With festive ducks floating in the pool and not a snowman to be seen, this home is ready for a relaxed South Pacific Christmas
As one of seven kids, Alanna Haysmith knows there’s never enough room for the whole family to sit around the dining table on Christmas Day. Fortunately, her parents’ spectacular Epsom home is the perfect party pad. Designed by architect Lawrence Sumich and completed in 2012, the sprawling 3000-square-metre property was conceived as a way to entice the family back together – and not just for Christmas. With two separate dwellings flanking a pool, pavilion and tropical grass area, there’s plenty of space for Alanna and her parents, two sons, five brothers and sister, plus their partners, to spread out, play games and most importantly, eat.
“My dad gets up really early on Christmas Day to prepare a big turkey. He cooks incredible roast veges but he gets the kitchen covered in oil, like a slick. It’s all about food and presents and hanging out with a few drinks.”
Event planner Alanna ‘the Planner’ and her friend Lisa Courtney of The Pretty Baker had a blast decorating the house for the Your Home and Garden Festive Home Tour, which is raising funds for child cancer sufferers throughout the South Pacific. The cause is close to the family’s heart as they regularly holiday in Fiji, a love affair evident in the home’s airy, resort-style design. Because of that, Alanna and Lisa knew fake snow and reindeer didn’t belong.
“That’s the thing with Christmas in New Zealand,” says Alanna. “You try to incorporate all these traditional elements and they don’t really work for our lifestyle. The property is a tropical paradise so we wanted to put a spin on the traditional Christmas look.”
The result is what she calls a “tropical luxe” theme, full of playful elements. When she styled her brother’s wedding, also held on the property, she put 21 rubber ducks in the swimming pool. They’ve become somewhat of a family symbol, so she knew she’d have to incorporate them in her Christmas decorations, by making them individual cracker hats. As for the blow-up ‘Merry’ letters bobbing in the pool’s moat, they wouldn’t stand straight in the wind, so her dad and husband devised a clever weighted system to keep them afloat.
“I just thought we could foam-tape them to the wall!”
Inside, Alanna and Lisa chose glamorous golds, coppers and lush greens for the main living area, yet the decorations still feel whimsical. A large glass pineapple by artist Luke Jacomb provides the dining table centrepiece, offset by quirky flamingo motifs on the table runner and Christmas crackers, both made from wrapping paper. Japanese elements have been incorporated into the table setting, with oval plates and origami napkins. Recycled candle votives were used as vases.
“Luxe doesn’t need to mean expensive,” she says. “We wanted to mix very high-end pieces with homemade or budget, store-bought items.” Rather than a traditional Christmas pine tree in the living area, Alanna was determined to use a native tawapou. “I got what I wanted but the first tree was way too big,” she laughs.
A second attempt was a better fit, so she had the tree cut into a conical shape and strung with cardboard and cookie decorations. Next she created a ‘drinks station’ in the living room, dressed up with plates of cookies and nuts, champagne glasses and candles. At night, the custom-built shelves light up, giving the room a Christmassy glow.
Above the shelves she’s in the process of hanging her homemade Christmas stockings – one for each member of her big brood, despite her dad joking they’re too small to fit anything decent. Rather than the usual North Pole-inspired stockings, Alanna chose a combination of sophisticated and fun fabrics and knocked them up herself. “I’m not a sewer,” she says. “I’m one of those people who couldn’t be bothered doing it if it had to be done properly. It’s quite slapdash but in a way that’s what makes it special.”
It’s the advent calendars in the formal lounge and guest bedroom that steal the show. The former is a gorgeous flatpacked variety that needs assembling, the latter a DIY version Alanna created out of paper bags. “You could put a lolly or nut in each one and maybe, in the very last one, a ring,” she says.
Words by: Rebecca Barry. Photos by: Todd Eyre.