When I visited Southland over Christmas, I read my way through the magazines Mum had at home. She’s an avid fan and subscriber of NZ House & Garden, which is how I found myself on Friday, touring the Wairarapa as part of their 2011 House and Garden tour.
There were 11 houses on our touring sheet, which people drove themselves around. Some people went with friends, a few reluctant husbands were dragged along (and then told off by wives who wanted them to be paying more attention to the things they liked) and I went by myself. The Wairarapa tour covered a huge area – from Featherston right up to the countryside north-east of Masterton.
Photos weren’t allowed so you’ll have to suffice with descriptions and filler-images.
The first house I saw was one of my favourites – a small cottage in Greytown that was like stepping into the magazine. It was dark, cosy, packed with great furniture, filled with art and had a master bedroom with vintage-looking monkey wallpaper. I can also tell you, since we weren’t allowed shoes on, that it had amazing plush carpet. And it smelt really really nice.
General discussion at the house revolved around whether other people were or weren’t ‘brave enough’ to paint one of their rooms a really dark colour (this house had a small lounge that was aubergine). I felt I could take my place on the tour proudly knowing our spare room is a very very dark blue.
From there the houses got bigger; some were modern minimalist (interesting to see a house you’d never live in), some had been heavily designed in one theme e.g. French, some owners had not quite rationalised the work of the interior decorator with their own style so things looked out of place and some, very special houses were breath-taking. Far and above my favourites were the ones that looked like people lived there.
A lot of people seemed to be enjoying the day out as I was but I also spotted some haters – those people who can’t have a good time unless they’re sniping at something. In one little girl’s room I busted two old bags comparing her music/dance certificates with those of their friend’s daughter/granddaughter “who got distinction in those exams with that same examiner.” I thought it was particularly miserable to criticise a child you don’t know.
Half way through, I stopped for lunch (lasagna as well as the afghan and apple juice) and read my book at The Fat Duck Cafe in Masterton. It’s surprisingly tiring looking at people’s beautiful houses and my eyes were feeling a bit bugged out by then too.
First stop post lunch was a house painted entirely in a poo-green colour, which was meant to echo the weeds and seeds of the nearby landscape. The colour grew on me and the house was a fantastic home with a bath that opened to the vege garden, an outdoor dining room and great art throughout (which included sculpture and ceramics as well as paintings and works on paper). One of the nicest things about this house too was that to get to it required a walk of about 1km down a dusty country road in the sun.
In total I got around eight of the 11 houses but felt that to do anymore would have really been to move from enjoying the day out to feeling I needed to tick each box. There was only one house I thought shouldn’t have been on the tour and all others were interesting, unusual or great in their own way. As well as being a thoroughly great day out, the ticket price raised money for charity.
The only tour left this year is in Tauranga this Friday but watch out for future dates because I’d highly recommend this as a great day out.
Leave time at the end when you get home though so you can dust and move furniture about, which is what I did and what you’ll probably want to do after seeing the best houses in your region.