Inside story: Rebecca Smidt and Dariush Lolaiy

Click to enlarge
Dariush Lolaiy and Rebecca Smidt in their Northcote apartment.

Dariush Lolaiy and Rebecca Smidt in their Northcote apartment. Image: Larnie Nicolson

1 of 17
Smidt and Lolaiy have taken great care to ensure that displaying family toanga hasn’t resulted in a cluttered living space.

Smidt and Lolaiy have taken great care to ensure that displaying family toanga hasn’t resulted in a cluttered living space. Image: Larnie Nicolson

2 of 17
A backdrop redolent of their times in Greece.

A backdrop redolent of their times in Greece. Image: Larnie Nicolson

3 of 17
Plants keep the couple actively engaged in their home.

Plants keep the couple actively engaged in their home. Image: Larnie Nicolson

4 of 17
If busy working lives make a comfortable yet uncluttered bedroom vital, waking up surrounded by beautiful, familiar things is a necessary boost for the soul.

If busy working lives make a comfortable yet uncluttered bedroom vital, waking up surrounded by beautiful, familiar things is a necessary boost for the soul. Image: Larnie Nicolson

5 of 17
A collection of items that tell a story about family, friends and their own relationship.

A collection of items that tell a story about family, friends and their own relationship. Image: Larnie Nicolson

6 of 17
Smidt and Lolaiy have created a low maintenance refuge.

Smidt and Lolaiy have created a low maintenance refuge. Image: Larnie Nicolson

7 of 17
Amber glass vase: “I have to confess, that’s stolen,” says Smidt. Sort of. When the packers collected all their belongings from their London flat, this piece of glassware went along for the ride.

Amber glass vase: “I have to confess, that’s stolen,” says Smidt. Sort of. When the packers collected all their belongings from their London flat, this piece of glassware went along for the ride. Image: Larnie Nicolson

8 of 17
Whisky decanters: These were an engagement gift from Smidt’s mother and the result of some fairly involved haggling with the merchants of a Bermondsey market. Lolaiy is something of a whisky fan.

Whisky decanters: These were an engagement gift from Smidt’s mother and the result of some fairly involved haggling with the merchants of a Bermondsey market. Lolaiy is something of a whisky fan. Image: Larnie Nicolson

9 of 17
Sofa: Yet another Smidt relative runs a design business that has outfitted the likes of Meredith’s, Clooney and, yes, Cazador. This was a bespoke creation tailored to meet their colour palette and the room’s dimensions.

Sofa: Yet another Smidt relative runs a design business that has outfitted the likes of Meredith’s, Clooney and, yes, Cazador. This was a bespoke creation tailored to meet their colour palette and the room’s dimensions. Image: Larnie Nicolson

10 of 17
Dining table: Once owned by Smidt’s grandfather, it not only reflects his childhood in Indonesia but also her family’s ongoing tradition of gathering together for a Sunday meal.

Dining table: Once owned by Smidt’s grandfather, it not only reflects his childhood in Indonesia but also her family’s ongoing tradition of gathering together for a Sunday meal. Image: Larnie Nicolson

11 of 17
Viejo sherry: Bottle number 435 of 650 sits in its own box in a cupboard, unopened and, all going to plan, it will remain there for at least 15 years. It is a reminder of a lovely day spent at a Spanish bodega.

Viejo sherry: Bottle number 435 of 650 sits in its own box in a cupboard, unopened and, all going to plan, it will remain there for at least 15 years. It is a reminder of a lovely day spent at a Spanish bodega. Image: Larnie Nicolson

12 of 17
Plants: There’s only so much space in their lives when it comes to care and attention, so when it comes to room-mates, plants are perfect.

Plants: There’s only so much space in their lives when it comes to care and attention, so when it comes to room-mates, plants are perfect. Image: Larnie Nicolson

13 of 17
Sue Scobie ceramic: Smidt’s brother is a serious fan of serious ceramics, and this one-off piece was a Christmas gift last year. It might not be the largest piece in the house but it has a lot to say to Rebecca.

Sue Scobie ceramic: Smidt’s brother is a serious fan of serious ceramics, and this one-off piece was a Christmas gift last year. It might not be the largest piece in the house but it has a lot to say to Rebecca. Image: Larnie Nicolson

14 of 17
Syrian tapestry: The legacy of a six-day road trip from Lebanon, through Syria and on to Jordan in 2010: “Probably the most beautiful country we’ve been to.” This tapestry was purchased in Damascus.

Syrian tapestry: The legacy of a six-day road trip from Lebanon, through Syria and on to Jordan in 2010: “Probably the most beautiful country we’ve been to.” This tapestry was purchased in Damascus. Image: Larnie Nicolson

15 of 17
Hassan Hajjaj collage: On one of those endless London nights out Smidt found a crumpled US$20 note in a vintage jacket she was trying on. Taking it as a sign, they staggered to the gallery next door and bought this collage.

Hassan Hajjaj collage: On one of those endless London nights out Smidt found a crumpled US$20 note in a vintage jacket she was trying on. Taking it as a sign, they staggered to the gallery next door and bought this collage. Image: Larnie Nicolson

16 of 17
Mexican carpet: Dariush’s mother is from Mexico, so the couple travelled there last year and, wanting something to reflect that family connection, they bought this carpet at an Oaxacan market.

Mexican carpet: Dariush’s mother is from Mexico, so the couple travelled there last year and, wanting something to reflect that family connection, they bought this carpet at an Oaxacan market. Image: Larnie Nicolson

17 of 17

Rebecca Smidt and Dariush Lolaiy from game and wild-food restaurant Cazador show us the objects they can’t live without.

After seven years of globetrotting, it’s understandable that Dariush Lolaiy and Rebecca Smidt treat their home like a backpackers.

Whisky decanters: These were an engagement gift from Smidt’s mother and the result of some fairly involved haggling with the merchants of a Bermondsey market. Lolaiy is something of a whisky fan.  Image:  Larnie Nicolson

“At the end of a busy week, we’ll look at the couch and realise we haven’t sat on it once… but that’s what happens; we’ll eat maybe one meal here, then fly out the door in the morning and won’t be back until midnight.’’

Work happens at Cazador, the Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant Lolaiy’s parents set up in Balmoral 30 years ago, and it’s the primary reason the couple are back at all. Apparently his parents thought he was off on a six-month holiday, so by the time seven years had passed, they felt it was high time he returned to take over the business.

Fair enough, but having lived in each other’s pockets for so long, Lolaiy and Smidt weren’t exactly chomping at the bit to not only work together but share the small flat above the restaurant where they first met as well.

“So we did what all first-home buyers are being told to do and started looking for an apartment,’’ says Smidt, “and that meant looking for properties every single day. If we found anything we liked, we were ready to pounce straight away.” Even from the other side of the world.

As it turned out, they were in the Czech Republic when Smidt’s brother advised them of a promising find – perfectly-located in genteel Northcote, it had views in two directions and, best of all, was within a few parked cars of the motorway and the noise was turning many prospective buyers away. Score.

Dining table: Once owned by Smidt’s grandfather, it not only reflects his childhood in Indonesia but also her family’s ongoing tradition of gathering together for a Sunday meal.  Image:  Larnie Nicolson

Now settled in, their design aesthetic is best described as “low maintenance” which is, again, understandable given their workload leaves no time for tending a garden or pondering the perfect positioning of knick-knacks. And anyway, with only two rooms plus amenities it’s more about what you leave out than what you bring in.

Besides, it’s as much about the life their apartment enables. “We’d been living in London which, of course, was amazing socially,” says Lolaiy, “but we were living in a cave. So if we were coming home we didn’t just want to live here, we wanted to feel like we live here, too.”

Oddly, it’s the bane of many North Shore lives, the Harbour Bridge, that came through on this one. “Work means we leave at about 10am and return around midnight, so the traffic is fine… and I really enjoy both trips. It’s like the city welcomes us every morning, then the return back when it’s dark and there isn’t a lot of traffic, that’s a rare chance to wind down.”

This only reinforces the need for the items they have chosen to surround themselves to have meaning because, as with the wider city, they don’t just want a home, they also want to feel at home when they get there.

As you can imagine, their spare time has seldom been so important.


More people

Designer interview: Warren Twisleton

Designer interview: Warren Twisleton

Striking a balance between work and play has led the owner of furniture brand Lujo, Warren Twisleton, to design a range of contemporary furniture that creates a sense of holiday at home.
Designer profile: Francis Sultana

Designer profile: Francis Sultana

Camille Khouri talked to renowned interior and furniture designer Francis Sultana about his life as a designer and his beautifully furnished apartment (featured in the current issue of Urbis).
In Focus: Michael Webb

In Focus: Michael Webb

Building Community: New Apartment Architecture is a visually arresting book with a poignant and timely theme. Vanessa Coxhead spoke to its author Michael Webb about what makes a great apartment building.
Art in all the right places

Art in all the right places

Curator Sophie Wallace returned home from her time at Pace Gallery in New York to open Hastings’ newest gallery, Parlour Projects.
Designing the dragon

Designing the dragon

Urbis talks to young New Zealand expat, Briar Hickling, succeeding in the competitive world of interior design in China.

Most read

Theatre of small intimacies

Theatre of small intimacies

An apartment for a creative couple – an opera director and a film director – offers up drama and grand gestures mixed with subtle and delicate moments.
The elegant oasis

The elegant oasis

A neighbourhood is being reborn in the heart of Auckland’s city fringe. Currently in its second stage of development, SKHY is located on the corner of Symonds Street and Khyber Pass (hence its name) on an elevated site that is within walking distance of all the main centres.
Win a Kyoto outdoor bean bag

Win a Kyoto outdoor bean bag

It’s time to make the most of the last sunny days and balmy nights. Enter to win a designer Kyoto outdoor bean bag crafted by luxury furniture brand, Lujo.
Mad about Madrid

Mad about Madrid

This sophisticated, nine-storey inn was designed by Jaime Hayon as a contemporary take on classic Spanish motifs.
Designer profile: Francis Sultana

Designer profile: Francis Sultana

Camille Khouri talked to renowned interior and furniture designer Francis Sultana about his life as a designer and his beautifully furnished apartment (featured in the current issue of Urbis).
Modernist horizon

Modernist horizon

This holiday home in the Hawke’s Bay is equal parts relaxation, art gallery, viewing platform and a subtle homage to Palm Springs.
Issue 97 out now!

Issue 97 out now!

The April/May issue of Urbis is out now and is filled with food for thought on urban living and how to make high-density work in our favour.