Would you like to stay in the Amelia Earhart room, or the Fred and Ginger room? Take a tour inside this fabulous Hawkes Bay Art Deco homestead
Sometimes even the best-laid plans have to move aside for what some call ‘fate’, and others ‘good luck’. When Colin and Emma Hadden moved from Ireland to Hawke’s Bay in 2013, they planned to find work in the farming industry. But when dairy prices crashed, they changed tack and looked into orcharding instead.
The couple searched for a house and lifestyle business for a long time, but nothing seemed right. Then they heard about a B&B called Meadowood. “When we drove up the drive, even before we saw the house, we got a good feeling and said, ‘This is it,’” recalls Emma. “The trees and gardens; they’re so like home. Properties in New Zealand with those mature gardens don’t come on the market that often.”
In fact, this house wasn’t even on the market. A friend in real estate had suggested the couple take a look, and they fell in love with it despite themselves. “It wasn’t about the house,” Emma says. “When we saw the house we weren’t mad about it because it was ice-cream pink, which was very polarising to say the least.” The Haddens managed to purchase the property in a private sale and the four-bedroom 1930s homestead was theirs.
The property, dubbed Meadowood House in the 1960s, has been reinvigorated under the Haddens’ care. While the interior had been refurbished by the previous owners with help from interior designers Bibby + Brady, Emma and Colin overhauled the exterior. The ice-cream pink made way for cobalt blue, a choice inspired by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent’s famous Marrakech home, Villa Oasis. The Haddens have also planted a sizeable apple orchard on their lush section.
In the garden, the pair did “a phenomenal amount of work”, ripping up lawns and fences in favour of raised flower beds, paved patios and intimate seating areas. Colin did a lot of this work himself with the help of family friend and tradie Sebastian Logan. “I’m a complete and utter black thumb,” says Emma. “I’m not allowed near the garden.”
For the patio, Colin wanted to create an aged effect in keeping with the house, so instead of using pavers he made individual frames and poured concrete into them. Once the concrete was set, he pulled up the frames and filled the gaps with red stones.
The front and back entrances of Meadowood were switched around and the parking area was moved to the front of the property, to make the back garden feel more peaceful. “The previous layout with cars parked beside the house was unsightly and it got really mucky if it rained,” explains Emma.
Finally, the couple changed the accommodation offered at Meadowood from B&B to a whole-house-for-hire, and quickly abolished the ‘no kids or pets’ rule. “We just thought, ‘This house has the potential to be such fun,’” says Emma.
They ripped down all the old signs, scoured the op-shops for accessories, and named each room after a different 1930s icon. They also turned an unused sitting area into a whiskey room. “My husband and I are both Irish and a house isn’t a home unless you can offer a guest a tipple of Jameson,” laughs Emma.
Change of plans
When the Haddens first bought Meadowood, the property had six acres (2.4 hectares) of grapevines which were leased by the neighbouring vineyard. Unfortunately, three weeks after they purchased, the vineyard was sold and the couple couldn’t get anyone else to lease the vines. Knowing nothing about viticulture, Emma and Colin had to come up with an alternative income source to keep up with mortgage repayments.
Colin’s idea to add glamping to their accommodation offering has been a winner. “This year it’s nearly taken over from the house bookings. It’s been phenomenally successful,” Emma says. She wasn’t initially keen on Colin’s suggestion to buy tents for a glamping zone, so it was a surprise to her when four tents turned up on the doorstep – but it all worked out in the end.
“After thinking that selling wine was the be all and end all, the change actually turned out to be quite a plus,” Emma says. “We’re next door to Zeffer Cider Co and our two brands really complement each other. The demographics for the cidery and glamping are very similar.”
They’ve also replaced the grapevines with apple trees, which they hope to export in a few years. “It’s ended up being a blessing. We’d always intended to put in an orchard eventually but that just happened sooner than planned.”
Gardening might not be Emma’s thing, but interiors and taking care of the glamping are “her babies” [as well as her actual baby, Ross, who was born not long after this photoshoot].
In the glamping zone, Lotus Belle tents are fitted out with comfortable queen beds and quality linen. Outside, showerheads emerge directly from tree trunks, and lights are strung through trees. “At night time it looks like a fairytale. It’s fabulous,” Emma says.
A garage was turned into a speakeasy-style bar by Colin and filled with op-shop finds by Emma. The idea was to have a space for glampers to relax “if the weather wasn’t playing ball”. Inside there’s a projector and a range of black-and-white movies; outside a spa and brazier, with marshmallows for toasting. “It’s all very romantic.”
Rather than let all those romantic vibes go to waste, the entrepreneurial couple have also turned the property into a wedding venue, purchasing a marquee so that couples need only worry about catering (flowers can be picked from the gardens). In their first season they hosted three weddings – even managing when little Ross arrived two days before the first.
The Haddens are not the first to raise a family at Meadowood. The property has had just four owners since it was built in 1934 as a replacement for the farm homestead damaged by the 1931 Napier earthquake. The house was built in stages on a bare paddock, while the owners made do in a tent. They also planted the stand of trees which now surrounds the home.
Colin and Emma, with baby Ross and four-year-old Ivy, live in a small two-bedroom cottage behind Meadowood, which they’ll eventually replace with a larger home. It was a tight squeeze moving from a five-bedroom house, so a lot of the couple’s furniture and artwork has found a place inside the main house.
With no hospitality experience, the pair have had to get used to hosting guests, although Emma had worked in PR and communications previously. “Pulling events together and looking after guests is not dissimilar to PR,” she says. “And we still have a lot of privacy around our cottage so it works fine.”
Ivy adores it, too – she has an amazing garden to play in and interesting people to meet. Often Emma will discover her daughter has already shown guests around before she can get to them, and loves how at home she feels. “I like to think both my kids will grow up here,” she says.
A folder containing contributions from the house’s previous owners includes details of pipes laid and plants grown, and the original owners’ grandchildren visited recently. The remains of their grandmother’s kiln are still in the garden – just a pile of red bricks – and Emma often finds pieces of homemade pottery in the garden. “When we do eventually build, I want to incorporate that red brick into a feature wall,” she says.
The family adore the sense of history that surrounds their home. “We honestly feel like we are custodians of this property and all its history. We absolutely love it and we’re going to look after it for as long as we can. We truly feel that Meadowood found us.”
Words by: Fiona Ralph. Photography by: Florence Charvin.