FishHead sees how the other half lives as Liz Odey and Caroline Atkinson explore the Wellington residence of the German Ambassador.

Diplomatic address

An exterior view of the grand mock-Tudor house from the back lawn

A German flag is proudly displayed outside the Ambassador's residence

Anne-Marie and Cheng relax in the stunning reception room

The soft decor of the old billiard room

The main reception room at the Ambassador's home

The recently refurbished guest bathroom

The rimu-wood stairway leads up to the Ambassador's private quarters

The Steinway piano is often used at concerts hosted in the main reception room

A large Redcliff stone fireplace keeps the house cosy in colder months

Soft flowers decorate and brighten the home

China and silverware owned by the German government are used to dress the table

  • An exter­i­or view of the grand mock-Tudor house from the back lawn
The 20-room res­id­ence of the Ger­man Ambas­sad­or is as grand as you would ima­gine: sprawl­ing lawns, ten­nis court, mul­tiple sit­ting rooms, a pur­pose-built cater­ing kit­chen, and both busi­ness and private liv­ing quar­ters. As we walked into the house, the interi­or presen­ted per­fectly white fur­niture set against dark rimu-wood pan­el­ling — not a cush­ion was out of place in the impress­ive Tudor-style house.

The prop­erty serves not only as a home for Ger­man Ambas­sad­or Dr Anne-Mar­ie Schleich and her retired bar­ris­ter hus­band, Cheng Guan Tan, but also as a work­ing res­id­ence and place of busi­ness. While the entire top half of the house is used as the Ambassador’s private quar­ters, the lower half is regarded as the ‘offi­cial quar­ters’, where guests can mix and mingle in a vari­ety of rooms. As we sit in the old bil­liard room, Anne-Mar­ie explains how the role of an ambas­sad­or has a lot to do with meet­ing people, net­work­ing and enter­tain­ing, most of which is done in their home.

When din­ner parties are hos­ted at the res­id­ence, guests include mem­bers of polit­ic­al parties, busi­ness­men and women, as well as oth­er ambas­sad­ors and high com­mis­sion­ers. New Zea­l­and and Ger­man chefs often cater din­ner parties, where a mix of New Zea­l­and and Ger­man dishes and wine are served. Fish­Head spot­ted bottles of Giesen and Schubert wine in the cater­ing kit­chen, as well as an assort­ment of oth­er pop­u­lar Ger­man and New Zea­l­and wines.

The prop­erty was built in 1931 by Dr G.W. Harty, and bought by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment in 1958 to house ambas­sad­ors dur­ing their New Zea­l­and post­ings. Anne-Mar­ie has been the Ger­man Ambas­sad­or to New Zea­l­and since August 2012, and has had pre­vi­ous post­ings in Mel­bourne, Bangkok, Ber­lin, Lon­don, Pakistan and Singa­pore, where she met her hus­band. When Fish­Head asked where she would be pos­ted next, Anne-Mar­ie explained that you can express interest in dif­fer­ent loc­a­tions, but you don’t really know where you will be pos­ted, and that that’s one of the excit­ing things about being a rep­res­ent­at­ive of your country.

As the res­id­ence is owned by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment, so too is all the fur­niture in the lower level of the house. To make the house feel more like a home, Anne-Mar­ie has dis­played some of her own pic­tures in the din­ing room, includ­ing repro­duc­tions of works by the icon­ic Ger­man paint­er Georg Basel­itz, Aus­trali­an artist Brett Whiteley and Eng­lish artist Wil­li­am Turn­bull. The house has under­gone recent renov­a­tions, includ­ing earth­quake-strength­en­ing, improv­ing insu­la­tion with double-glazed win­dows and roof tiles made of recycled tyres, and the pro­vi­sion of wi-fi through­out. While some interi­or paint­ing and tim­ber­work have been refin­ished, the bones of the house remain true to their ori­gin­al state.

Last year was an excit­ing year for the Ger­man Embassy, as it was the 60th anniversary cel­eb­ra­tion of rela­tions between Ger­many and New Zea­l­and. Anne-Mar­ie and Cheng have thor­oughly enjoyed their time in Wel­ling­ton, espe­cially our vibrant culture.

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