Master Strokes

November 8 2003

Your Home and Garden – November 2003

A century ago, Greg and Linda Marshall’s home boarded one of New Zealand’s premier tourist attractions. Back then, Te Aroha was a bustling spa town, humming with visitors who came to bathe in healing waters and drink the sparkling mineral water that bubbled out of the ground. According to the Marshalls, growing numbers of tourists are rediscovering the picturesque Te Aroha Domain with its geyser, hot pools and gardens adjacent to their property.

“It was ‘location, location, location’,” Linda says of their decision to buy the 110-year-old kauri villa beside the domain gates. “We loved the thought of living at the foot of the mountain, while having the bush at your back door and our little town just at your front door. Being able to walk to the cafes and the supermarket makes it a unique place to live.”

While the house was structurally sound, it had not been renovated for decades. The kitchen still housed the original coal range together with a more modern stove, while an old copper was stowed in the the washhouse. Both antiques have since been retired to a museum in Katikati, where visiting children learn to bake scones in the range and wash clothes in the copper.

As with most homes of this vintage, the bathroom was tint, there was no shower, nothing was level and all the walls were out of plumb. Also, the couple discovered some of the original features had been replaced – or what Greg calls “boogied up” – in the 70s. All the original solid wooden doors had been replaced with more modern MDF ones and every room in the house needed to be insulated and have the plasterboard renewed.

Greg and Linda didn’t care. In their eyes the location overrode any shortfalls in the house. Also, the couple unearthed some great finds, such as the wide kauri and matai floorboards and the brick fireplace cavity, now a feature of the bathroom. Greg also loves the original brick chimney.

So the Marshalls sold their bach at Waihi to fund the purchase of the villa. Tauranga architect Glenn Potier was employed to oversee the renovations, while Greg became a builder’s labourer in order to work on the house.

The end result had to serve a multitude of purposes – aside from being their family dwelling, the house is the hub of Greg and Linda’s accommodation business. A long verandah connects three purpose-built en suite rooms to the main house, where the Marshalls serve breakfast and later invite guests to enjoy a glass of wine in their living room. The edge of the kitchen/dining area has been set aside for office work, while son Lewis likes to use the computer for art and educational games.

Four-year-old Lewis knows how to keep his toys out of the communal area when guests are staying and baby Oliver will learn quickly, too. “The renovation had to work for the family and guests in a pretty small space,” Greg says.

The former freezing worker gave up his day job to become a housefather, breakfast cook and host. Greg grew up in nearby Paeroa, while Linda was a big-city accountant before moving to Te Aroha to work at the local high school. The pair met at a work function – he was playing guitar in the band – and she had no intention of moving back to the big smoke.

Linda says the prospect of decorating the house seemed daunting until she had a suggestion that she pick a single colour and use it to link the open-plan kitchen, dining and living areas.

“We had an old, rolled arm couch and chairs from the 40s and couldn’t afford to buy a new lounge suite. The couch had a lovely old-fashioned, slightly faded floral print with a mossy green leaf, so I used that colour to join everything together.”

The mossy green can be found in the living room cushions, which were sewed by Linda along with Greg’s mother, and in the dining room chairs covered by Greg’s father. It is also in the living room curtains and in the feature tile on the kitchen floor.

Linda chose a warm colour to inject cosiness into the house and to show off their wooden furniture and floors – Taubmans ‘Hopscotch’ was painted on the walls throughout the house.

Outside, the couple chose traditional colours and added rolled, white-painted balusters to give the house a little more class. The small front verandah was replaced and extended so that it wraps around three sides of the house and is now a favourite summer dining spot.

Earlier this year Target Te Aroha, a group that aims to revitalise the town, handed Greg and Linda a heritage award in recognition of their “outstanding choice of period design and architecture”.

The next stage involves adding a second story and a studio-style bedroom. Greg, who is one of the Waikato town’s most enthusiastic ambassadors, is certain the investment will pay off. He knows several former city dwellers who have brought homes nearby.

“Te Aroha is going to go nuts,” he says. “It’s just got a real karma about the area; with the hot water and the lovely people, it’s a very cool place to live. We went to Auckland yesterday and came back and said, ‘We live in a bloody paradise’.”

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