Globe-trotting couple Bentley de Beyer and Dean Sharpe’s homes with heart
Traveling frequently between homes in the United States and two in both New Zealand and Sri Lanka, keeps this international couple from falling into the groove of predictable living.
Words: Kate Coughlan
Photos: Rachael Hale McKenna (Crown Terrace) and Tessa Chrisp (Orua Bay)
Bentley de Beyer, head of human resources for the global supply chain of a New Jersey-based healthcare company, wondered why he had to keep returning to Bloomingdales to buy more linen before every trip to his homes around the globe.
“What on earth is going on?” he asked his husband Dean Sharpe as he delivered yet another suitcase filled with high thread-count linen when they met for a much-needed break at their beachside home on the south side of the Manukau Harbour.
“We need three sets per bed for every house: one set on the bed, one in the wash, one as back up. I think we can sleep eighty guests at once now,” explained Dean, an interior designer, who says NYC is the best place to buy linen.
“…On sale,” advises Bentley.
“Absolutely,” agrees Dean, although he has recently discovered the Frette (luxury linen) outlet store in rural New Jersey. This news is slightly alarming to Bentley as it is but a short drive from their main home in New York’s Hoboken district and he imagines he will be sent, yet-again, on linen-buying excursions.
Ever since they met in Auckland 14 years ago, when Bentley was head of HR for Qantas and the newly launched New Zealand Jetstar operation, and Dean was managing his interior design and retail business Revolution Interiors, and established their first home together, they’ve had two goals uppermost in mind.
They want their homes to be an expression of the place in which they are located and to offer (both themselves, friends and family) a respite from the busyness of working lives. For both men, those careers have been very intensive and very successful.
Their move to New York two years ago from Singapore follows Bentley’s promotion within his company to his current role where he has responsibility for 60,000 plus employees across the globe. The move is the latest in a long line of country hops accommodating his fast-moving career.
For Bentley, an economics and industrial relations degree from the University of Sydney led to a University of Cambridge scholarship studying management, then a segue into banking before heading into the world of human resources – firstly with Qantas – and now in international human resources management.
Dean has built a reputation in high-end interior design in the countries where the couple lives: Singapore, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and now the US. His career has included jobs such as senior interior designer of five-star luxury hotels from the Mandarin Oriental to Ritz-Carlton, private clients in New York State and the rebuild of a tumbled-down, bat-filled, coral-walled house in an Asian jungle.
“The most dangerous thing Dean ever says is, ‘I just want to look at this property because of its architectural merit’,” says Bentley. There’s been more than one addition to the couple’s property portfolio asa result of those innocent words including that abandoned tea planter’s estate near Galle on Sri Lanka’s south coast which they were visiting for a wedding.
Dean, who admires the work of tropical modernist architect Geoffrey Bawa, had heard there was a fine house in the vicinity but was told it was falling down. Long story short – and two properties in Sri Lanka later – they have a toehold in the monkey-filled jungle as well as a small urban house.
To be fair, the fault can’t be laid solely at Dean’s door. His strong pull to architectural merit is evenly matched by Bentley’s addiction to online real-estate cruising.
“It is definitely a problem! Wherever we are, I’m always looking at interesting properties for sale in the area, and the best potential areas in which to buy,” says Bentley.
The gods were smiling on that summer evening in Auckland 15 years ago, when a mutual friend hosted drinks to introduce the newly arrived young Aussie (Bentley) to some interesting Auckland bachelors (including Dean). They discovered an instant rapport and found they had a shared appreciation of architecture, art and design.
Should Bentley have been able to slip through the looking glass into Dean’s past, he’d have realized his husband-to-be started early in life translating his passion and developing his talent in these areas. Dean grew up in Thames where ‘international interior design’ wasn’t on the school careers’ option list.
“I was a small kid in a small rural town and it didn’t seem that there’d ever be a career in what I loved doing. I regularly drove my mother mad during the holidays rearranging the furniture or refolding all the towels in the linen cupboard.”
“I’ve seen Dean and his Mum folding towels together,” says Bentley, “and it is one of the most intimidating things you’ll ever see in your life. The military precision is unbelievable.”
Another Thames family, that owned a Cook Sargisson-designed house, recognized Dean’s talent and encouraged him to believe he had a future in design.
“It was the first time I’d seen something like it, a beautifully designed home, and that family kept pushing me to follow my interest.”
Dean and Ben’s union is a perfect meeting of talents: Bentley’s online real-estate research complements Dean’s gift for creating peace and harmony wherever they end up purchasing. Or, as in the case with their latest project, building on the Crown Terrace above the Gibbston Valley overlooking the panorama of the Wakatipu Basin.
(Food preparation is one thing this otherwise seamless couple do not do well simultaneously, so they take turns in the kitchen with responsibility for individual parts of the meal allowing one to be always with their guests.)
That they’re very particular about their properties is no surprise given the dedication that goes into them, and the soul they achieve. Their New York apartment, naturally, has a movie-classic Manhattan skyline view.
“Why would you live in New York and not have that iconic view? This kid from Sydney still has to pinch himself when he wakes to see the sun rise over the Empire State building,” says Bentley.
In New Zealand, they celebrate the specialness of the surroundings too. Their Gordon Moller-designed Orua Bay home on the Manukau Harbour is a modern reinterpretation of the quintessential Kiwi bach complete with wraparound decking while the newly completed Fearon Hay-designed home on Crown Terrace is set in a vast mountain amphitheatre – without another building to compete with the remarkableness of the Remarkable Ranges nor the ‘peakiness’ of Walter and Cecil Peaks.
Bentley: “Dean has a genius for shaping wonderful spaces. The joy in our houses is that every bit of every space is used. Living in the States we get to visit vast houses and we’ve learned that big might not be better. People tell us, ‘Our house is 12,000 sq m and we have 12 bathrooms’ and you find that they never go into half the rooms.”
Bentley would be a New Zealander if nationality were conferred by the place of conception (his father was here launching the Levis brand at the time) and he is a New Zealander for love – not only for love of Dean, whom he married in Auckland in 2011, but also for love of the country. It is where both men want to ultimately live should they ever decide to settle into just one home.
It is New Zealand that calls to them from many places in the world. As Bentley overlooked the frozen Hudson River just prior to Christmas last year, he dreamed of sitting on the deck at Orua Bay, toes threaded into jandals, torso clad in a polo shirt and wearing shorts while he and Dean planned a barbecue dinner with family and friends.
“Bentley and I both work very hard and these places give us a chance to recharge and re-energize ready to get back into it again,” says Dean.
Bentley: “I do a total digital detox every year over our New Zealand summer and it’s very important as modern technology is constantly at us, pinging away every hour of every day.
My New York life is intense, and I have a global job, although I am always aware of how privileged we are to live in that amazing city and apartment. But to come here to our New Zealand homes allows us a complete decompression. And we need it. Everyone does. In HR we know that effective energy management and real downtime is going to be the new precious thing. The new gold.”
DEAN’S TIPS FOR A HARMONIOUS HOME
Don’t compete with nature: The walls in our Crown Terrace house are painted Resene ‘Bokara Grey’ (a dark brown, charcoal black) so as not to compete with the dramatic views. Their depth of colour enhances the drama of what is outside.
Don’t go for the wall-to-wall view: A view is better framed as it directs the gaze and intensifies the impact.
Use scented candles: My favourite is a scent called Tintagel from Sri Lanka. Also turn on sidelights before dark to make the home feel cosy as the sun goes down.
Think hard before adopting an open-plan layout: In Queenstown I’ve kept the kitchen behind a wall. Not everyone wants to entertain in the kitchen and not all guests enjoy watching their hosts chop the veggies. Who likes looking at a messy kitchen or dirty dishes during dinner?
Don’t build big guest-room wardrobes: Most guests only stay for a few days so let them have more space and smaller wardrobes perhaps even an open hanging space.
Avoid having ‘the latest thing’: Slavish following of fashion tends to quickly date homes. New Zealanders are extraordinarily early and complete adopters of whatever’s ‘in’ and it’s exciting but often to our disadvantage. The latest thing is not necessarily going to last the distance.
Collect only what you love: Wait for what you want and don’t just buy something to fill a gap.
DESIGN IS A DESTINATION
Dean’s latest business venture Archistay.com is an international online platform for exceptional design-driven properties available for longer-stay rental aimed at those with a serious interest in architecture and fine art.
“We know, from our world travels, that it’s hard to find wonderful homes that embody the essence of their location,” says Dean.
Owners of such properties are often happy to share them, but don’t know how to find the right sort of guests to value their location, architecture, design and decor. “That’s what Archistay is about; putting together the right homes with appreciative clients. It’s not just about a weekend at the beach or a three-night stay in Queenstown.”
Dean and Bentley’s Crown Terrace and Orua Bay homes are available to rent on the site as are other unique international properties.