My style is “all over the place”, says the owner of a Scandi-in­spired Wairarapa home. We don’t think so.

Amid 800 hectares of Wairarapa farm­land, this eclec­tic, Scandi-white villa is just the place for a fam­ily Christ­mas


Drive the long, wind­ing road un­til you reach the heel of the North Is­land. Then drive a lit­tle bit more, and you’ll come to Kiri and James El­wor­thy’s house. It might be around 30 kilo­me­tres to the near­est town (Mart­in­bor­ough), but it’s as though some­one has dropped a slither of white­washed Scan­di­na­vian de­sign onto 800ha of iso­lated Wairarapa hill coun­try.

The villa cer­tainly bears lit­tle re­sem­blance to how it looked when it was built in 1920. There’s the crisp white paint, of course, lib­er­ally ap­plied to walls, ceil­ings and floors. “James calls it the asy­lum be­cause it’s so blind­ingly white,” says Kiri, who is one half of the team that op­er­ates the Tora Coastal Walk, a 47km stroll along the rugged South Wairarapa coast that has been at­tract­ing walk­ers since 1995. >

Kiri ar­rived at the white palette af­ter a stint with black painted floors. “That turned out to be a dis­as­ter, be­cause with four kids, it was hard to keep the floors clean.”

Those four chil­dren – Mar­got, 27, Ru­pert, 22, Guy, 21, and 17-year-old Flora – have all since left the beef and sheep farm that’s been in the El­wor­thy fam­ily since 1993.

Back then, the house was ac­tu­ally two kilo­me­tres down the road, next to the Awhea River that con­stantly flooded. “We’d wake up in the mid­dle of a lake and had to be evac­u­ated twice,” says Kiri. “We looked at ei­ther build­ing a new house fur­ther up the hill or mov­ing this one and it was far cheaper to chop the house into three pieces and move it to a flat pad­dock up the road.”

That solved the flood­ing prob­lem but left them with an­other – the nor’west­erly gales that bat­tered the house. “There was ab­so­lutely no shel­ter and some­times the house shook so much it felt as though we were on a boat. So the builder re­moved the weath­er­boards and added brac­ing, which made a huge dif­fer­ence.” As did the months of plant­ing, on the ad­vice of friend and lo­cal land­scape ar­chi­tect Rachel Cal­laghan.

While the builders put the house back to­gether, the cou­ple took the op­por­tu­nity to turn what had been James’ bach­e­lor pad into a stylish fam­ily home. That in­volved ex­tend­ing the liv­ing room, con­vert­ing a laun­dry into Flora’s bed­room and a for­mer store­room into a laun­dry (with the hooks for hang­ing mut­ton still in place). >

They added French doors in the liv­ing room and bed­room to pro­vide ac­cess to Kiri’s beloved gar­den. The kitchen was moved from the rear of the house to the front, and opened up so Kiri can en­joy the beau­ti­ful moun­tain views while she whips up the sweet treats wolfed down by hungry guests do­ing the Tora Coastal Walk from Oc­to­ber to April ev­ery year.

Once the ren­o­va­tions were com­plete, Kiri got to work fill­ing the house with the an­tiques and ob­jects she’s spent a life­time col­lect­ing. But with an art his­tory de­gree un­der her belt, she was picky about what cov­ered her walls. “I like con­tem­po­rary art and have ex­pen­sive tastes so for years the walls were bare be­cause we couldn’t af­ford any­thing I wanted.” >

When she was left some money by her grand­mother, Kiri bought a piece by Christchurch artist Marie Le Lievre. It sits along­side a paint­ing of a bird by artist Stephen All­wood that Kiri had long ad­mired in a Welling­ton gallery and was gut­ted when she saw it had been sold. “It turns out James had bought it for me and didn’t tell me un­til the ex­hi­bi­tion had fin­ished.”

Cur­rently Kiri is get­ting ready for old­est daugh­ter Mar­got’s wed­ding, to be held in late De­cem­ber in the west­ern gar­den. It comes on top of an al­ready busy sched­ule in the El­wor­thy house, with Kiri of­ten host­ing up to 36 fam­ily and friends for Christ­mas lunch. “We love Christ­mas and although we don’t go the whole hog with decorations, we al­ways get a fresh tree from one of the forestry blocks on the prop­erty that we usu­ally dec­o­rate as a fam­ily.”

It seems un­likely that the fam­ily would ever leave the prop­erty. But James has Parkin­son’s dis­ease and Kiri says they have to be re­al­is­tic about his abil­ity to con­tinue farm­ing the land.

“We’ll prob­a­bly look at mov­ing to a smaller place in Mart­in­bor­ough but for now, we’re happy where we are.”

THESE PAGES Bi­fold doors al­low ac­cess to a large north-fac­ing deck that re­mains shel­tered even in a strong wind; the pine cor­ner cup­board, circa 1750, was bought at Wal­ter­wood An­tiques in Master­ton; the cou­ple re­lo­cated the kitchen to the cen­tre of the room with the sink in the is­land to make the most of the view while cook­ing.

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