An Auckland couple moved north and have used second-hand finds and furnishings to help show the history of their kauri homestead.

When Kate Arbuthnot and Dave Hassan left Auckland for a change of lifestyle more than two years ago, they also took on a huge renovation.

The couple settled in Whangaripo Valley, between Wellsford and Matakana, where they bought one of the area's historic homesteads, a rough-sawn kauri villa.

"We fell in love with this house when we saw it on the internet," says Arbuthnot. "We loved its bones, its history, the land, the mature trees and the river boundary - as well as the idea of country life."

However, they soon noticed that later additions to the house were suffering from rot, including some of the floor.


"We moved in over winter and the whole site was just a muddy mess. I remember coming home in the rain one day and there was mud everywhere. The builders had knocked down one whole wing of the house, and there were diggers excavating and 'towering infernos' where they were burning what had been our house. I thought, 'there is no way this is ever going to be okay again'," says Arbuthnot.

The couple and their daughter Frankie, 3, spent an entire summer with no bathroom. Instead, they used a solar shower hung from a gum tree.

So it's hardly surprising that the bathroom has become Arbuthnot's favourite room. "It's a luxury to have a big bathroom. I found the bifold windows on the internet and they open out over a fernery. When you have a bath with the windows open, it's as if you're outside under the stars."

Hassan, who is a rural GP, took a course in fencing and worked on the paddocks, while the interior decorating was left to Arbuthnot. She set about stamping their style on the home by painting the walls and filling it with collectables while Frankie tagged along, helping out.

The mostly white walls of the home are punctuated with bursts of colour in the kitchen and lounge.

Arbuthnot describes her décor style as a blend of vintage, industrial, gothic and Golden Girls. "I tried to show the history of the house through décor, using items that tell a story," she says.

The skirting boards in the hallway are one of her favourite features. "When I started stripping them back I came across layers of paint, so I left them partially stripped, then lightly sanded and finished them with a coat of wax."

Most of the furnishings have been found through the sourcing Arbuthnot does for her Matakana store, Fossick. "I wanted to legitimise my obsession with second-hand shopping and garage sales," she laughs.

A collector all her life, she finds it hard to resist filling the house with her finds. "I have to stop myself from bringing everything home, but there are those real gems that I can't bring myself to sell."

Style tips
Green fingers: If you have the room, try making your Christmas tree an exercise in sustainability. "We plant our own trees, so each year we ceremoniously chop one down and plant another," says Arbuthnot.

Switched on: When renovating, try to plan what is going into various rooms so you can work out exactly where you will need power points and light switches.

Historic traces: Rather than having the skirting boards a uniform colour, Arbuthnot left the layers of paint over the years on show to give an idea of the home's heritage.

Leanne Moore is the editor of Your Home & Garden. For more pictures and the full story on this house see the latest issue of the magazine.