Hatching a plan to move from Auckland to Hawke's Bay was the beginning of an amazing journey for Peter Allen and Paul Smith.
Initially the couple gave themselves three years to find a home and a business that would fit their wish list. That included a good example of a house, an existing business or business opportunity, acreage and something that they could add value to.
One evening Peter was doing some research and came across a real estate listing for Hawthorne House — a bed and breakfast in Railway Rd South, Pakipaki, Hastings.
"I just handed my laptop to Paul and said 'have a look at this'," Peter said.
Paul started clicking through the photos and before he got to the end "I had moved in."
Three months later on July 28 the couple moved in and began a major makeover of the grand old Edwardian villa.
They welcomed their first guest in October and almost a year later the makeover is complete "apart from the kitchen which the guests don't have to use because we do everything for them", Peter said.
Previous owners had built a three bedroom two and a half bathroom Mews house on to the back of the house which owners/managers had lived in.
However, Peter and Paul wanted to live in the villa and when you see it you will understand why, so they converted the Mews to an Airbnb offering – a self contained, self catering holiday home designed for short term stays.
"We are the custodians of a beautiful home and we want our guests to feel that the house is loved and lived in. When you come to Hawthorne House to stay be prepared to be indulged."
The couple have done an absolutely magnificent job of breathing new life into this home. They have retained all the spectacular original stained glass which was imported when the home was built for a doctor in Hastings in 1906.
In the 60s it was moved in three parts to its present site.
"It hadn't been touched for around 20 years so while we wanted to update it we also wanted to keep the essence of it. It has good bones and just needed a bit of tender loving care," Peter said.
"There are four guest rooms which were named after English trees. We have changed that to te reo names for colours. So we have Māwhero (pink), Kākāriki (green), Kikorangi (blue) and Pango (black and white)."
The rooms have their own private verandas "where guests love to linger over a good book and a glass of wine". They are classy and modern and most important comfortable. There are tea and coffee stations in each room, a fridge with a complimentary mini bar, complimentary gourmet snacks, large wardrobes, comfortable lounge chairs and wall mounted televisions.
Did I mention the art? The minute I walked in the front door my eye was caught by the beautiful art and tastefully selected accessories. I loved the collection of Crown Lynn, however it's the wall art throughout the house that held my attention.
I could spend an entire day going from room to room looking at it.
The sitting room is superb with comfortable leather furniture, wooden floors and trimmings, rugs, and a cosy fire. It radiates warmth and comfort.
"We describe our B&B as a boutique experience rather than luxury. We want our guests to feel at home, relax and enjoy their surroundings and the beautiful grounds," Paul said.
Paul, who originally trained as a textile designer and has a degree in textile and fashion, has overseen all the redecorating and chosen colours and fittings.
"It just comes naturally to me and I've loved doing it."
The couple said they were delighted with all the support they had received from locals and praised the work of tradies.
They also love all Hawke's Bay's artisan products and fresh fruit and vegetables.
"We go out of our way to ensure we buy as much of our produce locally, in fact the only things we can't get locally for our breakfasts are butter and tea. My shopping habits have certainly changed. I can be seen at the farmers' market and Farmlands quite often these days stocking up on supplies for indoors and outdoors," Paul laughs.
Peter's background is in business so between them things run very smoothly.
They are thrilled with the feedback from guests and family and friends about the renovations.
"It's certainty been a learning curve and it hasn't all been smooth sailing but we absolutely love it here and can't imagine being anywhere else."
■Hawthorne House is offering a Winter Escape Package available until October 31:
Stay for three nights – pay for two nights.
Three nights' accommodation in one of our boutique bed and breakfast bedrooms with your own en suite and private veranda.
■Complimentary bottle of wine on arrival.
■Complimentary in-room minibar and gourmet snacks.
■Sunset drinks and nibbles each evening.
■Locally sourced gourmet breakfasts each morning
■Subject to availability. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +64 6 878 0035
Hawthorne House History
Built at the start of the 20th century, the house was originally on a corner block close to the racecourse in Hastings. No expense was spared in the house's construction. Building work took more than a year to complete, with all the stained glass being manufactured in London and shipped out via steamship, and all the timber cut locally with mouldings hand-shaped by local craftsmen.
The site on which the house now stands was originally the Borthwick freezing works, one of the largest employers in Hawke's Bay at that time. It was destroyed by the 1931 earthquake and lay in ruins for many decades. The foundations of the freezing works still remain. Being around half a metre thick, they survived 'the big one' with just a few cracks. The freezing works had its own railway platform. This is still in place, and now overlooks a large duck pond.
In the 1960s the site was cleared and the house moved there from its original location. In 1975, it was purchased by a local family who lived there for some 20 years.
In the mid-1990s the owners added en suite bathrooms to the bedrooms and opened up Hawthorne House as a boutique bed and breakfast venue. In 2006, the owners added pergolas and a three-bedroom house, once the manager's accommodation, now The Mews - a self-contained, self-catering holiday home.