One of Christchurch's most-loved heritage buildings is brought back to life

CECILE MEIER
Last updated 05:00 28/04/2017
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Mona Vale homestead was rebuilt brick by brick, before being re-opened late last year.

DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ
Mona Vale's grand wooden staircase leads to an upstairs function venue.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ
Mona Vale Pantry is an elegant dining space.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ
Floral wallpapers and classic furniture add charm to the homestead's interior.
DAVID WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ
The homestead's outdoor dining area is popular on fine days.

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Mona Vale's homestead looks as beautiful as ever. Sitting on the cafe's terrace, surrounded by flowers and trees, with the gentle trickling of the Avon River and birdsong in the background, it's easy to forget the heritage building has been through traumatic times.

The much-loved homestead was severely damaged during the 2011 earthquakes, causing its chimneys and masonry walls to fall apart.

It took two years and $3.2 million to restore Mona Vale to its original condition.Christchurch City Council heritage rebuild programme manager Richie Moyle oversaw the restoration. When he first saw the building in 2012, he wasn't sure it could be brought back to life. Homeless people had taken over the reception area upstairs, "smashing and destroying things".

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"They caused a lot of damage and pulled heritage radiators off the walls."

The wooden stairway was "just hanging off, so it was extremely dangerous". "But the doubts were only from me," he says."My guys are eccentric people with experience from England. They knew it was possible."

Restoring a heritage building comes with specific challenges. A team of heritage experts had to be consulted to ensure every new material used was in keeping with the building's original condition.

"They tell you what it used to look like and we do our best to replicate."

The team was involved with every last detail, including the choice of paint colours and wallpaper.

"The result can often be controversial, but this one I got a 100 per cent satisfaction from customers, guests, everyone, which was a first," Richie says.

The homestead's exterior will be familiar to many in Christchurch – red bricks at the bottom with rectangular windows and yellow concrete on the top section with dark-green decorative slats of wood.

Inside, the decor is warm and elegant, without being pretentious. Chantale Heron, of Heron Interior Design and Andrew Hopping, from Montreux Furniture, selected the soft furnishings. Chantale says the interior was inspired by William Morris, a designer from the arts and crafts movement of the 1800s.

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Bold printed floral wallpapers mix with soft tones and graphic prints on furnishings. In the lobby, elegant duck-egg blue armchairs sit in front of the large chimney. A decorative rug adds a bit of pep to the grey carpet and blends in with the flowery dark-green wallpaper.

Upstairs, in the reception area, the walls are neutral colours and the carpet is grey.

White and gold chairs add a touch of glamour.

"We have had so much pleasure designing this historical site and only hope that it will be a place to go to for an experience that all will cherish," Chantale says.

Before the quakes, Continental managed Mona Vale as a cafe and wedding and functions centre. It has since resumed its lease and reopened the Mona Vale Pantry. Continental has had a long relationship with the building after holding its first wedding there in February 1976. Christchurch pastry chef Marcus Braun is now overseeing the specialty baking of sweet treats and pastries, perfect for high teas. The rest of the menu is fresh and trendy, with offerings including watermelon salad, breakfast doughnuts and quinoa porridge.

Surrounded by one of the best gardens in Christchurch, Mona Vale has been spared from ruin and set up once again as a premier dining destination.

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