In the first of our new profiles on fascinating families, we meet the Stanaways living the good life on Auckland's North Shore. At the Stanaways' Murrays Bay house, the writing's on the wall. There, right behind the dining-table it's spelt out as clear as day - what matters most in this house is F-A-M-I-L-Y.
Shelleece is an interior designer, so as you'd expect, her house is stunning, eclectic and sophisticated. But central to it all is her family. She doesn't just talk the talk, she lives it, home-birthing three of her four children "surrounded by the things I love". She says they were immensely spiritual experiences and for that reason, more than any other, the houses they have lived in become full of special memories. She found it very difficult to leave their last house because it was there she gave birth to her two middle boys. She imagines an equal pull if they ever leave their current home, where daughter Meila was born.
Shelleece grew up in Paihia in the Bay of Islands. Her dad was a big hunter-gatherer, her mum was from a big whanau - one of 12. She grew up camping and tramping, surfing and sailing. She's a city girl now. She still hunts - sourcing products for her interior design clients, and tramps - up and down the fairway on one of her regular (but not often enough) golf-dates with husband Hayden.
Whenever they can manage it they pack up the kids and head "home" to visit her parents and her 94-year-old grandfather.
Shelleece and Hayden have four children - 12-year-old Janique from Shelleece's previous relationship - then Kyann, five, Armani four, and Meila, two. Yes, they decided to go one last time in the hope of getting a little girl.
They opted to have the scan to find out if the baby was a boy or a girl, because Shelleece says the prospect of a fourth boy was something she needed time to get her head around. Hayden says you couldn't wipe the smile off Shelleece's face for two weeks after they found out.
Not surprisingly, Meila is well and truly the princess in this house - doted on by her three older brothers. Shelleece says while she's a girlie girl now, she's learning how to hang with the guys. Meila will grow up knowing how to surf and throw a rugby ball. But Shelleece is looking forward to the days when the two of them head off on a girls' shopping weekend.
For the love of real estate
Shelleece met Hayden when he interviewed her for a job in his real estate firm. Needless to say she got it. For a while she specialised in residential waterfront property on Auckland's North Shore, but really missed having an outlet for her creativity. So, she swapped real estate for interior design.
They bought the house they're in now just over two years ago, when Shelleece was pregnant and they were looking for a fifth bedroom. The house is big on natural light and has some great spaces for family living.
As they say in real estate, "location is everything" and the beach is just a hop, skip and a jump down the road. Janique has just started surfing and Kyann is a mad keen swimmer and he's also picked up his mother's fair for design. Shelleece says, "He's quite fussy and likes everything just so, so will line up his trucks and shoes."
Doing it their way
Not ones for convention, the couple were engaged for two years, then eloped - getting married at sunrise in Fiji with just their two boys, Janique and six-month-old Kyann, present.
The kids all have unique names simply because Shelleece and Hayden liked those names. Armani and Meila are of Italian origin, Kyann was a name Hayden made up. They all have full Maori middle names in honour of Shelleece's Maori heritage.
With four kids and two businesses to run, it's a busy life, but one that's made easier to manage by having a live-in au pair, 22-year-old Sylvia (pictured at right with Armani). She helps with the kids' homework and running the kids to and from school and kindy. Shelleece says she and Hayden wanted their babies to be at home in their own surroundings for as long as possible, and having an au pair has allowed them do that. Their first au pair was from the United States, Sylvia is from Germany, and both have become part of the family, "more like big sisters".
During the week Sylvia usually has the younger kids bathed by 5pm, and Shelleece and Hayden take turns cooking dinner. They try (but don't always achieve) a little "quiet time" before they sit down to eat, but with seven people around the table, dinner itself is always a raucous and noisy affair. Then it's homework, stories, bed and finally time for Mum and Dad to crash on the couch with a nice glass of wine to recover from the mayhem.
Because they're such a large family they avoid eating out at restaurants and instead entertain a lot at home. And frankly, with this gorgeous house, why wouldn't you? Shelleece says with so many friends coming and going it can feel a bit like Grand Stanaway Station. But that's just the way she likes it.
For someone who loves to style and plan other people's homes, Shelleece reckons she's done a pretty good job designing her own life. If she could make one adjustment it would be more time for golf. Her grandfather's only just hung up his clubs at age 94 and that's a legacy she'd like to continue.
Sneak a peak inside the Stanaways gorgeous home, and for tips from Shelleece on how to create a home with family at its heart.