A home styled like a French chateau has been a dream come true for a family of seven, who are selling up to travel Europe in a campervan.

For Melanie and Martin Binnie nothing happens by accident, as they need to take into account medical conditions of their two daughters, 4-year-old Ella who has laryngospasm epilepsy and Laura, 17, who was born with severe brain damage.

The couple were living in Melbourne when Jacob, now 19, and Laura were born. After Laura's birth, they decided they would buy and renovate properties so they could provide the richest life experience possible for their family.

Martin Binnie and his wife Melanie Binnie with their family. They are selling their family home to travel Europe in a motorhome. Photo / Tony Gatman
Martin Binnie and his wife Melanie Binnie with their family. They are selling their family home to travel Europe in a motorhome. Photo / Tony Gatman

"We are a strong family and when life doesn't turn out quite as you expected, it's about rebuilding your dreams," says Melanie.


They started with two Melbourne villas and then, returning to New Zealand, focused their energy on renovating a motel by the beach in Torbay.

When it was time to sell the motel, they saw the newspaper ad for the Chateau Pont Noir (Blackbridge Castle) in Waitoki, 15 minutes from Albany and modelled on a French country residence.

Melanie, a self-described romantic, couldn't resist attending an open home.

"I love fairytales and it looked like a castle... somewhere I could give Laura a dream life - and the boys."

By that time their family had expanded to include Jordan, now 13, and Ethan, 12, and they were expecting Ella.

Coinciding with buying the house was Ella's premature birth, which left their youngest with ongoing health issues. "She was only 1.49kg and she was a little princess we would take home to the chateau."

The family's north-facing home makes a lasting first impression with wrought iron gates leading into the pine tree-lined driveway, and rooftop gargoyles guarding the property.

Built of concrete, the ground floor centres around the tower-like stairway, its impressive marble floor retrieved from Auckland's His Majesty's Theatre. Stair railings are brass and wrought iron and, looking up to the floodlit ceiling, you have an ornate chandelier and a Renaissance-style painting on the dome.


To the right of the staircase is the lounge and dining room, its ceiling roses, brass chandeliers, brick fireplace and French doors opening to the tiled terrace all true to the French look. At Christmas the family can sit 25 in this room, and it is a favourite place on winter days when they get the log fire roaring, roast marshmallows and play cards.

There is utter peace here, it's just you and nature... it's what we needed.

Next is the study, with a rounded brick wall, the formal dining room, and then the kitchen, with wetback fireplace, plus bathroom and laundry.

The polished concrete stairwell winds up to the second floor where the concrete flooring is topped with Scandinavian oak. The master bedroom is large with rural views through casement windows under gabled eaves. There is a bathroom, four more bedrooms plus a large linen cupboard.

The country lifestyle has suited their family with the children loving being outdoors -- sliding down the pine needle covered hills on cardboard, building bush tracks, playing spotlight, collecting eggs and raising baby chicks.

"There is utter peace here, it's just you and nature, says Melanie. "It was what we needed."

Melanie and Martin are selling to live on the Hibiscus Coast so Ella is closer to health care. But immediate plans are for the family to travel to Europe in a custom-made, seven-berth van.

"We have never done a trip like this before and to do it with a medically fragile child is huge," says Melanie. "We are a can-do family. We still do everything, we just do it differently."

Their magnificent home sits on over 6ha in two titles. This means the land can be used for livestock, sold/leased to neighbours or developed for another house.

The property has heirloom fruit trees, barns, a cottage, stables and a double garage/workshop. Melanie and Martin put in a bore so their drinking water comes from a pure water aquifer, and they can pump water from the ponds to paddock troughs.

The house has changed ownership only twice since it was built in 1975.

"We want to sell it to someone who will look after it and treasure it," says Melanie, who believes it has the potential to be run as a B&B or venue.

"I never imagined we would sell but my little girls have greater needs at the moment. We have given Laura a fairytale life in the country. Now we want a place in a community where they can walk to everything."

Fairytale castle in Auckland:

• House built in 1975 with five bedrooms, three bathrooms
• Property is 6 hectares and the house approximately 320sq m.
• Looking for offers over $2.5 million.