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Down the Rabbit Hole

Lee Suckling visits a converted old villa in Auckland and finds a curious surprise.

Father Rabbit is the stern grandfather that ensures his pillowcases are ironed, his hospital corners are perfect, his laundry meticulously smells of lavender and his tea is steeped correctly. He’s also the namesake of an Auckland-based general store, which previously operated as just fatherrabbit.com until it launched a physical shop in late 2012.

“We’d been running the Father Rabbit online store for almost two years; operating the storeroom out of our lounge,” says owner Claudia Zinzan. “Half of our villa was tenanted out, and we [with partner Nick Hutchinson and their young baby] lived in the other half.”

As online sales grew (and the lease ceased on the front half of the house), Zinzan and Hutchinson saw an opportunity to create their first physical Father Rabbit store. “We loved the idea of a ‘general store’ – a neighbourhood corner shop of sorts that sold beautiful, utilitarian products,” Zinzan says. “And since it was already our house, we knew we could afford the rent!”

Located in the upmarket central suburb of Grey Lynn, the front half of the villa containing Father Rabbit was painted completely white for the store’s inception. “That was all we changed, though,” Zinzan explains. “The layout is the same as when it was a private home. You enter through the living area and kitchen, then flow through the hallway to the bedrooms.”

Without so much as a lighting fixture modified, the Father Rabbit store looks and feels every bit a home. “We put little blackboards everywhere saying it’s okay to go into the rooms,” says Zinzan. “Unless we actually tell people, they tend to follow those natural privacy laws and have reservations about snooping around.”

The Father Rabbit kitchen sells everything from crockery to dishwashing utensils, while the bedrooms stock linens, the study displays office tools, the nursery room features baby items, and so on. “Everything is simple, well-made, and timeless,” says Zinzan. “While Father Rabbit’s aesthetic is white-on-white, everything here fits in any home,” she adds. “Father Rabbit has a very strong character: he’s fastidious, very neat, and extremely practical. He doesn’t subscribe to some deeply intellectual philosophy… just an appreciation of simplicity.”

Father Rabbit

Photo credit: Duncan Innes