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  • The brown’s kit­chen includes a small but prom­in­ent pastry shop stand — some of the cakes are painstak­ing mini­ature rep­licas of a French baker­’s products

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.

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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