Founder of clean skincare brand Maryse, Maryse O’Donnell, has been a busy bee. The former facialist has recently created a new collection, new products and an online store, and updated some of her existing formulas, adding still more nourishing bioactive nutrients based on new developments since their original launch. She’s also built a dedicated blend studio in the garden of her Ponsonby, Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland home, a place designed to allow her to intently focus on her practice, bar the odd break to answer a few important questions.
So Maryse, how does your process for refining your formulations transpire here? There’s a lot of trial and error, which I really enjoy. My blend studio is full of equipment and my selection of plant oils, organic butters and botanical actives. I spend a lot of time experimenting with ingredients to find the right combinations that work best on the skin. It can take a long time until I’m happy with a finished product, but it’s worth the effort.
Where do you source your ingredients from? One of the many reasons I use plant-based ingredients in my products is that there’s a lot of transparency around origin, especially with New Zealand-sourced ingredients — there’s a depth of traceability that’s really important to me. One of my favourite ingredients is my mānuka leaf, which is grown and finely milled on the East Cape. I came across it when I was looking for a native New Zealand alternative to tea tree, it’s the hero in my Manuka Leaf Exfoliant, and no other skincare brand uses this plant’s benefits in this way.
I recently discovered a farm in the South Island that’s able to grow, harvest and infuse my picks of calendula, kawakawa, rosehip and dandelion leaf. These botanicals add critical amounts of vitamins, omegas and antioxidants to my formulations, so I knew I needed to include them, and I love that this blend is completely unique to our collection.
Your new studio was designed by Glamuzina Architects and built by Lindesay Construction — what are its key architectural features? The site is bordered by lots of native trees, our own garden and also a reserve next door, so my partner [film director] Campbell Hooper and I aimed to integrate the outside with the inside. In keeping with the natural feel, we wanted the structure to have a timeless quality, like it has always been here. We both work from home, so we’ve created a dual working space. Cam has his office on one side, where it’s more private and quiet, while I have a lighter, more open space on the other.
What materials did you use? The materials and colours we chose give the space an intimate quality. There’s a lot of glass, and we used cedar and painted the interior of both workspaces a deep green that blends in with the surroundings. To ensure it remained a functional space, I chose a stainless steel benchtop for my blend studio, and for the bathroom, we went with cool blue tiles and installed a big skylight. We wanted to source locally where possible, so the macrocarpa we used for the built-in cabinetry is from a local sawmill and the recycled brick on the exterior is from our neighbours’ now-demolished fireplace.
What are some of the special interior items that you treasure? We asked our friend Kate Newby to hand-make the ceramic door handles. Each one is completely unique — they range in shape, colour, texture and size, and I just love how they’re all so different but all so perfect for our space. Emile Drescher designed and built my oak table and our hand-carved mahogany coat hooks. They’re also mismatched shapes and sizes but work so well together.
Why do you think a natural rather than a glam beauty look appeals to you so much? I’ve always leaned towards a pared-back beauty routine that uses a few high-quality essentials, rather than a bunch of less- effective products. I love the idea of enhancing what you have, rather than changing or covering things up. For me, beauty is about giving your skin the nutrients and care it needs without all the excess.
What’s good about working so close to home — and in the garden; are you green-thumbed, given your skincare is plant-based? I love that my two kids can jump between the house and the studio — it makes the work-life juggle a little bit easier. Even though we’re in the inner city, the studio feels peaceful and separated from the rest of Auckland because it’s surrounded by the garden and trees. I can’t say I’m green-thumbed, though — Cam usually takes care of the garden!
Photography Campbell Hooper