Sailing off to do some business

00:33, Jan 26 2013

A loo with a view usually implies peering out a window but at the de Hamels' place in Wakefield you need look no further than the nearest wall. Do not look too hard, though, or you might get seasick.

Marine educator Richard de Hamel describes himself as someone who "can't help but create" and when his wife, Pip, told him he could decorate "the smallest room" any way he wanted, he rose to the challenge.

Calling on memories of a 12-month family stint on Stephens Island some years ago, he set to work to recreate a view of that part of the Marlborough Sounds as seen from the deck of a sailing ship.

"In the background you'll see Stephens Island, the lighthouse and the top end of D'Urville Island and if you look round behind you and to the left as you're sitting on the loo you can see the hills of Nelson, heading over to Golden Bay, and if you look ahead you can see Kapiti Island and Cook Strait through to the Wellington hills," he said.

There is a ship's wheel, a life-ring, a sail near the ceiling and a ship's bell which is often rung to tell the household that an important job has been completed.

"When you hear ‘ding-ding' you know they're done," Mr de Hamel said,


"And I've often made the joke, ‘If you feel like you're going to fall down the loo, just make a grab for the life-ring'."

He evaded the obvious question on where and how he came up with the idea but there is a clue in the nameplate on the toilet door: "The Captain's Cabin [alias the Poop Deck]."

Begun five years ago, it is still a work in progress, with plans for "some little touch-ups".

"Behind the wheel it's just blank wall at the moment - I want it to be what it would look like if you were sitting on the deck. The wave could do with a bit extra and I'd like to put some seabirds in there too."

Mr de Hamel, who is an accomplished modeller and is working on a wandering albatross and a mollymawk to encourage bird life on the Chatham Islands, said the toilet was a talking point for visitors, who often remarked that they were glad to be back on dry land when they emerged.

Before they see the tableau they must first negotiate another surprise, a door weight in the form of a painted lead rat.

"As you pull the door back, this rat runs up the wall just in front of you. It causes a little bit of alarm sometimes."

The property also has other examples of Mr de Hamel's creativity here and there: a kaka on the letterbox, a kereru on the washing line and some kakariki nesting on a fencepost.

The second toilet, though, is "looking slightly blank", he said.

"I'll have to come up with something."

The Nelson Mail