Guests love the novelty of relaxing on Takuranga Luxury Lodge's gracious Victorian veranda, listening to the clip-clop of passing Clydesdale horses and admiring the city lights. Just a few minutes from Devonport village and ferry, Jackie Miller and Claus Henriksen created a luxury bed and breakfast, combining her love of renovating and his hospitality experience.
What guests don't realise is that beneath the elegant facade, the villa has been completely rebuilt from what Jackie called "a major dog of a do-up". Jackie and a friend found the house by accident just as it was going to auction, and Claus, who happened to phone from the super yacht he works on, said: "If you like it, buy it," so of course, she did.
The house was incredible even by Devonport standards - two storeys, overlooking St Paul's churchyard, 4m-high stud and a garden backing on to Mt Victoria reserve. It had been divided into flats and was somewhat neglected. "It was painted every colour under the sun," Jackie recalls, "the back was hanging in mid-air and the porches filled in".
Jackie called in a crack team to help restore the home to its former glory - heritage designer Arne Cobb, Devo Construction, and designer Gilly Baillie, who'd worked with Claus on a super-yacht refit.
"It was un-picking, then re-building," says Jackie. Before Gilly worked her magic, the building was completely re-piled, re-plumbed and re-wired, adding a few 21st-century luxuries such as central heating and en suites.
Jackie and her designers have created a special experience that feels like a gracious Victorian home, with a contemporary look. The generous two-storey layout means guests are private upstairs, while downstairs provides a family home for Jackie, Claus and teen Kendell.
The symmetrical front facade with its fretwork-trimmed verandas creates an elegant first impression, framed by the neatly hedged gardens and vine-covered double garage.
Inside, those high white-washed ceilings - with original roses restored - are accentuated by curling chandeliers. Dark-stained timber floors anchor the spacious living and dining areas, where Jackie serves breakfasts at the 10-seater table.
"I love the guests' morning chatter," says Jackie, who admits she's pushed her cooking skills since opening last spring. The sleek new kitchen probably helps, where Gilly created a contemporary country look with solid materials and stainless steel appliances. "The builders didn't like this much - it weighed a ton," says Jackie, stroking the polished concrete benches. Hidden from guests' view is walk-through storage and an efficient laundry for all those extra sheets and towels.
Downstairs are two bedrooms with en suites. The bathrooms echo the kitchen's contemporary feel, although a claw-foot tub in the master bathroom adds a heritage touch. The stairs were re-aligned to create a sunny guest living area on the landing, overlooking the green churchyard next door. Jackie has ensured each of the four guest rooms is special, with padded headboards, monogrammed towels and luxury linens, with either a vintage tub or double shower in the en suites. A small back porch collects morning sun and a view of the lodge's namesake Takuranga (Mt Victoria). Clearly the favourite spot is that front veranda. "I always find people up here, sitting in the afternoon sun or admiring the city lights at night," says Jackie.
The careful marketing of Takuranga is already attracting international and local guests, as well as those wanting to host small corporate events. The newly landscaped garden was designed for a marquee, with retaining wall ready for the planned swimming pool. Just as the hard work is done and guests arriving, the family has an opportunity to work overseas. "It's a lovely business, ready to go," says Jackie, "but would make a fabulous family home, too."By Joanna Smith