Postcard from Cari Gray, New York, October 2009
Successful Manhattanites Miles Refo and Hall Cannon spent three months scouring New Zealand before falling in love with an 1895 homestead, twenty minutes outside Christchurch on the South Island. Otahuna (224 Rhodes Road, Tai Tapu; Christchurch; 64-3-329-6333; www.otahuna.co.nz) means “Little Hill Among the Hills” in Maori. Its first owner was Sir Heaton Rhodes, an early and influential New Zealand parliamentarian who was one of the few white people at the turn of the century who could speak Maori (he lived at Otahuna for sixty years).
The building’s Queen Anne style exterior was intact, and is one of the best examples of that style of architecture in Australiasia. After four months of intensive renovations by some forty tradesmen, the new owners opened the heritage house in fall 2007. Together with Auckland designer Stephen Cashmore, they preserved the 1880s wallpaper in the dining room and kept the local Rimu wood paneling, Kauri tree staircase, fifteen fireplaces, and a ballroom which seats 64 and has a vaulted, paneled ceiling. There are seven guest rooms, including two master suites. The home also showcases a unique collection of New Zealand art, with over thirty pieces of commissioned sculptures and paintings, including many Maori works.
Otahuna is set on 30 acres dotted with peach, pear, plum, walnut and hazelnut trees. The owners are laboriously restoring the grounds with indigenous wood and plants, while head gardener Steve is raising vegetables, herbs, oyster mushrooms and even pigs—named after Playmates Kendra and Bridget, soon to both be renamed Proscuitto. Fabulous Chef Jimmy McIntyre works with gardeners to create menus as much as 6 months in advance. Local distractions include golf, cycling, fishing and touring out on the stunning Banks Peninsula to swim with the world’s smallest Hector’s dolphins.
Read our destination report on New Zealand