No longer relegated to the china cabinet, porcelain is once again a must-have homeware item - and not just as decorative tableware. We spoke to Caroline Rennie who has just opened The Porcelain Lounge in the Remuera Mall.
What was your inspiration for opening The Porcelain Lounge?
I believe objects are core to the interior design of a home. They should not be seen as just giftware or collectibles... they have an existential value; they tell our stories and reflect our personalities.
And what's your concept for the showroom of The Porcelain Lounge?
It will literally BE a beautiful lounge. We'll have a series of different 'looks' throughout, and people can come in with their ideas, their photos of favourite pieces, and relax in the showroom while we discuss their decoration needs.
So it's quite different from The Gift Room - the Lladro Gallery, which was here previously?
Absolutely. The pieces won't be presented as if they are in a gallery. Rather, customers will be able to see the pieces within a setting that will give them inspiration and ideas for their home. We will provide ideas, support people to discover their own 'look' and then source the products if we don't already have them in-store. Coming to The Porcelain Lounge will be an experience in itself!
Is there a particular market The Porcelain Lounge caters for?
The wonderful thing about accessories is that they aren't static. Where you go, they go. So at one end of the spectrum we have younger people who could be renting, where our pieces can make all the difference towards making their space 'their own' because they can't paint or renovate it. Then at the other end, we have homeowners doing complete renos who are looking for signature pieces to work with. It's really diverse.
How do your products reflect this?
Our range covers everything from modernism, pop art and vintage, to contemporary and more. Whether you are a minimalist looking for a critical piece, or more profligate, wanting an eclectic look, there will be something for everyone. We don't like to pigeonhole as it's all in the eye of the beholder.
What genres are among that range?
We have the classics, like Wedgewood and Lladro; art nouveau (Moorcroft); Scandanavian (Rosendale & Kahler): pop art (Lladro!); and contemporary (Iittala). We have one artist who does the most amazing sofa scupltures (not to be confused with cushions!) as well as one who is a WOW finalist for the 2017 awards.
And other than porcelain?
We have glass, chrome, stainless steel, some wooden toys for children's rooms, and porcelain lighting.
How do you decide which brands to stock?
We are visiting international interior design trade fairs to build our suite of brands and find the new looks. We will be following trends and listening to customer suggestions, while supporting the range of looks that reflect our customers' homes. If there's something you've been struggling to find, let us know - we'll find it for you.
What's your background?
I trained in law, economics and accounting, which led to strategic, regulatory and financial roles. I've worked for ANZ, Powerco, the Ministry of Business and Innovation.
Wow - so as far away from interior design as you could get!
Haha yes, my love of beautiful things, my own shopping habits and doing the interiors for my own homes and investment properties is what ignited the interior design desire. Then I had my son, Angus, now six-years-old, and suddenly working for other people was no longer an attractive option. The Gift Room was for sale and I saw the opportunity to show people how important the interior of their home was to their wellbeing; that the pieces in their home are a reflection of them, and their personality.
Where did the idea of accessories having their own form of 'identity' come from?
Personal experience really. As a child I moved around a lot, so I've always been mindful of what makes a home. The Porcelain Lounge is a concept that works with you to make your space your own, but also covers the practical side of "gosh I love this look but how do I go about getting it". A bit like a travel agent who organises your overseas trip - share your ideas with us, and we will work with you to support your design vision.
Who's on your team?
My husband Iain (who also has a background in senior government) is one of our directors, but he's a silent partner. There's me of course, as CEO and founder, and we also have seven wonderful staff to help you with your interior design needs. My plan to begin with is to work on the business, rather than in it, although I will be on the floor to gauge customer experience and get the business model to optimum levels. We currently have two bricks & mortar showrooms and an e-commerce store, and the mantra is basically if it works, there'll be more stores in the works!
It's well positioned, there's plenty of parking and the village has that classic 'High Street' feel with its shops and cafes. I felt that Remuera is on the cusp of its "re-boom", and I like that coming here is a destination event.
Do you live here?
I live in Wellington, where we have our other showroom, but my extended family are all from around here.
Do you have hopes for Angus to be involved in The Porcelain Lounge when he grows up?
I'd love it. But so far his only suggestions have involved Lego. And whilst I acknowledge Lego as being sculptural...
Photos by Vanita Andrews and words by Fiona Wilson. This story was first published in the September 2017 issue of The Hobson magazine