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Room to create

The Gisborne lifestyle brought the creative combination of husband and wife Katy Wallace and Paulus McKinnon to this city 10 years ago. Their half-acre section, once a mushroom farm, now supports the couple’s artistic projects, which include a community sculpture and a New Zealand scholarship to build arguably the coolest caravan in town. They talked to Sophie Rishworth. Paulus McKinnon and Katy Wallace are designers, builders, artists, painters and parents of two.

The husband and wife creative team were living in Grey Lynn, Auckland, and sharing a studio space with about eight other artists, when they decided to move to Gisborne 10 years ago with their first child on the way.

The question they asked themselves back then was, “Do we really want to do this Auckland property thing and start a family?”

“In Gisborne, we could afford a home that we wanted to live in, raise our children and maintain a creative/work/lifestyle balance” Paulus said.

They got everything they wanted on their half-acre section in Gisborne. The kids love it — there is lots of lawn for their two boys (10 and 7) and their dog to run around on as well.

“We have lots of sheds! Studio, workshop, office, sleepout, storage have all been accommodated in what was once a mushroom farm,” said Katy.

Their lifestyle here means the couple have time to raise their sons and work on their respective careers — sometimes separately and sometimes together.

They are a great team, says Paulus.

Right now in their own backyard the couple are working on something unique.

Last year Katy was awarded the Creative New Zealand Craft/Object Fellowship to create “a home away from home”.

The “transitional caravan”, as she calls it, will be built from scratch and fully-operational.

The carefully crafted bespoke living space will bring together Katy’s full range of design and making skills, innovative thinking and ability to engage audiences. Paulus is right beside her with the build.

Katy is first and foremost a designer. She taught design at tertiary level for eight years and currently designs furniture, interior and exterior spaces, and exhibitions. She was part of the team who helped rejuvenate Wyllie Cottage — the oldest European home in Gisborne still standing.

Paulus is an art-maker, painter, designer and builder — mostly the latter since it pays the family’s bills. His art and design background make him sought after as a builder for unique projects. He has built straw-bale houses, renovated caravans and beach houses, and designed and built kitchens and interior cabinetry.

The couple also commute from Gisborne for their respective projects. Katy helped design an urban park at Sandringham Reserve in Auckland, and sculptural outdoor street furniture for Dominion Road, both commissioned by the Auckland City Council.

Paulus hopes to start work on his surf sculpture design soon. It will stand proudly down the end of Roberts Road — a popular town surf break — by the end of the year. The sculpture will feature aspects of surfboards from different eras, representing the three generations who have surfed those waves.

He recently completed the re-design and build of a transformable outdoor level for a central Wellington apartment which uses wind screens, moveable benches and an all- seasons shelter to create attractive, private and usable space.

The couple say they agree aesthetically, most of the time, but more importantly they understand each other.

BETTER LIFE: Paulus McKinnon and Katy Wallace are making the most of the opportunities Gisborne has given them.