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Inside the home of photographer Toaki Okano

When the Okano family grew to six, it was time to add an extension to their 1930s Auckland bungalow. The well-thought-out addition incorporates contemporary elements with the original.

Taoki Okano and family
On the day they decided to give up the search for their dream home, photographer Toaki Okano and his wife Pieta found their perfect, newly renovated property nestled in the Auckland suburb of Point Chevalier. “We bought our house in December 2006 after eight months of searching,” says Toaki. “It was tidy, had been recently renovated, with the addition of an ensuite and a new kitchen, and it had been fully rewired. All we had to do was move in and make it our own.”

Eight years down the track, though, and with baby number four (son Yosei, who is now 14 months old) on the way, space and comfort levels in the 1930s bungalow were becoming problematic. With three children and a dog taking over the open-plan kitchen, dining and lounge, it was a very full house and Toaki described the noise levels as “at times, unbearable”. The couple begun discussing plans for a new extension and the opportunity to inject an element of modernity into the home. “We were torn over making the extension look like it had always been part of the house or making it our own,” says Toaki. “I guess our compromise is, from the outside it looks like it’s all one, but the inside is more modern and our style.”

Toaki Okano and his family home

Taoki Okano couldn't resist purchasing the Gaetano Pesce UP5 chair, which makes a style statement in the living room

In the extension, concrete floors and black aluminium joinery integrate with the existing wooden floorboards and paint has been used to pull the different elements together, with a uniform shade throughout the home for continuity and flow. When Toaki uses the term “our style”, you may be led to thinking that he and Pieta share the same taste when it comes to décor. However, the photographer insists they have individual preferences for design which, thankfully, serve to complement each other. “She’s a minimalist,” says Toaki of his wife, who styled the bedrooms and chose the art and soft furnishings. “I’m a collector and have chosen most of the furniture for the living rooms. Somehow it works… most of the time.”

Toaki Okano house
Toaki Okano house
Toaki Okano house

The silver Gaetano Pesce UP5 chair in the living room is an example of a purchase that didn’t quite go according to plan. “I bought it thinking it would make a comfy feeding chair for my wife but maybe I should have discussed this with her first,” says Toaki. “I don’t think she’s ever nursed our son in that chair but the kids love it. We often hear Seiji, our eight-year-old son telling his mates, ‘It’s actually boobs and a butt!’”

Toaki Okano house
Toaki Okano house
Toaki Okano house

While the extension has a predominantly monochromatic palette of black, white, grey and, of course, silver, the bedrooms and dining room boast random pops of colour. With plans for a new kitchen currently underway, Toaki says the Eames dining table and chairs might be on the chopping block. “They have just slotted in to what was already there, but our style has always been very monochromatic.”

Toaki Okano house
Toaki Okano house

Since moving to New Zealand from Japan, Toaki’s exposure to local designers and his love for collecting nostalgic pieces has meant he’s constantly adding to the repertoire of furniture that his children will eventually inherit.
“My taste has definitely changed since moving here, partly because of my surroundings but also my age,” he says. “In Japan, so much is thrown away to make way for newer, fresher items but here things are preserved. I would like to pass furniture down to my kids one day so I teach them the history behind each piece. Hopefully they’ll appreciate and enjoy them as much as I do.”

Toaki Okano house
Toaki Okano house
Words: Lucy Slight

Photography: Toaki Okano

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