Couple swap Auckland for historic Hastings villa

Magic happens when great wine and exceptional food mix with evocative music in serene country surroundings on a classic blue-sky Hawke’s Bay summer day.

Visiting from Auckland for an event at Craggy Range Winery in Havelock North, business performance leadership director Peter Allen and wholesale bakery owner Paul Smith were lunching with friends when they made a spontaneous life-changing decision. They declared that moving to Hawke’s Bay was to be part of their three-year plan.

Returning home, their Auckland friends assured them they were crazy. “If you’re not from there, you won’t fit in,” they said.

Still, Peter and Paul couldn’t wait. Weeks later they were trawling through Trade Me when they discovered Hawthorne House, a grand Edwardian country home, for sale. Their three-year time frame became three months.

Previously the residence of a Hastings doctor, no expense had been spared on the construction of Hawthorne House, explains Peter.

“Building work took over a year to complete in 1906. The stained glass was manufactured in London and shipped out via steamship. The timber was cut locally and mouldings hand-shaped by local craftsmen.”

The house originally sat on a large block near the Hastings Racecourse but in the 1960s it was sawn into three and moved to a large property that had once housed the Borthwick Freezing Works before it was destroyed in the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake.

In the mid-1990s, new owners added ensuites to the bedrooms and turned Hawthorne House into a boutique bed and breakfast.

“Not only did it have great bones,” says Paul, “it was a fine example of its era surrounded by beautiful trees, less than 10 minutes from a good coffee.

It ticked other boxes on our wish list with an existing business, a garden – we were looking for about an acre, it had 13. And there was an opportunity to add value.” Some of the land is now in garden while the rest is leased out.

Their vision was to create a home and garden they’d be proud to share with others by continuing on with the bed and breakfast business. Little was needed structurally.

Using Paul’s experience as a designer in the UK fashion industry, they set about restoring and enhancing the character of the home, painting and redecorating all of the rooms and upgrading services and amenities.

They were determined to prove the naysayers wrong by taking advantage of the local lifestyle, sampling artisan food and wine, enjoying the music, the art and local events. It wasn’t hard. “Hawke’s Bay is food and wine country – and art and music country,” notes Paul. “The lifestyle is relaxed and easy-going.”

Peter and Paul love mid-century design and art and embrace maximalism, so have filled the home with an eclectic mix of art, furniture and objects. The sitting room is a perfect example – it’s dark, moody and cosy with the feel of a gentlemen’s club and full of curiosities that add touches of whimsy.

Previous owners of Hawthorne House had lived in a three-bedroom annex added to the house in 2006, now called The Mews. Paul and Peter, however, live in the main house, requisitioning a portion of the modern addition for their office, storage and laundry.

When they bought the house, all of the bedrooms were named after English trees and were decorated in the same colours. Peter and Paul couldn’t remember which room was which so they painted each room a different colour – and then started calling the rooms by their colours.

Before they left Auckland, they’d attended a short te reo course so Paul suggested using the te reo colour names for the rooms instead – Māwhero, Kikorangi, Pango and Kākāriki.


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First published by The Profit. Click here to read the full article.