House of the week: Spanish style in Mt Maunganui
Sue and Grant Seagar's Mt Maunganui home is a paragon of ethnic diversity. The couple's Spanish-style house is fitted with Indonesian courtyard doors and beams from an old Onehunga bridge. In the back garden, exotic palms tower over chimney pots gathered from estate sales and second-hand yards in Southern England. A hefty marble Chinese warrior stands halfway up the interior staircase, surveying artefacts and objects from Morocco, Egypt and India.
But this is no haphazard mishmash of international influences. Each piece is carefully curated, frequently updated or culled to please the resident interior design enthusiast.
"I'm like the Imelda Marcos of furniture," Sue says of her compulsion to collect household adornments. "My gosh, I've got so much, I had to get a holiday home in Havelock North."
Luckily the Hawke's Bay place has scope for embellishment but this four-bedroom Mt Maunganui abode has easily absorbed many of the artworks, antiques and modern pieces she continues to accrue.
A 15-year stint living in London, in a historic Georgian manor house, didn't help. That's where she began helping clients with interiors and it's also where she picked up those chimney pots, as well as a custom-made four-poster bed and shelves of leather-bound books. Recent travels have proven that even a cycle tourist pedalling through South America can find a way to get a giant glass crucifix home in one piece.
The house, Puerta Del Sol ("Gateway of the Sun"), was built about 20 years ago as both a private home and a boutique accommodation retreat. Its construction was inspired by the original owners' exposure to adobe dwellings in Mexico and Guatemala.
Sue first entered the property on a house tour, back when it was the smartest place to stay in town. She was immediately smitten and returned several times over the years, whenever successive owners offered it for sale.
Two years ago, she convinced her hesitant husband to buy it. He was commuting to his finance role in Auckland at the time and could see no reason to own such a large property. The fact is, they had been moving steadily closer to it for years.
Growing up in Rotorua, Sue relished family holidays on the beach that is now a two-minute walk from her front door. While living in Auckland, she and Grant would rent a nearby bach to holiday or compete in the town's Half Ironman event. Ten years ago, they relocated permanently and eventually built almost directly across the road from their current address.
"We've lived in an apartment here and we built a very modern house on the beach, yet we much prefer this. When we lived on the beachfront, at night we would just look out to the dark abyss whereas here, you turn on the outdoor lights and you've got that lovely garden."
Although the Seagars favour mountain biking over golfing, their garden and main living areas face the ninth tee and manicured fairways of Mt Maunganui Golf Club. Following a training ride or run – they have both completed multiple Ironman events around the world – the inviting walled courtyard offers an array of appealing recovery spots; the pool, gazebo, hot tub and covered deck.
This is a home built for entertaining. Two decades on from its construction, visitors continue to admire the moat-like front entrance, with its swirl of goldfish and lily pads, or the copper feature light that stretches above the dining table. Sue remains enamoured with the stone bathroom tiles and tinted glass windows that cast a warm glow even in winter. Grant appreciates the luxury of a dedicated office if he can resist the pull of the book-lined snug, with its oversized television screen.
The couple have focused on refreshing rather than altering the design: repainting outside, giving interior walls a more neutral palette, adding paving and hacking back overgrown plants in the mature garden. "I wouldn't change a thing, except perhaps the old carpet," says Sue. "But it's not fussy, it's almost shabby chic. You don't have to say, 'Everybody take your shoes off.'"
They wouldn't dream of touching original features such as the hand-painted Mexican tiles that march up the staircase. Even the kitchen layout still works remarkably well, Sue says (which is fortunate, given the complexities of altering 300mm concrete and plaster walls, or cutting into concrete flooring).
"It's very easy living, with great open spaces that flow outside.You walk in and it's just got that wow factor."
Best decorating tip: Keep all the surroundings neutral, then accessorise. This way I can rotate looks constantly and it will always look reinvented.
Best seat in the house: The Aztec-style upholstered settee in the living room, in front of a roaring fire. It is so comfortable, my son-in-law has asked me to leave it to him in my will.
This weekend we will be: Mountain biking in the Redwoods in Rotorua and jogging around the Blue Lake.
Favourite outdoor spot: At the table under the gazebo, with a glass of Hawke's Bay syrah or, better still, champagne, obligatory nibbles and the pool and jacuzzi on hand.
Best view and walk in the neighbourhood: Head up Mauao [Mt Maunganui], especially on a fine day, for fabulous 360-degree views and a raised heart rate to boot.
- NZ House & Garden