Nic and Ria Mathieson, aka The Danes

Hailing originally from Denmark, Nic and Ria Mathieson came to New Zealand 16 years ago, lured by a climate in which they could pursue their many outdoor interests year-round. It was certainly a contrast from home. “In Denmark, for six months of the year it’s just dark. The leaves disappear. It’s barren,” says Ria. Not so in Tauranga, where they first put down roots, or the Far North where they moved a few years ago. They started out on the Karikari peninsula — pressing olives in a little pink shed — before finding the scenic spot they now call home on Midgley Rd, Mangonui. Ria says they love the spot. A dead-end road, Midgley has a real community feel, with tradies, homesteaders, olive growers, and semi-retired folk. It’s the sort of place where neighbors swing by for casual dinners — a stark contrast from the formality they were used to in Denmark. 

Here Nic and Ria have been working on their own business, providing architectural design and kitchen design services, joinery, and a line of distinctive high-end outdoor furniture. Their approach is detailed, comprehensive, and custom. When it comes to design, they spend 30-40% of their time in the consultation phase. In practical terms, Nic says that can mean measuring a client’s bottle of canola oil and the length of their bread knife. It means chatting with them about their lifestyle. Do they fish? Is it important to have a work surface you can throw a whole snapper on and not worry about the mess? As Ria says, so many design businesses do “same, same.” The Mathiesons get their satisfaction from getting inside their customer’s heads and delivering something that truly meets their individual needs.

 Nic and Ria in their kitchen


Recently, Nic and Ria have begun shifting more of their focus to their line of outdoor furniture. Based on a design Nic prototyped 25 years ago in Denmark out of 100-year-old oak, the furniture is simple, substantial, and looks like it could weather a thousand storms. Nic embraces the natural characteristics of the wood, leaving it unfinished, cutting each massive section of wood to expose the endgrain, and making a feature of the deep cracks that emerge and radiate out from the center.


Throughout the process of starting their own businesses, Nic and Ria have enjoyed the spirit of enterprise and “roll-your-sleeves-up” attitude they’ve experienced in NZ. Maybe it’s something to do with being a young culture, but Ria says she finds Kiwis are just more “present in what’s possible” — a spirit that the Mathiesons certainly have in spades. Find out more about their work at:


Nik Ria and Dog