Seatoun families open doors for Neonatal Trust tour

Homeowners in a prime Wellington’s seaside suburb are opening their doors to help some of the country’s smallest babies.

Words: Lee-Anne Duncan Photos: Tessa Chrisp / various

Seaside Seatoun and Breaker Bay are sun-soaked suburbs and therefore home to some of Wellington’s most valuable residences.
They’re still connected to the city yet are far enough away to for fine family living on mostly flat sections within the smell of salty sea breezes. Some of the area’s most stylish family homes are opening their doors to benefit other families, specifically those with babies born premature or sick at full term.

The Welcome Home – Home and Garden Tour run by The Neonatal Trust, on October 28, will raise money for resources to support families through stressful and anxious times. The trust also helps fund crucial research on clinical practice to improve these babies’ outcomes, such as that carried out by neonatologist superstar Dr. Max Berry.
There are 10 homes on the tour as well as local artists and food and drink producers. Justine Brooker from The Neonatal Trust says featuring homes has extra significance for them.
“Taking your precious baby home for the very first time is a big step in any new parent’s journey, but especially so if that child has spent time in a neonatal unit,” she says.
“We want to highlight and celebrate homes – especially homes where babies have grown into children then young adults. Along with innovative architecture, stylish décor and art, these homes also have so many happy family memories.”

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Seatoun resident and owner of Harry’s Boutique Liz Stringer is opening her four-bedroom, two-storey, architecturally designed home and guesthouse. Liz’s home, which featured in Issue 70 of NZ Life & Leisure, was built in 2008, taking over the site of her previous family home.
“We had the plans drawn up to renovate our old house while we were living overseas and the house was rented out. But we realised we weren’t going to get what we wanted so we decided to pull the house down and rebuild.”

Liz loves her black and white, but green glass is another favourite. “It has to be exactly the right shade of green, and preferably mid-century Murano.”

The result is a crisp, contemporary modern home that’s built for families, especially families – like Liz, with three now young adult children – who love to entertain. The open plan kitchen and casual dining-sitting area are enormous and sun-filled, with cabinetry and shelving designed to display Liz’s beloved white china. Off the kitchen is an impressive and practical scullery, with more shelving for yet more white china and all the necessary kitchen mod-cons.
There is also a more formal – very comfortable – lounge and dining area with yet another sitting area for an after-dinner digestive. And it’s all built to last.
“We do say the house is bullet proof, I mean look at the wooden floor – so many high heels have walked over it, and it’s fine!” says Liz. “I couldn’t even guess how many people we’ve had through this house. We had something like 250 people for the housewarming, and many didn’t leave until 5 am. And for the kids’ birthdays, when they were younger we would roll out rugs on the lawn and have people over to eat pizza.”

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The garden, unseen from the front, is a flat and perfect lawn, surrounded by shade trees and topiaries, creating a sense of formal style and fun. Inside, the walls are glorious with the efforts of New Zealand and international artists, while the light fittings and mass of collectibles sing of Liz’s stylish eye and the family’s wide travels.
Tour guests will leave with their heads crammed with styling and decorating ideas from Liz’s home, and the nine others featured. And that’s why many people go on such tours, says home stylist Francesca from Showroom, an accessories store and in-home styling service partnering with The Neonatal Trust on the tour.

Reflecting Liz’s favourite colours is her Raymond McIntyre 1913 portrait (on the console, bottom left) called Harmony in Black, Green and White, a very knowing gift from Rob.

“It’s like real life Pinterest,” she says. “We all like to peek at how other people live, looking for ideas and inspiration we can use in our own homes.
“Design magazines and websites are great, but you know there’s always a certain amount of staging, and it’s chaos behind the camera. Tours let you pick up inspiration in real life. They also give you permission to spend time in a space, appreciating and respecting the huge effort homeowners go to make their houses beautiful.”
And there’s plenty of beauty on show. There are completely renovated century-old homes (including one that was once the Prime Ministerial residence of Norm Kirk) or ultra new homes that are toddlers in comparison. Edgewater Lodge, which was a favourite rental for the cast and crew of The Hobbit movies, is also open to the tour.

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Before Francesca set up Showroom, she was a nurse and spent 13 years in Wellington’s neonatal unit. “I’d always wanted to combine my love of design with my desire to help pre-term babies and the important work The Neonatal Trust does. Being involved in running this tour has allowed me to do that.”
Both Fran and Justine hope Wellingtonians will come along to the Welcome Home – Home and Garden Tour to support a great cause but also enjoy a fun day out. Along with the house eye-candy, people on the tour will taste food and drink offerings from local food heroes.
They can also admire the art of local artists Jane Blackmore and Juliet Best, from Blackmore and Best Art Gallery, and that of Donna Cross and Scott Robinson at Three Eyes Gallery. Donna also has her adjoining house in the tour.
“It’s a really impressive mix of homes in terms of size, design, décor, and style. And I love it’s on the south coast, that you open many of the doors and the wild coast is right there,” says Francesca.
“All the homeowners have been so happy to be involved. This tour is a great way of respecting and acknowledging the effort they have put into creating their beautiful spaces, while raising money for families going through an extremely difficult time.”

Francesca Storey

The Welcome Home – House and Garden Tour for The Neonatal Trust is on October 28. Tickets are on sale now from The Neonatal Trust’s website.

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