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!