Inside the Lantern House: Why this globe-trotting couple made Waiheke Island their forever home


Two global citizens who dropped anchor in Waiheke Island continue to grab opportunities as soon as they come along in a home that melds identity and imagination.

Words: Claire Mccall Photos: Tessa Chrisp

When Jonathan Rutherfurd Best left New Zealand in the 1980s, he fled a parochial land riven by a Springbok Tour pitting neighbour against neighbour. In his heart he knew he wasn’t coming back anytime soon.

Some 30 years later, when he returned with his Hong Kong-born partner, Andrew Glenn, Aotearoa seemed like a different planet. In the interim, a food revolution had transformed the country into a culinary player that could mix it with the best.

At home on Waiheke, instead of strife between neighbours, the pair discovered a real sense of community. Moving from fast-paced careers overseas meant a change of pace, but they didn’t settle down completely. The cosmopolitan duo has too much fizz for that.

Jonathan Rutherfurd Best (left) and his husband Andrew Glenn have made Waiheke their forever home after many decades spent living and working abroad.

In London, Jonathan launched a critically acclaimed events production and catering company for clients mainly in the film, art, music, fashion and charity industries, teaming fantastical settings with good food.

“We catered wrap parties and premieres,” he says, “including events such as the MTV Music Awards and the British Fashion Awards. Those parties were the social media of the time; being photographed there was the way the latest film, or handbag, got into the papers.”

He first set eyes on Andrew, a marketing and communications executive for Louis Vuitton, at a meeting to discuss just such a glittering event. “Before that, I was serially single,” says Jonathan. “I’d been waiting for him all my life.”

Andrew and Jonathan sourced turn-of-the-century Sumba Island ikat fabrics from an antique fabrics dealer to create the cushion covers on the sofas. The Masport wood-burning stove features a customized steel frame.

Andrew, who had lived in Chicago and New York and for a period edited Tatler Hong Kong, was a big-city boy with an urban upbringing. As global marketing director for Topshop during his stint in Britain, he worked alongside Kate Moss, among other fashion icons.

High-profile gigs aside, he wasn’t entirely enamoured by the capital’s charms: “I hated the plane trees; they gave me terrible hay fever,” he recalls.

With a Hong Kong-Chinese mother and a Kiwi father, the New Zealand way of life was not alien. And, once the couple had promised Jonathan’s nieces and nephews that they would return here to live, well… they couldn’t go back on their word.

Opening The Oyster Inn in 2012 was a way to combine their skillsets — and bring seafood to the island. “We felt sure there’d be a fish restaurant here when we arrived but nope,” says Jonathan. It proved more than they bargained for. “At first, we thought we’d just pop in a couple of days a week,” says Andrew, “but it was the rare weekend that we had off.”

The all-consuming business had an upside: it quickly immersed them in the community. But although they had already bought land to build on, they could not focus on it. Five years later, when they sold the Inn, they turned their minds to that project. They called it The Lantern House.

Designed by Lance and Nicola Herbst of Herbst Architects, the home is a cohesive reflection of people and place that combines the flavour of a Kiwi holiday retreat with an Oriental overlay.

Descend the stairs from the front door, and it’s immediately serene. A 180-degree sweep of view takes in the curve of Onetangi Beach and, across the ocean, the rolling peninsula that wraps around Pie Melon Bay.

“We often see dolphins and whales,” says Jonathan. The land that drops away immediately in front of the open-plan living zone is clad in bush and alive with kererū, tūī, pīwakawaka and even a harrier hawk that regularly drifts across the V-shaped valley.

The Lantern House, designed by Herbst Architects, is so named for the visual transparency of its cedar-batten ‘skin’, which allows it to glow like a beacon at night. It cantilevers off a ridge 90 metres above Onetangi Bay on Waiheke Island.

“Lance and Nicky wisely advised us not to put a deck out front, or we’d end up staring at furniture and a railing, which would ruin the view,” says Andrew.

Instead, on the other side of the living room, sheltered from the wind whipping off the sea, is an internal courtyard where a reflection pond encourages a meditative mood. “Every night, the owls come and sit on the umbrella,” says Jonathan.

A third component that plays into the calm is the finishes: a sophisticated, dark-toned aesthetic. When Jonathan and Andrew suggested they collaborate on the design of the interiors, the architects, who had also become friends, said, “Give us your pitch.”

The couple arrived at a meeting armed with samples — a pared-back palette of teak, herringbone marble tiles and basalt stone amped up with elemental yellow brass for the kitchen cabinet fronts. They quickly won the architects’ go-ahead.

The men say reaching an agreement with each other has never been hard. “We’re on the same page 99 per cent of the time, but occasionally Andrew has a lapse in taste,” laughs Jonathan. If there is a one per cent foible or folly here, it’s difficult to spot. The place appears flawlessly curated.

With almost-black floors and ceilings, the furnishings are Eastern in origin and slip naturally into the scheme: an antique Chinese dining table takes centre stage near a Javanese teak cabinet filled with curiosities, such as marquetry boxes from Syria and 17th-century Sumatran medicine bottles.

A walkway lined in Japanese grasscloth and more cabinetry filled with Burmese food canisters and a collection of handmade Umbrian dinnerware leads to the bedroom wing where a work by Kiwi/Korean Jae Hoon Lee made up of 700 photographs of the moon is evocative and restful.

The pair couldn’t be happier with the house, which works well for just the two of them — they felt so fortunate to be here during lockdown — but it has also proved popular as a rental option.

Walls lined with woven Japanese grasspaper and a wardrobe with brass edging bring a certain chic to the main bedroom. Custom-designed accordion mosquito screens pull out across the steel windows to keep unwelcome visitors at bay. On the Dutch colonial table is Olivia Spencer Bower: Making her own Discoveries, a book by Julie King that explores the artist’s life and work.

Most days, though, while Andrew, who has set up as a hospitality and branding consultant, disappears off the island to meet with restaurateurs to help hire a team and advise on branding and menu creation, daytime visitors to The Lantern House are likely to be welcomed with tea (leaves not bags) and a fresh-from-the-oven date or apple loaf — now that Jonathan has time to bake.

“I’m at a phase in my life when I get to pursue passion projects,” he says. That includes consulting on the Waiheke Walking Festival 2021, where he has been asked to organize a dinner or two, and fundraising to acquire a piece by contemporary Māori sculptor Brett Graham from his show Tai Moana Tai Tangata as a permanent fixture in the Govett Brewster Gallery.

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“His work is a commentary on the Taranaki land wars and is culturally important to New Plymouth and the wider region,” says Jonathan, whose family are fifth-generation sheep farmers in the district.

When he’s not making fundraising phone calls, he has his hands in the earth closer to home, training a muehlenbeckia up the courtyard wall and coaxing the korokia above it to “grow into a cloud”.

Amid these native plantings and reflected in the pond, a traditional Chinese “moon gate” (sometimes called a moon window) is an eye-catching circular window to the world beyond — a plunge pool against a backdrop of the bush.

“We were a little worried it would be too kitsch,” says Andrew. No need, of course. Like everything this pair has brought their collective talents to, it has just the right touch of class. Explore the Lantern House here.

WAIHEKE FOOD FINDS

Now resident on the island for 10 years, Jonathan and Andrew say they are spoilt for choice regarding foodie experiences. Here are just a few of their favourites:

Island Coffee Roastery in Ostend opened in 1999. Pick up a bag or two of a favourite blend or get a morning wake-up call from the on-site café, The Annex.

Study the tide charts and head on down to the bay at Whakanewha Regional Park, where at low tide, it’s possible to gather cockles in the sand for a simple pasta alle vongole.

Jonathan and Andrew, who previously owned Waiheke’s The Oyster Inn, chat to current owners Josh and Helen Emett. 

Embark on an international taste adventure at Casita Miro, which specializes in Spanish cuisine. Try the Pimientos de Padron — spicy peppers roasted and served with salt and olive oil. But beware, it’s a culinary lottery as one in every 10 is likely to blow your head off.

The current owner of The Oyster Inn, Josh Emett, has kept the restaurant’s essence with classic, coastal-inspired dishes — but has added his inimitable style. “It sounds cliché, but we really can’t say enough about the island’s Te Matuku oysters… we think they’re among the best in the world. They were one of the reasons we opened The Oyster Inn,” says Andrew.

No party on the island is complete without Luxe Catering, headed by Anthony McNamara, previous head chef of The Oyster Inn, who Jonathan has known since he started out as a chef in London. Anthony and his wife Jenn Perry also supply the island with decadent pastries via their other business, Little Tart Bakery.

Coffee catch-ups with chef Anthony McNamara of Luxe Waiheke and coffee roaster and ceramicist Jane Burn of Island Coffee.

Stop for Bronwyn Laight’s sometimes vegan but consistently inventive and delicious fare at Three Seven Two — the pair’s “local”, right on Onetangi Beach.  Brent Mills’ handmade pasta at The Courtyard is also a locals’ favourite, and Andrew can’t go past the pan-roasted clams or the aged wakanui sirloin — medium rare, of course.

The couple is also impressed by the food trucks on the island, often headed by talented chefs spreading their wings after stints at the island’s top kitchens. “We love Indy’s Curry Pot for delicious Sri Lankan-style curries. The vegan version is a regular midweek go-to,” says Andrew.

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NZ Life and Leisure This article first appeared in NZ Life & Leisure Magazine.
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