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Orchard St. founder Kirsten Shanks welcomes us into her Christchurch home

Kirsten Shanks home

Kirsten Shanks is not the type to sit still. She’s notorious for chasing the next adventure, never allowing a location or experience to outlive her. It’s something Shanks – with an impressive dose of self- awareness – describes as a potential “resistance to permanence”; an agility and ease in moving between spaces that serves as a testament to the Orchard St. founder’s unwavering tenacity.

You wouldn’t know it though. The fervent search for what’s to come that she describes is combated by an untouchable calmness and a sense of assurance in the now. It’s something the mother of two attributes to the free time she spent exploring nature and the eventual connections she formed with the natural world in her youth. Ultimately, this natural curiosity planted the seed for Orchard St. – an opportunity for Shanks to actualise her devotion to explorations of consciousness, ecology and motherhood.

After almost 20 years tied to Sydney’s frenetic bustle, Shanks and husband James recognised that a change of scenery was imminent. “As a fairly sensitive soul I was finding it harder and harder to drop down, to unwind and tap into my creative source, to get into a flow state, to connect within,” she shared. “After quite literally living in the same building as one of our stores for a few years, I needed a little distance, some objective perspective.”

Returning to her teenage roots, Shanks and her family set their sights on Christchurch, a move that not only presented her with an opportunity to slow down but a chance to be surrounded by family after almost two decades.

In true Shanks fashion, she’s almost ready to move on. Not all good things need to last forever.

Where did you grow up and how has that informed the life you lead today?

My childhood was spent in the coastal jungles of Borneo, Malaysia, teen years on a rural property in New Zealand. We travelled a fair bit between these lands, with a few years spent in Holland and Australia in between. In Borneo we lived in a small expat village, free to spend the days in packs of local kids roaming between the jungle and the beach. My family’s property in New Zealand sits on the Canterbury plains; land intentionally planted to create a natural sanctuary, trees now centuries old witnessing generations of my family.

It’s only in recent years I’ve realised a resistance to permanence, perhaps even to stability, that this early life fostered; an eternal seeking for flux, for the next adventure. I revel in what new places offer; new people, cultures, experiences... the potential to shed light on sides of us hidden in the comfort of familiarity. We love this New Zealand home but will let it go soon too. It’s nearly time for the next chapter.



What inspired your recent move to New Zealand and what has been the highlight so far?

It’s been 10 years since launching Orchard St. Despite the pervasive passion I have for this business, it’s been the most challenging decade of my life. On a professional level, I tend to ride the highs and lows, palpably feel the pressure and get slightly obsessively absorbed in the day- to-day demands. It’s an ongoing journey to establish healthy emotional detachment from this beloved first-born.

The move home to New Zealand followed a yearning to reconnect with the land, my heritage and to be close to my family for the first time in almost 20 years. It was an opportunity to slow down. The intensity of work and my ambitious devotion to Orchard St. wasn’t going anywhere, but I needed to rise to the demands from a slower place for a while.
The highlight without a doubt has been family; nesting, nurturing and growing ours, and the opportunity to have my parents and brother’s families in our day-to-day lives. The unconditional love and support a family offers is unparalleled.


What drew you to your home, and how is it different from places you’ve lived before?

The use of native timbers and light drew me to this home and James loved all the wee nooks. Built in 1910 by a renowned New Zealand architect of the day, there is an incredible intentionality to the character design. Each space feels considered, which is very welcome after the compromises we’re all so used to Sydney real estate forcing on us.


What rituals have you made in this home?

I’m a creature of ritual. Each morning I sit in the sunroom, my ‘zen den’, for a morning meditation and movement practice for as long as our sleeping babes permit. I have beauty, tea and elixir rituals. Before I sit at my desk for the day I prepare my body, mind and the space.

Many rituals have now come around the family rhythm... morning cuddles and chats, communal bath time, lamplit stories.

What are the most sentimental items in your home?

There’s an antique dragon lamp, carved with wood, shell and a printed silk shade my Grandad bought on a trip to China in his youth. He had a ritual of lighting it at sundown, and I endeavour to do the same. Our art all carries meaning, most pieces created by friends. It’s [her son] Sonny’s art that holds the biggest place in our hearts though... we have a hard time letting go of it. The collection is getting pretty big!

Do you find that there are shared commonalities between the spaces you’ve created at home and in your work and practice?

Friends always comment that Orchard St. is an extension, an expression of me. There’s a definite atmosphere of calm, a ‘harmonising vibe’ I aim to uphold in our spaces, but this is much more than just the fit-out and our offerings, it’s the team and customers that co-create this.

There are some definite tangible commonalities between home and the stores; natural timbers, greenery and kilim rugs throughout. I’m sure aromatically they’re fairly aligned too... you’ll always find remnants of some Orchard St. candles or incense burning.

What has been the most memorable part of watching your children grow and learn together in this new home?

Rafi was born here in the sunroom, and we had an incredible cocoon of a 40-day post-partum period, snuggled together in the warm winter abode. In the containment and consistent environment of these walls, we’ve seen the evolution of their little personas. Sonny becoming a most excellent big brother, finding his groove in a new hood, evolving from a kindy kid to the seven-year-old legend he is. Rafi entering our world.

What makes you most excited about your home?

We’ll be leaving soon. While we’re sad to leave my family and this motherland, it’s time to be back on the ground with Orchard St. and our Sydney community. We’ve really missed the connection, creative inspiration and love our mates enrich our lives with. It’s the people that make a place. It’s been a chapter of quietude and restoration, now we’re ready to step back into a more expansive state. There’s a bit of a secret pleasure I find in leaving something treasured, a sweetness in farewelling love; illuminating its revered place in our lives.

We’re OK to let go of the house, to release our attachments to it and treasure the memories these walls enabled. I’m excited about the home that lies ahead.


What music are you listening to right now?

When she’s not making Elixirs, one of our team Laura DJ’s around Sydney. The seasonal Spotify playlists she creates for Orchard St. are on regular rotation at home at the moment; breathing a light, fresh and fun vibe into these late summer days.

Do you have a favourite spot in your home?

The front balcony is a favourite spot. We’re just above the tree line; I’ve never been more aware of the change of seasons than in our time here, highlighted by a city planted with mostly deciduous trees. Seeing it blanketed in snow mid-winter was pretty magic.

More often than not, you’ll find me grooving in the kitchen with the kids amid a creative culinary mess. As with most old builds, the kitchen is at the back of the house, so it was fitted with abundant windows and skylights to let the sun shine in. We created a kitchen island from recycled rimu for creating, feasting and playing around.


Currently, who is inspiring you?

The epic creative drive, selfless motivation and game-changing potential of some of my dearest friends is a constant source of inspiration. These courageous humans are not only making a difference personally but expanding our own horizons, enabling others to follow their lead.

What have been some of your biggest learnings from life’s most challenging moments?

Everything we believe to be our reality, to define us, can be dropped in a moment if someone who means the world to us is unwell. We may strive to build empires and establish identities, but these are all made of sand in comparison to those we love.
As the current global financial situation continues to demonstrate, there’s no predictability, no knowing what may lie ahead for businesses. Even when we seem to be thriving, our capacity to plan, forecast and budget seems fairly futile at times. Despite this uncertainty, it’s been the unshakeable belief and support of the team that has enabled me to continue to do what I do, that makes the continual manifestation of this vision possible. We are a sum of our parts.

Strength. We’re far more powerful than we give ourselves credit for. As a self-proclaimed introvert, it isn’t always easy to show up, to be seen. Particularly in a social media age where the world seems to demand this of us. I’m constantly finding my comfort zones challenged, while honouring the belief it’s OK to be a quiet one, to express our true selves. And as expected as I’m sure it sounds, being established in a meditation practice. The degree to which I’ve been able to meet these challenges with ease and grace, with a clear realistic perspective, has ultimately only been as strong as my connection to Spirit.


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