The weather was crisp and sunny for the drive through Days Bay to the wrought-iron gates that enclose the colourful manse where Karen Brown lives with her husband, their dog Jackie and their three cats, Chocolate, Vanilla and Blueberry.
The impressive home, believed to have been constructed between 1917 and 1919, was one of the earliest houses in Days Bay. Though the villa is a little late to be included in the Victorian era, it contains many characteristics of that period, including its large exterior pillars, high ceilings and arched doorways.
The Browns moved into the home 13 years ago to be closer to family in the area, wanting their two daughters “to grow up where cousins, aunties and grannies live within two or three minutes’ walk”. Like the home’s previous owners, the Browns have been (and still are) undertaking their own renovations, which they began with Karen’s much-loved kitchen.
Entering the kitchen is very much like experiencing a time warp to the 1950s. The kitsch room is light, spacious and beautifully decorated with a striking chequered floor, mellowed by feature colours of pastel green and pink.
The bench is adorned with various quirky ornaments and crafts, many of which Karen created herself. One of the stand-out pieces includes a little shop stand, into which a collection of miniature pastries has been placed. The kitchen was critical to Karen, as, amongst other things, she loves to bake fruit pies for her guests: “It’s a really good house to entertain in, and I like doing that.”
As you walk through the foyer and into the living area, the decor changes dramatically, with the room reminiscent of a natural history museum. Above the fireplace, taxidermy animals look out towards a tangerine couch covered in cushions printed with praying mantises and puffer fish. Atop a set of drawers is a mini ecosystem including insects, moss, birdcages and sticks.
The living room itself is also legendary. Most accounts have it that a wealthy family who owned the house in the 1950s built the space to hold operatic performances. A mezzanine level was part of this addition, and it is from here that the audience allegedly looked down on the performers. Whether that’s accurate or not, the living room is decidedly grand and certainly stirs the imagination.
The master bathroom provides a counterpoint: ultra-modern, it includes a deep bath with a tap that creates an illuminated rainbow waterfall effect when running. On the same floor, the unusual addition of a miniature library also adds interest: “A great house has to have lots of books in it. Lots and lots of books!” The upper level is also the best area to absorb the spectacular view from the deck that overlooks the bay. Waking to the sounds of the birds singing and the waves crashing is one of Karen’s favourite things about her fascinating home.
About Holly Bagge
Holly has recently moved back to her home city after spending four years at Otago University completing her Bachelor of Arts in art history and media studies. She spends her days fuelling the public’s caffeine addiction as a barista and hanging out at FishHead Towers fitting into her interning position. Bagge’s position include visiting art galleries, reading, drinking tea obsessively and watching back-to-back episodes of Peep Show. She is a connoisseur of zombie films, one of her favourites being the original Dawn of the Dead. Much to her dismay, her last name is pronounced “bag” as in “plastic bag”.
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