Bill Gianotti has a word of warning for the lucky buyer of his spreading property in Karaka — there are some drawbacks to his country haven.
"We'd find that people would come out on a Sunday and they wouldn't go home," he says.
"It's a big house; quiet and peaceful. You can just get lost in it."
Bill and his wife Barbi, who died last year, bought the spreading cedar building designed by local Doug Mills, as a change from their Epsom lifestyle 18 years ago. They bred thoroughbred horses, so the then six-year-old house was a perfect project for them. It has five bedrooms, over 300 square metres, so had plenty of space to welcome guests and create an equestrian lifestyle.
The former onion paddock had been carved off for the property, but apart from a few mature trees, there wasn't much of a garden. Barbi was the designer, and Bill the doer as they worked their way around the home paddock planting over 40 big trees and an English-style garden of carpet roses, clipped hedges and shrubbery borders.
Bill fenced and irrigated seven paddocks for the horses, adding to the charm of the Karaka horse country of post and rail fences and tree-lined driveways.
The stables feature a mare-crush, wash-bay and loading races to manage the magnificent animals. Nearby are stud farms Haunui and Westbury; the Karaka Sales Centre and pavilion are a little closer to the motorway. Over the years, the Gianottis had up to 11 thoroughbreds on the property.
If asked, Bill, who chaired the thoroughbred marketing organisation, can reel off their 40 wins and 80 placings. But he was also happy to commute to the city a few days a week for his business, or potter for a couple of hours a week on the ride-on mower to keep the beautiful lawns in order.
Bill reckons the couple were self-sufficient for vegetables from their raised gardens, and hauled six or seven hundred avocados a year off the tree they'd planted when they first arrived. "Just don't mention chickens," he says. "Barbs wanted them but I hate the things."
Up to the next owner, then.
Inside, designer Mills had created an interesting flow of rooms, with striking angled roofs and ceilings. Many of the main spaces open through french doors to the patios and terraces, and the lovely gardens.
The Gianottis added a charming pool and pool house at the bottom of the garden, repeating the cedar finishes and installing a kitchenette and outdoor fireplace for long summer days of entertaining.
The serious entertainer's kitchen was a favourite spot for the sociable couple although, Bill warns, that it was impossible to move guests away from the generous bar/island around the rimu-clad space, as they loved to talk and watch Barbi cook.
There is a formal dining room, and another cosy window seat overlooking the garden, as well as a formal lounge, but the couple delighted in their own master suite upstairs with a deck and private reading room.
Bill says he and Barbi always said they didn't need to go on holiday, as driving down the country road to their peaceful property was enough relaxation.
After the tranquillity and green of the country spread, Bill says he couldn't live in the city
again. But all those bedrooms, living rooms and gardens are more than one person needs, so he's downsizing to a smaller place on the fringe of Pukekohe to allow more time to travel to the racing, leaving a country spread for the next lucky family.