Memory Box

Homewares aficionado Debbie Stevens has created both style and pockets of meaning in her home.

Words Leanne Moore. Photography Helen Bankers

When it comes to turning a rundown cottage into a beautiful home Debbie Stevens is something of an alchemist. Layer by layer, she has transformed the interior of her Auckland home, filling it with treasures that she and her partner Syd have collected over the past 20 years. The couple has gradually altered and expanded the cottage’s floor plan, allowing it to grow with their lifestyle.

“As young people I think we sometimes look at older people’s homes and think, ‘goodness they’ve got so much stuff’! I’ve come to realise – now that I’m one of those older people – that your life is a collection of memories and I tend to surround myself with things that evoke these memories,” says Stevens, the owner of Source Home + Object, a homewares showroom for retailers, interior designers and stylists.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have had a few different careers over the years – I was a professional dancer and Syd is an actor. Performing was a huge part of our lives and I wanted a nod to this at home so I’ve displayed some photographs from those years in the dining room. I’ve also worked for years in the homewares industry and have collected many items that have been either samples or gifts from suppliers. These pieces all add personality to our home.”

Stevens admits there are times when she considers dramatically changing the décor, usually when she sees a new range by one of Source’s exhibitors. “I think, ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful to start all over again from scratch,’ but then I go home to that comfortable slipper that is my home and the idea doesn’t go any further.”


“At work I am surrounded by colour. I find it quite difficult narrowing down my favourites but I find that black, neutrals and touches of red are my go-to colours. Our living room is reasonably dark but painting the window surrounds and doors Resene Bokara Grey made the room feel like it was wrapping its arms around me. This room is really cosy in winter and during summer we fling the doors open and the garden feels like part of the interior décor. The dark colour on the windows just seems to disappear and blend with the greenery. The touches of red bring the house alive. I couldn’t live with too much of it but a few splashes just seem to warm everything up. Having said that, I’ve got a new bedroom décor in mind that is going to be quite different. I plan to mix blush pink and primrose yellow with shades of grey – watch this space!


Being a stylist I love arranging and rearranging vignettes around the house. I own a lot of bits and pieces and although it means every surface is covered with something, I get to change things around and have a little play. My dining room table is my ‘canvas’. I love changing the display on it and most weeks it gets a new look. I have a collection of matchboxes from the 60s and 70s that my parents collected on their overseas travels. For years they were displayed in a big glass bowl but I wanted to see more of them, so I sorted them into colour blocks and stuck them to the back wall of some bookshelves. That way I can see them all the time.


I have always had a pretty creative mind and I’m lucky that I live with someone who is able to turn those creative thoughts into reality. I’ve got a ‘can do’ attitude as well and being exposed to so many products and solutions at my place of business I can usually come up with an answer to a storage or small furniture dilemma, whether it’s drilling out a piece of plywood and popping in some dowel to create a hatstand or turning a wicker basket upside down to create a side table. It just takes thinking outside the square to make a space more interesting and personal.


I am a bit of a hoarder – just ask my daughter! I’m trying to cull but I love having things around me that are meaningful and tell a story and evoke memories. I have a beautiful collection of small silver items that I gave to my mother, who passed away in 2013. I love taking the time to clean all the little boxes and jugs as it gives me an opportunity to think about her. I also love putting like with like. For example, if I find a few small frames I’ll look for more to build a collection to hang on a wall. I’m a pushover for anything small so God help me if I ever get into doll houses!”

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