak floorboards. “Originally I thought I wanted white floors but it just felt too stark,” says mother-of-two, Yelena. “When I first saw the oak sample it seemed quite full on but now I think it just anchors everything. Plus, white floors could turn a person a bit OCD.”
The house was built in 1962 by a local architect, who Yelena believes had worked on it as a family project. Now that the house is in their hands, Yelena and Hamilton are working on filling the space with their own personal touches, though their conflicting styles mean they’ve butted heads from time to time. “Hamilton is super opinionated about design, so we argue quite a lot and then come to a resolution,” admits Yelena, who favours touches of brass, crystals and “glitzy things” – the polar opposite of Hamilton’s penchant for clean, masculine design. But their intention, she says, is to keep everything feeling relaxed and family friendly. “We can’t be too precious, if things get a little stain or a knock, that’s just life with kids really.”
Next on the list of renovations is an extension at the front of the house, allowing Hamilton and Yelena to have their own ensuite and built-in wardrobe and give their two children, five-year-old Milan and three-and-a-half year-old Niko, their own bedrooms. Hamilton is currently working with an architect on the project, which involves knocking down the street-front storage shed. Meanwhile, Yelena is committed to keeping her vege garden alive during the less fruitful winter months. When the couple moved in, the garden was crowded with a “jungle” of palm trees, which they cut down to make way for Yelena’s veges, Milan and Niko’s trampoline and the treehouse which is in the process of being built.“It’s quite a creative process,” admits Yelena, “You’re sort of co-creating with nature and it’s really fun to put things in and see if they’re going to work. I’m always growing odd vegetables that I’ve never really heard of.”
It was Yelena’s love of gardening – and her plentiful vege patches – that lead the former hair and makeup artist to start her own charity, The Good Earth Collective, supplying vegetable boxes to people in need. “There was a crazy bounty of tomatoes and beans so I put together a couple of boxes and thought, ‘I just really want to give these to people who are going to appreciate it.’” Together with her sister Tereza, Yelena approached other avid gardeners in the neighbourhood encouraging them to donate their excess vegetables at drop off points in Northcote and Belmont and set up a Facebook page to help find more people in need of produce.
Yelena has been supplying boxes to De Paul House in Northcote, which provides emergency housing and family support, and foodbanks around Auckland, as well as making individual deliveries to families. “Winter is a lot quieter but my goal has been to get more people knowing about the Collective so that by spring we would have lots of produce. I’ve been doing one to two boxes a week, which is great, but I’d like to get as much as possible going out,” she says. Between growing the charity, child care, yoga and Hamilton working full time at the salon, it’s a busy but productive life.
Words: Lucy Slight
Photos: Michael James Rooke