GOING MEXICAN IN MOUNT MAUNGANUI
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 Spanishstyle 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 leatherbound 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.”
THIS PAGE The stairs in the Spanishinspired Mt Maunganui home of Sue and Grant Seagar feature colourful tiles from Tijuana, Mexico topped with Hinuera stone slab steps.
OPPOSITE (clockwise from top left) The front door is accessed through an enclosed courtyard, over a waterway with lily pads and well-fed goldfish; Sue believes the gate was sourced from India. Sue sits on the stairs; the walls throughout the house are adobe-style plaster. Tropical planting by the original owners. A copper feature light hangs over the dining table; Sue bought the painting about 25 years ago from an antiques shop in Auckland: “I’ve carted that thing all around the world.”
THIS PAGE 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.
OPPOSITE (clockwise from top) Another bedroom, which Sue says is her favourite thanks to the sweeping views over the golf course; the only reason it’s not used as the master is that it was designed as guest accommodation so has a smaller wardrobe; all the bedrooms have their own balconies and en suites. A favourite artwork, by Barry Ross Smith, hangs over a Dutch inlaid marquetry commode bought in a Camden antiques market in London. 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”) and at the end an inherited chair sits under a modern print.
THIS PAGE (from top) 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 waterblast away their distressed finish: “I stopped him just in time.”
OPPOSITE (from top) The “champagne pool” (the name was coined by previous owners) overlooks the golf course’s ninth hole – it does collect the odd golf ball; a chimney pot stands at the end. Upstairs are the private patios for the original guest accommodation; Mexican tiles echo those used indoors; the gazebo on the right used to be covered with grapes, removed because they were very overgrown – Sue may one day plant some more.