Alarge, stuffed boar’s head on a cake­stand has pride of place on the din­ing ta­ble in Mandie Tay­lor and Dan McGovern’s home. Hav­ing “Un­cle Al­bert” in their home and in such a place of promi­nence is fit­ting, says Mandie, given their abode is a former piggery.

The story be­gins nearly 40 years ago, when Mandie’s par­ents bought a block of land, com­plete with a piggery, 20km north of Tau­ranga. The land was con­verted into a ki­wifruit or­chard, and the piggery faced con­ver­sion num­ber one: the roof was raised and a few lean-tos were added to sta­bilise it so it could be used as an im­ple­ment shed. >

Mean­while, Mandie and Dan were set­tled in Auckland. Dan, who was lec­tur­ing at Unitec, held Men Can Cook classes in his spare time and Mandie ran a cafe named Long Black and owned a cater­ing busi­ness, Queen of Tarts.

Things were tick­ing along hap­pily enough in their re­spec­tive kitchens, un­til a friend’s ter­mi­nal can­cer prog­no­sis was the cat­a­lyst for a sea-change. They knew they wanted to leave Auckland, but mulled over a va­ri­ety of op­tions, such as in­dulging Dan’s long­time truf­fle-grow­ing fan­tasy or buy­ing a restau­rant in Raro­tonga. Mandie’s mother, fear­ful of los­ing her daugh­ter to the trop­ics, sug­gested they come home and take over the Pa­hoia or­chard.

The idea of con­vert­ing the former piggery into a home made sense to no­body, other than Mandie and Dan. It seemed even more non­sen­si­cal that they would need to con­struct a new shed to house the im­ple­ments coming out of the di­lap­i­dated building.

But Mandie and Dan have vi­sion by the buck­et­load, an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the charm of a his­tory-laden building, and a quirky ap­proach to life. They con­cede, how­ever, that the former piggery was hardly pretty. Men­tion the 35 mum­mi­fied rats in the ceil­ing and peo­ple get the pic­ture, says Mandie with a laugh.

The in­trepid house ren­o­va­tors slept in the piggery’s old office on week­ends as they com­muted from Auckland to tackle the trans­for­ma­tion. As things pro­gressed, they moved into one of the lean-tos that had once garaged the Massey Ferguson trac­tor. For­tu­nately, they found a cre­ative lo­cal trades­man to share their vi­sion and get stage one of the ren­o­va­tion trucking along.

Although they would even­tu­ally add an ad­di­tional 125sqm, stage one in­volved do­ing up the old building.

“We kept the whole orig­i­nal 130sqm foot­print in­clud­ing the con­crete slab base and the board-and-bat­ten ex­te­rior,” says Dan. “We bought sec­ond-hand wooden join­ery to add to the stuff al­ready here, some of it found in the rub­ble. We also poured con­crete over the dirt floor of the trac­tor shed lean-to, and we re­lined the building with beech ply­wood oiled with lin­seed. Ceil­ing trusses had to be scribed in as none were straight.”

For two years, the cou­ple lived with a kitchen, shower and toi­let hail­ing from the 1970s piggery days. The toi­let’s hand­basin was su­per-small, says Mandie. Now, she has a large old con­crete laun­dry tub as the new bath­room’s basin.

An out­door fire area with pizza oven was cre­ated early in the piece be­cause the kitchen was tiny and lacked an oven, and the so­cia­ble duo needed an en­ter­tain­ment area.

Stage two of the ren­o­va­tion meant call­ing in the builders, re­mov­ing the old kitchen and bath­room and push­ing the building out to add a master bed­room, swanky en suite, office, kitchen and din­ing area, fam­ily bath­room, laun­dry/boot room and out­door bath­room. Tim­ber from the land was used as beams and in the kitchen’s strik­ing join­ery, and is in­laid among the new con­crete.

Wher­ever pos­si­ble, building ma­te­ri­als were reused. The old roof­ing iron has been used on the new im­ple­ment shed. An aban­doned tri­an­gu­lar win­dow is now at the gable end of the home’s “grand hall” – where the pigs once lived. Con­crete posts from those pig-pen days re­main, as Dan and Mandie rel­ish touches that re­mind them of the building’s ori­gins.

The prop­erty includes other sheds: two in­hab­ited by two of their three sons, Jake, 29, and Tom, 27. The old kitchen was trans­ported to Jake’s shed and Tom scored the toi­let door for his mu­sic stu­dio. Should son Max, 24, ever re­turn, the former piggery now includes two spare bed­rooms.

THIS PAGE (clock­wise from top left) Mandie and Peppe Le Poo in the master bed­room; the doors en­sure the room cap­tures the morn­ing sun and open out to the spa; a lap pool will one day be lo­cated nearby. The deck off the kitchen/din­ing area is the lat­est project to be com­pleted. The chair in the master bed­room was a vin­tage shop find and the dresser a gift from Dan’s mum.

OP­PO­SITE Mandie and Dan’s home – the old piggery with ex­ten­sions: “You just can’t build what we’ve got. It is full of mem­o­ries, and is just magic,” Dan says.

There’s also another river­side house, soon to be a bed and break­fast, where wooden French doors and floor joists have been repur­posed. This suits Mandie’s vi­sion, as she’s keen for the B&B to re­use as much as pos­si­ble from the piggery.

Dan cred­its Mandie with adding much of “the magic”, as he calls it, to their new home. A cello case and the furs draped over chair backs, couches and dress­ing ta­bles are the results of reg­u­lar op-shop fos­sick­ing. The nu­mer­ous doll body parts, plus the taxidermy guinea fowl, all have their genesis closer to home: Mandie’s mother Pat­tie was a porce­lain-doll maker, and the guinea fowl re­sid­ing on a win­dow ledge used to roam out­side.

There’s more fun ahead. A lap pool is planned, and a stu­dio for Mandie and Pat­tie, who are launch­ing a fo­liage-grow­ing busi­ness. Jake’s large shed will one day be­come a wed­ding venue.

The gar­dens are cur­rently get­ting at­ten­tion. Dan’s built a dove­cote and raised veg­etable beds have been es­tab­lished – with a dual pur­pose. When Mandie and Dan say this is their for­ever prop­erty they mean it: they plan to rest eter­nally in those flour­ish­ing beds. ■

THIS PAGE Mandie and Dan are both food­ies and the din­ing area, where this is­sue’s cover was shot, is a favourite part of their home; keep­ing them com­pany are Peppe Le Poo, a wheaten ter­rier, and Bear Dog, a cross-breed.

OP­PO­SITE (clock­wise from top left) The new bath­room features a laun­dry tub that was found on the prop­erty; the cabi­net is ma­hogany and was a sec­ond-hand shop find. The doll in the bath­room came from a friend’s vin­tage shop. Mandie wanted a time­less look in the kitchen and in­for­mal din­ing area; eu­ca­lyp­tus gum milled from the or­chard was used for the kitchen join­ery.

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