Designer home answers some tricky health needs

Rae and Gavin Hamilton have embraced their post-work world, with bells on. The Auckland couple started pondering their next phase after a lifetime of working in real estate.

“Rae wanted more than a passive passing of time leading to expirary,” Gavin says, tongue firmly in cheek. “So, we decided to have at least one more adventure and disrupt the path we were on. It scared the bejesus out of me.”

READMORE:
* Salon owners’ art-filled Taranaki villa a haven of color and creativity
* Rotorua couple move into tiny house to free up family home for next generation
* How supersizing their home allowed one couple to keep their options open

There were health reasons to consider too. As a child, Gavin contracted polio and it had made a slow comeback in later life. “The effects of post-polio syndrome [PPS] were becoming more apparent,” he says. “And the rate of deterioration was increasing. I was having to use crutches and a wheelchair, so an altered future was an inexorable slow train coming. We sought to impose some control on the outcome if we could.”

That was back in 2014 when the daily grind was taking its toll. It took 18 months of searching to find a section at Pt Wells, about an hour’s drive north of Auckland, during which time they sold their business, offices, their home and a bach. Rae could see the potential for building an accessible and stylish home and, for this former country girl, the rural vibe of the area was right.

On the same day they signed up, they also bought an about-to-be-built city pad in downtown Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter to keep a base near their four kids and nine grandchildren.

The couple’s wishlist for their new home was fairly specific: one level, total accessibility especially for indoor-outdoor living, easy-care gardens and private spaces for me-time. Plus, posh bidets.

Gavin credits Rae with the vision: “The process is a joy or a bugger, depending on the people involved, and she’s extremely talented.” Stephen and Barbara Johnson, owners of local company Madison Park Homes, built to their high standards and are still friends, and neighbors, long after the build was completed.

The catalyst for the home’s highest point, the 4.5m kitchen ceiling, was a light fitting they imported from Italy to illuminate the breakfast bar. Veryan Laity from IK2 Design created a sophisticated room around it, with space for the all-important coffee machine and a cupboard for Gavin’s beloved Versace dinner set.

“Everything gold is Gavin’s,” says Rae. That includes the Russian icons he has collected over the years and a World War I Belgian grave marker above the fireplace in the loggia.

Art is everywhere throughout the house. Rae used to paint but deciding she’d never be great, she opened a gallery in Howick in 2000 selling collectible art.

“Never mix love with business,” she rudely reflects. Back then, people only bought art seasonally, when winter weather drove them indoors – not a sustainable business model. When the gallery was sold, some pieces could not be parted with and came home. Rae is always on the lookout, so the collection is constantly evolving.

Off the kitchen they have a lounge each. The dark media room is Gavin’s cocoon, where he can program music for speakers in every room and watch concerts. “I love all music,” he says. He literally hangs out in his zero-gravity chair, which induces the feeling of astronaut-like weightlessness, while watching TV.

His other favorite gadget is a lightweight TravelScoot which he uses instead of a wheelchair to nip around the house. On the streets of Pt Wells, he gads about on a quad bike “annoying the locals”.

Rae’s lair is bright and sunny, full of art and books. With time at last for herself, Rae studied interior design which recharged her creative mojo de ella. Installing wood cladding on the back wall meant recovering their lounge suite and dining chairs, among other changes to embrace new ideas, texture and colour.

In the loggia Gavin captains the barbecue because he’s the meat-eater. And at night when the wind is in the wrong quarter, they pull down the see-through blinds so they can enjoy a candlelit dinner by the fire with the garden in full view.

In the front hall, a welcoming bunch of flowers, The Alchemist by Auckland photographer Emma Bass, glows in daylight and at night thanks to the paper-clad lamp Yoruba Rose by Ingo Maurer;  a Lalique tiger sprawls alongside.  Lalique figures supporting some of the couple's travel books beside Versace obelisks, all are watched over by an Orthodox Christian icon from one of Gavin's treasured collections.

Jane Ussher/NZ House & Garden

In the front hall, a welcoming bunch of flowers, The Alchemist by Auckland photographer Emma Bass, glows in daylight and at night thanks to the paper-clad lamp Yoruba Rose by Ingo Maurer; a Lalique tiger sprawls alongside. Lalique figures supporting some of the couple’s travel books beside Versace obelisks, all are watched over by an Orthodox Christian icon from one of Gavin’s treasured collections.

Views of this elegant backyard created thanks to Rae’s newfound gardening skills are also captured by large windows from their bedroom and adjoining bathroom. Set out to a design by Aaron Bell-Booth, the garden is their own patch of paradise.

Rae has joined the local gardening club and binges books on landscape design. A new outdoor seating area is currently taking shape by the vege patch, which also boasts a new shadehouse.

Out front the triple-car garage serves as a convenient entry for Gavin, as well as overspill accommodation when the guest bedrooms are full at peak holiday time.

As for the posh bidets? A visit to Japan convinced them of the absolute necessity for Philippe Starck toilets, the ones with the heated seats. It’s no surprise the grandchildren love to go to the loo.

Gavin can reach every corner of the property via wide ramps and extra-wide gravel paths. Inside, the doorways are 900mm wide and the bath has a wide ledge and a mirror alongside so he can shave with ease.

Stimulated by the house build and her studies, Rae has started a new venture called Designfind sourcing special finishing touches for other people’s projects. “It’s a creative outlet. I get such a kick out of it and I love seeing people take delight in the treasures which tell their life stories.”

Q&A with Rae & Gavin Hamilton

My decorating style is: Contemporary with eclectic mixing and matching; much of our furniture is 20 years old, revamped and recovered, with a few treasured antiques. (rae)

Best life lessons: Every day holds the promise of beauty and joy, the job is to find it. (Gavin)

Don’t let life limit your adventures. Find your tribe and enjoy the interaction. It doesn’t have to be in a retirement village. Life is better lived within a multigenerational community. (rae)

Best design tip: Cue room colors to what you like to wear. Thankfully we both like blue. (rae)

Must-see attraction: Sculptureum in Matakana with its sculpture gardens, art galleries and cafes. (rae)

Favorite local eatery: The Farmers Daughter at Pt Wells. (rae)

Favorite family treasure: All the artworks, including the photo gallery of our children’s weddings. (rae)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.