Kate and Dave take to the country

10 Sep 2014

Trading bright city lights for a quiet country homestead was a brave move that paid off for Kate Arbuthnot and Dave Hassan.

They made the move from central Auckland in 2008, and settled in the Whangaripo Valley nestled in rolling farmland between Wellsford and Matakana. Dave is a rural GP whose job takes him to cover clinics all around the area. “We fell in love with this house when we saw it on the internet. We loved its bones, its history, the land, the mature trees and the river boundary, and the romantic notion of country life,” says Kate. It’s now finished in a palette of soft greens, rich reds and warm whites from Resene after a challenging renovation.

Moving to the valley meant a complete change in lifestyle: “It didn’t take long before I realised I’d have to trade in my polka-dot gumboots for some more hard-core farmers’ Red Bands if I wanted to be taken seriously, but the community here is just awesome, friendly, uncomplicated, salt-of the-earth and relaxed. That’s not to say that the simple life isn’t hard work! There is a reason they call it a lifestyle block, because it really does become your life,” she says.

Their house was one of the historic homesteads in the area, an original villa built from rough-sawn kauri off the land, so its bones are strong. But it didn’t take long for the couple to realise that the parts that had been tacked on over the last hundred or so years were rotten and had to be replaced. This included a large area of the floor and one room in particular where Kate remembers the boards actually giving way.

Since then the house has been re-roofed, re-piled, pretty much re-everything. “We moved in over winter and the whole site was just a muddy mess. I remember one day coming home in the rain, there was mud everywhere, the builders had knocked down one whole wing of the house and there were diggers excavating, and these towering infernos where they were burning what had been our house. I just thought there is no way this is ever going to be okay again,” she explains.

The family lived through one whole summer with no bathroom and relied on a solar shower hung in the gum tree. The new bathroom has become Kate’s favourite room: “It’s such a luxury to have a big bath. I found the big bifold windows on the internet and they open out over a fernery so when you have a bath it’s like you’re outside under the stars.”

Dave credits local builder Roger Farr as their saviour, saying: “He is the only reason we’ve remained sane throughout. We’ve also got an army of very patient and dear friends who got wooed more than once into coming up for working weekends in the garden.”

Dave took a short course in fencing and got to work in the paddocks, while the interior decorating was left to Kate; she painted the walls while daughter Frankie toddled behind with a pail of water and a paintbrush.

Kate describes her style as a little bit vintage, a little bit industrial, a little bit Gothic and a little bit golden girls . . . and it definitely doesn’t include rugby league posters tacked on the walls down the

hallway. “I tried to show the history of the house, the things that tell a story,” she says. The skirting boards in the hallway are one of her favourite features. “When I started stripping them back I came

across layers and layers of paint, so I left them partially stripped, then lightly sanded and finished them with wax.”

Most of their furnishings have been found through the sourcing Kate does for the store she opened in Matakana, aptly named Fossick. “I wanted to legitimise my obsession with second-hand shopping and garage sales,” she laughs. It’s difficult to determine if it’s the store that influences Kate’s style at home, or her style that influences what she hunts out for her store. “At times I have to stop myself from wanting to bring everything home, and sometimes there are those real gems I find that I just can’t bring myself to sell,” she says.

One of the downsides to country life in the valley is also one of the things Kate and Dave really love about it – in heavy rain it floods. Kate explains: “We got married here, the same day as Cyclone

Wilma and a king tide. The river burst its banks and rose higher than it had been in 60 years, the valley flooded and all our guests had to stay the night. It was the best party ever!”

Design tips:

Rustic interiors with warm colours and textures work perfectly in a country-style home. Look for pre-loved furniture with age and patina that look right at home.
Don’t over-modernise. An Art Deco cabinet makes great bathroom storage, while shelves added to an unused brick chimney become eye-catching open storage for kitchen collectibles.

Read more: Ann and Noel mix soft with hard

Do you have a home full of wonderful Resene paint and colour? Send us some snaps by emailing editor Sharon Newey on [email protected].

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Daughter Frankie in the Resene Sea Nymph kitchen.

pictures Copyright © photographs Larnie Nicolson, 2013.

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A classic complementary colour scheme of red and green is interpreted here with rich Resene Pohutukawa on the fireplace wall, and the misty seafoam green of Resene Sea Nymph in the kitchen and dining area beyond. 

pictures Copyright © photographs Larnie Nicolson, 2013.

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Warm Resene Rice Cake gives the bedroom a tranquil and restful space.

pictures Copyright © photographs Larnie Nicolson, 2013.

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An old shop display unit, leather chesterfield sofas and throw cushions made from an old flag add charm to the living room, which is painted in Resene Rice Cake. 

pictures Copyright © photographs Larnie Nicolson, 2013.

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An old set of printer’s drawers has been built in as part of the book shelving. 

pictures Copyright © photographs Larnie Nicolson, 2013.

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Cosy colours and textures alongside vintage pieces give this home its country charm. A backdrop of Resene Sea Nymph, Resene Rice Cake and a feature wall in Resene Pohutukawa add to the vintage feel. 

pictures Copyright © photographs Larnie Nicolson, 2013.

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Painted in Resene Mantle, the new bathroom has become Kate’s favourite room: “It’s such a luxury to have a big bath. I found the big bifold windows on the internet and they open out over a fernery so when you have a bath it’s like you’re outside under the stars.”

pictures Copyright © photographs Larnie Nicolson, 2013.

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Reproduced with permission from New Zealand Interior Style by LeeAnn Yare and Larnie Nicolson. Published by Penguin Group NZ. RRP $65.00. Copyright © text LeeAnn Yare, 2013. 

pictures Copyright © photographs Larnie Nicolson, 2013.

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