A trip through Europe and the southern US states in the mid-1990s provided a palatial vision for a New Plymouth couple's new home.
The couple visited many of the major cities of Britain and Europe where they admired a variety of large stately residences, making note of features they liked. They came back through the US where they saw similarly notable gracious homes in New Orleans.
In that city of jazz, their ideas took final form when they found a photograph of a grand home in an American magazine and knew that was the style they wanted to build back here. "It was a picture of a portion of the front entranceway."
With a building company background and a brother/brother-in-law an architect who had travelled and seen these homes as well, taking that image and the other influences forward was relatively simple, they say. "Between the three of us, it was easy to come up with the design."
Giving physical shape to that design was a different story, however. Our builder owner then spent several years taking this home from foundations to finish.
It was a labour of love and commitment, the depth of which can now be appreciated in the impressive residence that is set at the end of its secluded right-of-way at 374b Mangorei Rd.
Walls of Hinuera stone and a striking full-height curved entrance greet visitors as they emerge from the tree-lined approach into the property. Steeply pitched roof lines are complemented by a turreted feature and stone-framed upper windows curve up into the fascia lines.
It's a castle-like image that you'd think would sit comfortably in any of the European settings that prompted this home's construction.
Framed in greenery, it could also easily be a country manor carrying a century or two of history.
And that's the impression gained by more than one visitor, according to our owners.
"A lot of people come in and see it and ask 'Is this an old house, or a new house?'
They can't believe it's only about 20 years old."
It'll be standing here a lot longer than that, going by the strength built into the home -
more than 200 tonnes of Hinuera stone topped by another 100 tonnes or so of concrete
roofing tiles and massive underpinnings below ground to carry all that weight.
"What's under the ground is unbelievable," the owners note.
Most of the interior walls are also constructed with concrete blocks to meet bracing and load-bearing requirements.
The thought that went into the design and core structure of this residence is almost matched by the fine detailing that finished the home. "Sourcing the things we needed was almost as big a job," the owners admit.
That becomes clear on a tour through the home, when you realise that the story here is as much about its background as the fine presentation.
It starts in the full-height foyer inside the double front entrance doors. Visiting eyes are immediately drawn up, following the curve of the grand staircase, to the ornate ceiling above, where gold paint has been painstakingly applied to much of the raised plasterwork.
The span of years that it took to complete this home becomes understandable, when
the effort that went into these finishes is explained.
The wall that curves up with the stairs is topped with a similarly curved ornate cornice
- which started out as a straight length of detailed plaster. That length was cut into
segments of about 20cm each, which were then trimmed to fit smoothly into place
around the curve. The joins were artfully repaired over many weeks for a seamless
Some of the plasterwork repeats designs found in St Paul's Theatre in Wellington;
other features such as the unique ceiling roundels have been created by a plaster
craftsman from a photo the owners supplied.
The gold paint was applied to these ceiling features atop full-height scaffolding - a
sponged process that became an aerial act that would likely floor many tradesmen.
Talking about floors ... the floorboards, stair treads and handrail are crafted from
beautifully grained jarrah - and the warmth of this timber is found underfoot again in
the kitchen, lounge and bathrooms. The curved handrail was handmade by laminating
long strips of jarrah.
The foyer space is the focal point of the home - with French doors opening into the
various living areas that wrap around it. "It's designed so we can open all the doors
for an open-plan flow ... or close them off at other times."
Through the doors to the right is the dining room, ahead are the doors into the family
room and kitchen, the main lounge is accessed through the next pair of doors, and an
office is entered via a final pair. All these areas also flow easily from one to another.
All the rooms, including the generous office, are finely detailed with ornate plaster
cornices and character fittings to complement the style of the home.
There's seemingly enough detail in each area for a whole chapter on each in the book
of this home. Highlights include the richly patterned wallpaper in the dining area
and the double-hung design of the aluminium joinery that pays tribute to the era that
inspired this home.
A Czechoslovakian crystal chandelier hangs above the dining table, bought as
a feature fitting when the home was yet-to-be. "When the sun shines in, we get
While open-plan in nature, the dining area is given a sense of separation and formality
with a pair of fluted pillars that help define this space.
In the adjacent kitchen, crafted at Vogue Kitchens in New Plymouth, there's a
timeless design in cream cabinets and green-veined granite bench tops to admire.
European appliances add quality technology to the character presentation.
The family room is soothing in its sage-painted anaglypta wallpaper and white-
painted architraves and skirtings - making it a favourite place to relax. "We spend a
lot of our time in here."
French doors open from each of the living areas to the enclosed patio area outside and
the in-ground salt-water swimming pool that is a summer focus.
There's a warm feel in the lounge with its burgundy colour applied to wallpaper there.
It's not the colour you appreciate first in the lounge, however. Windows grab the eye
as they soar almost floor to ceiling in this 6m-high space. Apart from the colonial
framed opening panel at the top, they each boast a single huge fixed pane of glass
about 5m in height.
Great height means great weight: "We needed six or seven people to put in each sheet
of glass ... they are about 10mm thick."
Those windows were a test for Inglewood interior decorator Robyn Drake who "went
out of her way" to help the couple detail their home. "Robyn went up the full-height
scaffolding to hang the drapes ... a lot of the curtains were hand-made specifically for
Robyn sourced the European wallpapers and curtain materials that are a feature of the
home's presentation, as well as many of the furniture pieces, including some that were
made just for this home.
In the centre of the lounge space hangs another chandelier - with a special design to
ease the task of cleaning it. "It's on a chain that runs up through into the roof space
and set up so you can lower it down for cleaning."
With eyes still turned up, you see another special feature - a white-balustered balcony
that projects from a mezzanine space.
The eye-candy continues as you turn your gaze back into the room. Between the tall
windows at the end of the lounge, you see a stunning open fireplace in white plaster
with more gold highlights. This sculpted work of art is a reborn period piece, sourced
from a Wellington company that had many old plaster moulds in storage. The mould
for this fireplace was carefully restored to create its latest version here.
The open fire works well, say our owners, but is complemented by underfloor heating
on both levels of the home.
At the end of the lounge, a door opens through into a hallway linking the home's
service areas, a subtler environment in lighter colours to reflect the more practical
purposes through here.
There's a separate laundry with custom-fitted cabinets, space for a freezer as well,
and a door leading outside to the clothesline and raised vegetable gardens. Beyond the
laundry, there's the triple-garage space, with a separate spacious workshop, and room
for an internal clothesline.
And there's a second set of stairs leading up to the bedroom level. "This actually
works very well ... it's a long way to go around if we only had the one staircase. And
there's plenty of room ... so why not?"
At the top of the stairs, there is the central mezzanine landing which is open to both
the entry foyer on one side and the lounge on the other. It offers a unique perspective
on these two tall spaces.
The master bedroom suite is found at the sunniest north-west corner of the landing.
This bedroom is a huge space, with its own sitting area to enjoy a quiet retreat from
family when needed. The ensuite is reached via the walk-through wardrobe and offers
the relaxation of a double bath elevated on a stepped plinth.
Three more double bedrooms and a games room are at the other end of the landing.
The family bathroom is up here as well, with its feature clawfoot bath.
That games room is located above the triple garage, and with the size of the upstairs
area effectively dictated by the lower floor plan, this room is huge. It was created
to accommodate the owner's three-quarter-size slate-top pool table, and the effort
needed to get the table up here means it's now staying as part of this home's sale.
From these upstairs rooms, there's a pleasing planted outlook across the Merrilands
suburb. The double-size section here means neighbours are not intrusive and there's
real privacy at the end of the right-of-way access. The rear boundary is on Kinross
Drive, but the swimming pool wall and now well-established trees screen the house
A couple of the trees on this property date back to its original purchase as bare land,
but a fresh landscape design by landscape architect Michael Mansvelt about eight
years ago has matured beautifully and provides a low-maintenance but pleasing
environment for the home.
Urban Studio Properties consultant Vicky Ashton is marketing the home and says
there is nothing in New Plymouth to compare it with. "It's just amazing," she says.
"If you looked at palatial homes in the US and England, this is right up there with
The home draws "Wow!" responses the whole way through, Vicky says. "And yet it
feels like a home you can live in."
WHERE: 374b Mangorei Rd, New Plymouth.
HOW BIG: 1565sqm in land; about 600sqm in home.
HOW MUCH: Expressions of interest invited.
WHAT YOU GET: A grand and gracious city residence that can justifiably be
described as unique - exquisitely detailed in period style with a commitment to quality
that has to be admired. It's also a comfortable four-bedroom family home with spaces
that flow easily from one to another and then outside to the sun-soaked patio and
sheltered swimming pool.
MARKETED BY: Vicky Ashton at Urban Studio Properties - 06 759 0028 or 0275
ON THE WEB: open2view.com - ref 307602.
SEE IT: By appointment.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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