Nestled in a garden paradise

By Donna McIntyre

SIZE: Land 2542sq m, house 613sq m.
PRICE INDICATION: CV $4.3 million. Price by negotiation.
INSPECT: 2-2.45pm, Sundays March 24 and April 7, 14 and 21.
SCHOOL ZONES: Kohimarama Primary, Selwyn College.
CONTACT: Marnie Adams, ph 0274 867 750; Ross Hawkins, ph 0274 720 577, Sothebys.
FEATURES: Richard Priest-designed home with outdoor rooms designed by Natural Habitats.
17 Hawera Rd, Kohimarama. Photo / Ted Baghurst
17 Hawera Rd, Kohimarama. Photo / Ted Baghurst

A home is not just about the house for Graham and Louise Cleary. "Home is the house, the garden and the family," says Graham.

And, certainly, the garden at 17 Hawera Rd is a design showpiece, made up of outside rooms and setting off the large home on its 2500sq m site.

It is the work of Natural Habitats, Graham's integrated landscape company of "grand gardeners", where Graham is the "grand rake".

"We design, care, build," he says.

In 1997, Graham bought the property, which now features a magnificent refurbished Richard Priest-designed home in New Zealand Pasifika-style.

Graham and Louise love entertaining. Their brief to Richard Priest was to make the kitchen the heart of their home, with that in mind.

They also wanted their home to be environmentally safe. so they asked Reinhard Kanuka-Fuchs, founder of the Building Biology and Ecology Institute of New Zealand, to minimise potential side-effects of modern-day life.

You enter the Clearys' extensive property off Hawera Rd, rich green hedging leading you along the tree-lined drive with its soaring poplars.

From this peaceful environment, you step up to the grand entrance, past a green living wall on your left, through the impressive totara front door, and past the welcome delegation of two potted chamaedorea palms. This entry level also has garaging and a wine cellar. Solid stairs lead to the main living area on the next floor.

This is where the kitchen - with its immaculate granite benches and top-end European appliances - commands the focus of the home. The layout spreads out under the cedar barrel-vaulted ceiling to the dining area, lounge, the sunroom, formal lounge next to the 25m pool, media room with its distinctive dragonfly wallpaper, bedrooms and bathrooms.

A couple of years ago, Graham and Louise called in interior designer Ann Motion to help them renovate in neutral creams and textures.

Upstairs is the master suite, divided by a wrought-iron bridge. It's private, with a large, luxurious en suite and secluded balcony. Also on this level are two more bedrooms with terraces.

The layout allows flexibility, but it is in the garden that Graham and his team have worked their magic, designing the garden with a "neo-native" theme, combining natives with subtropical exotics.

"You can see this with nikau combined with tropical taros," he says. "Exotic plants are used as highlights, such as the dragon tree on the drive and pony tail palm on the lawn. And plant types are massed for show."

The garden is divided into outside rooms, dominated by the lawn, which is perfect for parties and play. From the lawn and terrace you look over clipped karaka past Madill's Farm and out to the Coromandel.

Smaller areas feed off the lawn - the sunken nikau grove and observation patio overlooking native bush. The lawn leads down the grassed ramp to a lower pond and petanque area, where waterlilies bloom and massed clivia dominate in the shade.

Scented michelia flowers in winter are followed by the port wine magnolia. Again, natives are combined with subtropical palms and fruiting banana on the shell path as you walk up to the house and pool underwater observation window.

The pool is screened by tall clipped hedges, with a fire pit at one end. Palms shade the patio from the summer sun.

Smaller pygmy dates feature against the house, where the patio is used at night or when the sea breeze blows into the front of the house.

Now that their children are adults, the couple are selling. "It is a home made for children, but the kids are in their 20s and all flying the coop," says Louise.

"We want to downsize, as we go to Great Barrier every summer and we also tend to travel a lot."

- NZ Herald

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