House of the week: Spanish style in Mt Maunganui gallery video

Antiques and artworks from as far afield as England, Argentina and India are all right at home in this Spanish-style house.

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."

Sue sits on the stairs; the walls throughout the house are adobe-style plaster.
JANE USSHER

Sue sits on the stairs; the walls throughout the house are adobe-style plaster.

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. 

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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.

The antique chair in the entranceway was inherited from Sue’s grandmother; the blue jars were collected in England over ...
JANE USSHER

The antique chair in the entranceway was inherited from Sue’s grandmother; the blue jars were collected in England over the years.

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. 

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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."

The stairs in the Spanish-inspired Mt Maunganui home of Sue and Grant Seagar feature colourful tiles from Tijuana, ...
JANE USSHER

The stairs in the Spanish-inspired Mt Maunganui home of Sue and Grant Seagar feature colourful tiles from Tijuana, Mexico topped with Hinuera stone slab steps.

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.'" 

Sue bought the painting about 25 years ago from an antiques shop in Auckland: “I’ve carted that thing all around the world.”
JANE USSHER

Sue bought the painting about 25 years ago from an antiques shop in Auckland: “I’ve carted that thing all around the world.”

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." 

Q&A:

An antique tennis racquet and a metal artwork hang in the conservatory, as it’s a sunny room and Sue didn’t want to ...
JANE USSHER

An antique tennis racquet and a metal artwork hang in the conservatory, as it’s a sunny room and Sue didn’t want to display anything that could be destroyed by direct sunlight.

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.

The doors in the living area open onto the rear garden; the large limed oak coffee table was bought in the UK in the ...
JANE USSHER

The doors in the living area open onto the rear garden; the large limed oak coffee table was bought in the UK in the 1990s; the artwork over the fireplace was peddled by a door-to-door artist many years ago in Auckland.

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. 

Sue Seagar 

Sue uses her collection of antique rugs to subtly demarcate the open plan living areas.
JANE USSHER

Sue uses her collection of antique rugs to subtly demarcate the open plan living areas.

Shop for your home
Vintage cushion cover in green
Vintage cushion cover in green
$145
The snug is the most-used room in the house.
JANE USSHER

The snug is the most-used room in the house.

Sue says the kitchen isn’t large but it is efficient thanks to a large walk-in pantry and commercial grade appliances ...
JANE USSHER

Sue says the kitchen isn’t large but it is efficient thanks to a large walk-in pantry and commercial grade appliances from the house’s past as boutique accommodation; it’s decorated with colourful tiles and copper headings.

In an upstairs bedroom, the four-poster bed was commissioned by Sue when she lived in a Georgian-era house in England; ...
JANE USSHER

In an upstairs bedroom, the four-poster bed was commissioned by Sue when she lived in a Georgian-era house in England; the painting was found in Ecuador and she bought the antique Asian armoire from a friend.

Another bedroom, which Sue says is her favourite thanks to the sweeping views over the golf course.
JANE USSHER

Another bedroom, which Sue says is her favourite thanks to the sweeping views over the golf course.

Artworks line the hallway; in the left foreground is a purchase from Argentina; further along two works by artist friend ...
JANE USSHER

Artworks line the hallway; in the left foreground is a purchase from Argentina; further along two works by artist friend Kim Shaw face each other (“She’s fantastic”).

A favourite artwork, by Barry Ross Smith, hangs over a Dutch inlaid marquetry commode bought in a Camden antiques market ...
JANE USSHER

A favourite artwork, by Barry Ross Smith, hangs over a Dutch inlaid marquetry commode bought in a Camden antiques market in London.

The verandah was built with sleepers retrieved from an old bridge in Onehunga, Auckland; the handmade copper lights glow ...
JANE USSHER

The verandah was built with sleepers retrieved from an old bridge in Onehunga, Auckland; the handmade copper lights glow with orange bulbs.

The large pots were bought at La Cigale French Market in Parnell, Auckland; Sue once caught a gardener trying to ...
JANE USSHER

The large pots were bought at La Cigale French Market in Parnell, Auckland; Sue once caught a gardener trying to waterblast away their distressed finish: “I stopped him just in time.”

Upstairs are the private patios for the original guest accommodation; Mexican tiles echo those used indoors.
JANE USSHER

Upstairs are the private patios for the original guest accommodation; Mexican tiles echo those used indoors.

 - NZ House & Garden

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