An empty house on a friend’s farm in Otago becomes home to a lifetime worth of prize finds from around the world.

An Otago cottage built during the gold rush has provided the perfect backdrop for Peter Boyer's ever-growing collection of "treasures".

When Boyer wanted to return to his South Island roots after decades of globetrotting and living in Auckland and Melbourne, his sister Karen Boult and her husband Jim offered him the use of an empty cottage on their farm on the shores of Lake Hayes, between Queenstown and Arrowtown.

Built during the 1870s and renovated in the 1970s, the tiny cottage had lain empty for years. Getting the power reconnected enabled Boyer to tidy the place up and move in - along with his collections.

"I'm definitely not a minimalist," he says. "I've always been an eclectic collector. I've picked up lots of things in my travels over the years, but my collections seem to have grown in the four years I've lived here. I think it's something about the cottage itself. I love its sense of age and history - you don't get that often in New Zealand. I like to think if there were ghosts in this house they'd appreciate me doing this."


Inspired by memories of childhood holidays at the family crib in nearby Frankton, Boyer has packed the cottage from floor to ceiling with memorabilia.

"I am drawn to objects that are unfashionable or kitsch - little items that have become lost in our society but still have a strong resonance."

These have found the perfect home in the three-bedroom cottage, which has schist walls held together by cow dung and lime. The walls are about a metre thick, creating wide sills inside all the windows that make ideal display spaces.

Although there is a huge amount of objects, Boyer has carefully arranged them to create harmony.

"I tend to cluster things thematically to avoid overloading people," he says. "I have an area where I put a lot of objects relating to the ocean, an area with African and Aboriginal stuff, a place for South American stuff and religious iconography, a meditation on human spirituality on the mantelpiece, and so on. It's a rotating exhibition."

A social studies and English teacher, Boyer delights in scouring the antique shops of Queenstown for pieces to complement the mementos he has collected during his travels in India, Asia, Europe, Australia and America.

"I like the sort of lottery opportunity shops provide - the possibility that a treasure might be hidden there somewhere. Queenstown is a place where a lot of people travel and when they get tired of the trinkets they bring home from their travels they end up in the op shops. I take it as my task to try to find the treasure among the junk."

Style tips
Change emphasis: Create impact by using everyday objects in unusual ways. Wire bird cages make a visual statement on the doorstep, while a Japanese umbrella hangs from the kitchen ceiling as a lampshade.


Cheerful mood: Boyer has strung paper lanterns through the arbour for a soft and appealing night-time light.

Moving on: Boyer constantly rearranges his collections to keep things fresh and is always looking to create quirky combinations and juxtapositions.

Leanne Moore is the editor of Your Home & Garden. For the full story see the latest issue of the magazine.