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

NZ House & Garden - - FRONT PAGE - WORDS SUE HOFFART / PHOTOGR APHS JANE USSHER

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.”

HOMES

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.

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