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  • Ral­ph Green and Let­iz­ia Colum­bano on the drive­way in front of their grand home

Instead of think­ing about liv­ing the dream, Ral­ph Green and Let­iz­ia Colum­bano really are liv­ing it. With their son, the couple pur­chased the Green­mantle Estate Lodge in early 2012 as a coun­try home. But instead of keep­ing the breath­tak­ing estate all to them­selves, they have kindly decided to share it with the rest of the world, stra­tegic­ally mer­ging lux­ury liv­ing with work. As Green sug­gests, “It’s both a home and a busi­ness. We have both spent many years tele-work­ing so you have this idea of work­ing from home, but why not make the home work as well.” The couple let five of their six suites for vari­ous pur­poses: wed­dings, busi­ness meet­ings, func­tions and as a haven to those who wish to escape busy city life.

The impress­ive estate was built in 1942 by New Zea­l­and pho­to­graph­er Mar­ie Dean as a private home. It did not open as a lodge until 2000, when the build­ing was exten­ded from 180 to 900 square metres. The lodge has always had a col­our­ful his­tory: it has even been owned by a gen­tle­man who bred pea­cocks. It also served as a show garden, which included a hot­house for grow­ing roses for the Wel­ling­ton market.

The home is full of exquis­ite pieces col­lec­ted from New Zea­l­and and fur­ther afield. These include a large hunk of kauri gum rest­ing on the piano in the draw­ing room, an early Stew­art Dawsons antique clock and an ori­gin­al Chinese ances­tral painting.

The fam­ily din­ing room, which doubles as a guest eat­ing area, offers a spec­tac­u­lar set­ting, with its rich, deep purple col­our­ing con­trast­ing with a white bal­us­trade and Juliet bal­cony. The space is com­pli­men­ted by a sol­id oak din­ing table and match­ing chairs.

Among the more extra­vag­ant aspects of the home are the large out­door swim­ming pool, enorm­ous envi­able kit­chen, private gym and heli­copter land­ing pad. The couple also have their own park­ing space for private jets at Par­a­pa­raumu air­port. Colum­bano jok­ingly (or not so jok­ingly) says that she is still wait­ing for the day when George Clooney or Tom Cruise fly in to stay.

One of the couple’s favour­ite things about their home is the open­ness and air­i­ness that it provides through the large spa­cious liv­ing areas and the streams of light that pool through the many win­dows “It’s the sense of con­tinu­ous space and light that sort of cap­tures me all the time.”

How­ever, the cake-taker for Colum­bano is the estate’s extens­ive nīkau palm forest, which (includ­ing the neighbour’s sec­tion) the couple believe is the largest in the south­ern hemi­sphere. Nestled serenely amongst the tower­ing palms is an out­door spa bath where one can relax listen­ing to the song of nat­ive birds whilst breath­ing in the fresh air of the forest. What a life!


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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