Secrets From Architect - Cristina Capri

• Interior Design Tips!  • Choosing An Architect.  • Interior Courses. 


I caught up with Cristina Capri, a fascinating expert with many skills, she is an Italian trained Architect that works in New Zealand, Cristina shares her insight on building a home that is right for you & tells exactly how to obtain a wonderful Italian influence for living & entertaining at home!

Possessing a Master of Heritage Conservation degree for buildings, Cristina is a foremost expert in New Zealand.

As I arrive & enter the door, Cristina calls out to me from the first floor – leaning over the modern glass at the top of the stairs in a friendly way.  This immediately conjures images of things to love; al fresco dining at home & balconies…with family & friends.  During our chat, Cristina’s knowledge & passion for Architecture spills forth to make for a most delightful conversation.

I suggest the happy warmth of the Italian homes - used in films for entertaining is stunning, Cristina volunteers that the commonly thought idea of an Italian, with a big table with friends & entertainment - is a fact & if you want to live this way, you need a house that allows for that!

She mentions one of the principals that allows for living & entertaining well is to consider the ground floor, Cristina expresses “The moment you have the kitchen, living & dining on ground floor, you automatically will incorporate the garden, it is also easier to entertain like that.”

Other comforts for living & entertaining effortlessly, include a landscaped garden & worry not – for a low maintenance Kiwi, it can be easy care.  “What I also like is a garden organised so guests can have an entrance pathway from the street, so you can guide people from the entertainment area in the garden, without them going through your house.”

So what would she say to a low maintenance Kiwi, wanting to make the most of their garden?
She says if landscaped properly you can have grass, gravel, & a fish pond can become the focal point & these aspects can be low maintenance. The fact it rains here a lot, helps to have a low maintenance garden Cristina enthuses.

Cristina’s Advice About Ambient Finishes:
“There are finishes that can work better than others - for example ceramic tiles, they look good so your house becomes a place you cannot wait to go to after work.  It becomes something that is made for you, if you are comfortable in your house, you do not want to go out & you want to invite people home.”

Readily Available Ceramic Tiles - With A Wood Grain Effect

A Broad Perspective For Living:
In Italy, Architecture encompasses a whole picture, from technical principals to Interior design & landscaping allowing vision for the big picture & a firm understanding about technical implications.

Cristina’s Tips For Sea-Based Land:
“One of the things I often say with my Interior design is that you can make the most of the sea & sand like they do in the Mediterranean -  it is so easy to create a plaster house on top of wood, it is so fresh, …you can have terracotta tiles, white plaster, & the backdrop of the green sea, & white sand.

She clarifies that this look can be classic, need not be based on the 1970’s time period, or low cost in appearance & can be bought into today's context for those wanting a house that will be in harmony with the landscape.

Cristina’s Tips For Choosing An Architect:
1. Check their background for interior design, (She is an architect that does interiors, & she understands the technical implications of what she does). 

2. Typically the Architect should do the concept, the concept planning is most important - so there is an interconnection between rooms & the functionality of the house, then the concept should be given to a draftsman, to send to the council (this is the least expensive option).

3. While concept planning happens the focus can be on the landscape design, while the council checks things.

4. Then deciding upon colour is next - with a scheme & style that will be used for the interior & all the details that are important.

5. Choose an architect that can be on the same level - as you (the client) will understand all the things that want to be created & the Architect needs to consider all the things that a client does not tell them & what will please them. (An Architect needs to be a bit of a psychologist).  She says “At the end of the day I want a house that fits the needs for the client so they will have a fulfilling life & hopefully will not need to find a new one.”

Personalising Your Home:
Cristina affirms it is most important to show your personality in the home, expressing that the house is a reflection of one’s lifestyle, she likes to get into a house & see what a client's lifestyle is like, taking into consideration what people use, she says the details are what makes a house different!

“If you do not introduce something personal, it is going to look too cold, it is important to build a house with time & not choose all the interiors in one day,” she mentions.
Good questions to ask are: - Who is going to live in the house? - What will you use the house for?

Cristina offers furthers vision into personalising your interior & states “Le Corbusier (the famous architect) - he used to say your home is like a machine that needs to function perfectly well to make your life easy.”

So Cristina agrees & says you have to make your home function well, & have spaces to do what you like, by almost giving a function to every corner of your house.

With a passion for space & Italian quality & style, I am keen to enquire about the differences between New Zealand & Italy:

Cristina relays that although New Zealand is known as being an outdoor country, she finds the use of the Garden in comparison to Italy is much lower, that you can easily eat & have fun together in Italy in the home & that it can be more complicated in NZ, because of the logistics of many houses.

What Are Cristina’s Secrets For Creating A Sense Of Space/Making The Most Of What You Have?

1. When you have a heavy curtain with a lot of pattern, it dictates the interior, a sheer curtain is an invaluable tool to see outside.

2. If you can invest in wallpaper, it is a lifetime investment that will
always give a luxury look to your house & in the long run, it will
not cost more.

3. If you have a well-renovated house, but no garden to sit & relax, you can cover it outside for any rain, in South Africa, Cristina specifically made a porch that was almost 4 meters wide, so even if it was raining it was able to be utilised.

4. To enjoy a home that is great for entertainment, you need to use materials that are good on the outside, screen a porch off with curtains, ‘sheer curtains’, In Italy thermal curtains are not widely used if at all, if you have a house that has an entertainment area, you need sheer curtains, so you can see the garden & have a soft look for your interior, without it making a statement.

5. Bougainvillea - is ideal for Auckland/NZ climate, it does not drop the leaves as much as in other countries – you can grow it into a pergola outside. 

Planning Advice:
Cristina talks about planning, mentioning “There is a type of a design called Universal design that can grow with you, for example when you are just married it is just the two of you - when you have kids you adjust the rooms to suit & when you grow old you can still live in the house because it is designed in a certain way.”

“The ground level is the key, the kitchen becomes the bar, & you do not need to worry about people trailing through the house.” Cristina says using the ground level well - forces you to have a landscaped garden as an interesting focal point.  This ideal vision - invokes more images of movie scenes shot in Italy...with entertainment in the home...sigh...

Cristina says if you want to make the Most of Your home you should, develop ideas around the concept of what you can do in the house - without going out all the time.

About Cristina:
I ask if growing, up in Milan has influenced Cristina’s architecture?
Yes, she personally likes a type of architecture that is 18-19th century.  What kind of materials, are typically used, in this architecture? Plaster, columns & stone. She affirms that the materials you have in the country or area you live can influence your choices, saying that local stone is often used for building.

Bespoke Design
She feels that it is important if you design your home, that everything is designed from the beginning, so it is not patchwork.


Cristina Is Available For Interior Design Courses. At the Start Of Her Courses She Covers:

• What you do & don’t do in Interior design. • A bit of history & how it affects design. 

During her courses she offers:

• To go through the open plan (floor plan) & help the client confirm the entry point to the home & how important any curve appeal is to them.

• Kitchen & bathroom workshops.

• How to display Art & how to frame to make the most of the Art Work.

She also runs courses for people that travel to Italy - & shows what to do & what to see, when visiting Rome, Florence & Venice.

She says "when you design your home you should have a holistic approach, you design the home as a structure, the section should be landscaped, everything goes together, the materials go together, Architecture is a discipline that is done by more than one expert person in NZ, you would typically have a landscape architect & a team of interior architects.  In Italy when you study, you study everything, for instance I do interiors & landscaping as well as Architecture.