NEW KIWIS’ NELSON HILLTOP HAVEN
A German couple in search of adventure have found the place they want to live for the rest of their lives
Every afternoon, for more than three years, Detlef and Marek Baum would tell their beloved dog Benno to jump into the car, and they’d drive 30km from their rented house in Nelson to Cable Bay. Even though the final 6km is winding and narrow and often reduced in places to one lane, some days they would make the trip in the morning and again in the afternoon. They’d wander around the lofty piece of former farmland they’d bought and, while Benno snuffled his way about the wilderness, dream out loud of the home they’d eventually build there.
Though Detlef and Marek (and Benno) had immigrated to Nelson from Germany in 2007, they didn’t discover Cable Bay until a couple of years later when friends shared the location of their secret swimming spot.
“I remember sitting in the sun on the rocks and I knew… this is the place where I would be happy to be when I die,” Detlef says. “We’re from Bad Salzuflen in Germany. It’s very industrial and not very pretty. Marek always said we wouldn’t stay in Germany and, for a long time, I didn’t want to admit he was right, but I could feel he was ready to go on a big adventure.”
Then Detlef spotted a tiny advertisement in the International Dental Journal. A dental laboratory in Auckland was seeking a master dental technician – exactly the work Detlef was doing in Bad Salzuflen. He flew to New Zealand for a three-day trial, then returned to Germany, filled with excitement about what he’d seen of New Zealand and how warmly he’d been welcomed. However, when the process of getting visas dragged on,Detlef’senthusiasmwaned.Marek,whowassureitwasthe right move, sought advice from an immigration advisor and two years from Detlef’s initial visit they flew into Auckland. >
“The laboratory had a second job on offer – in Nelson. We searched for Nelson on the internet and couldn’t believe it – so beautiful! It was an easy decision,” says Detlef.
Eventually, he established his own practice in Nelson city, and Marek became its administrator.
Then two years after that delightful afternoon’s swim, a real estate agent friend called: just over a hectare of land had been listed for sale in Cable Bay. By the end of that week, they owned it. They began seriously saving towards their building fund and began their daily visits to the site with Benno. Several years later, those trips had added 150,000km to their odometer, and Marek and Detlef had added another dog to their family – a Great Dane pup they named Prada.
As their two-bedroom, entertainer’s dream of a home was fast taking shape up on the hill, Detlef and Marek celebrated their 20 years together by marrying on the beach in Cable Bay. They were so enamoured with their almost completed house, they decided to forgo a honeymoon and, instead, prepared to move in as soon as they could.
The house quickly became a landmark, particularly at night. There are 270 LED lamps and ceiling lights, inside and outside. The Baums like to keep the outside lighting switched on throughout the night “because it’s beautiful”. The house is so brilliantly lit up, that Cable Bay locals affectionately call it Times Square.
Floor to ceiling windows shape three sides of the house, allowing uninterrupted views to the sea, the inlet, Delaware Bay and Pepin Island. Nelson architect Justin Fletcher at Redbox designed the house, while Marek threw himself into the interior design, sourcing furnishings and lighting features locally and from Europe. He even dug his toes in and won a battle with the council so they could install a Dominique Imbert hanging fireplace from France.
“Our life has changed so much since we came to Cable Bay,” says Detlef. “It’s like a holiday home that makes us forget any stress.” >
THIS PAGE (from top) The view from the guest room. The master bedroom has glass sliding doors and water views; Marek ordered white leather beds from Germany for both bedrooms, and quickly realised he would have to buy all the linen to fit from Germany, too.
OPPOSITE (clockwise from top) The en suite shower is a walk-through space with a wall of Gigacer concrete tiles in Graphite separating it from the basins and a wall of natural split-stone stacked slate; the en suite and many other surfaces, including the floors, are by local company Surface Design. The guest room chair is a vintage piece from Edito. Living Design in Mahana made the orange bedside tables as well as the lightbox feature in the dining area.
There was just one more thing they needed to do to feel truly at home – become New Zealand citizens. Neighbours supported them at the citizenship ceremony. Detlef shed a few tears and Marek was shaking; nervous about reading his declaration aloud.
Despite being the driving force behind emigrating, Marek knew only a few words of English when they arrived in 2007. He became desperately homesick and talked of going home to Germany. Detlef was working, Benno was in quarantine, their container of belongings had not arrived, they were living in a motel room, and Marek couldn’t converse with the locals.
Detlef remembers coming home on more than one occasion to find Marek had packed his suitcase. Even now, he returns to Germany at least twice a year.
So, what if Detlef suggested they sell Times Square and say “Auf Wiedersehen, goodbye” to their life in New Zealand?
“Oh, God, no!” Marek exclaims, in perfect English.
THESE PAGES (clockwise from left) The Cable Bay estuary, with Pepin Island beyond, provides tranquil views from the master bedroom and dining room. Almost 20 native Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Golf Ball’ shrubs adorn the minimalist gardens; the steel sculptures are by Forest Fusion in Mapua. The glass sliders off the dining room can be pushed wide open to transform the space for alfresco dining; the New Zealandmade Lujo lounger is one of a pair – a very recent purchase.
THIS PAGE (from top) The bleached oak dining room table came from Germany and is surrounded by Panton chairs. Marek attends to guests’ drinks; in the background is Paula Kilkelly from the Baums’ favourite caterers, Gourmet Catering. OPPOSITE (from top) Almost the entire front of the house can be opened to the outdoors; on the back wall of the living room is a colour-changing lightbox displaying Höglund art glass. The Italian leather lounge suite by Camerich is from local design store Edito, as is the green reproduction Egg chair; the 3-D Erato wall light is by Wellington lighting designer Daz Hunter of Matrix Design.