The maximalist sensibility behind this Havelock North home sees it filled with meaningful collectables
Fifteen years ago, Stephen Eaton called his wife Aimee Stewart to tell her about a house he’d seen being built, raving about its crisp, clean lines and magnificent vistas. “I was slightly confused because the house in question was in Havelock North and at the time we lived in Christchurch,” says Aimee.
Add to that the fact that she didn’t know a lot about the Hawke’s Bay area, let alone the prosperous village of Havelock North and its natural, tree-lined charm. “I thought it was just kind of… sheep,” she says.
To be fair, the Hawke’s Bay of 15 years ago wasn’t the cosmopolitan wine, food and art mecca we know today, but Sileni Estates and Craggy Range were already beginning to get rave reviews, and Black Barn had opened five minutes away from the house. When Aimee flew up for the weekend, she was suitably charmed by the bucolic setting, the house being built to make the most of its panoramic view, the sunny climate, the nearby wine estates and the quaint village.
“Stephen was ready for a change,” she says. “He’d been a CEO for a long time and we were sick of the weather in Christchurch. I think that summer we’d had only 11 days when we’d woken up to a bright blue sky.”
Still, Aimee’s own career in Christchurch as buyer and store manager of Quinns Fashions was taking off, and wasn’t something that she was able to transplant. “I couldn’t quite understand what I’d do in Hawke’s Bay, but we bought the house and there was no looking back,” she says.
Designed by renowned local architect Raiford Gardiner, the flat-roofed, strong-lined house was nearly completed when they moved in, but the garden was still a paddock. “We decided to reflect the architecture in the top garden, creating something structural,” says Aimee. “We’re surrounded by a farm that’s very beautiful, so on the embankment below the top garden, the planning is much more wild, kind of like a secret garden.” There’s also the ‘working’ garden too – a vegetable garden, citrus grove and avocado trees. “Things grow like crazy in Hawke’s Bay,” says Aimee.
I couldn’t quite understand what I’d do in Hawke’s Bay,but we bought the house and there was no looking back.
With the gardens sorted, Aimee worked as a retail consultant while she got to know her new home. Then corporate opportunity knocked once more, and she joined EziBuy as national retail manager and spent two years travelling away from her country haven five or six days a week. Eventually, however, life on the road lost its charm.
“I realised I wanted to work with small-to-medium businesses that didn’t have access to retail strategy skills,” says Aimee, who went on to start full-service digital marketing company Connec+ with her operations manager from EziBuy. Six years on, with clients including Briarwood and Cathy Pope Jewellery, Aimee has finally integrated her professional and personal lives in Havelock North. The company also has offices in Palmerston North, Wellington and Christchurch.
Aimee’s home office has recently been refreshed; one wall is now covered in tropical wallpaper. “I wanted something more inspiring than white, not too pinky-pinky but still fun, and that reflected the green of outside,” she says. Chrissie Moore of Chrissie Moore Interiors found the perfect solution in the form of La Palma by Catherine Martin for Mokum.
A self-proclaimed maximalist and believer in the high-low concept for décor, in this space Aimee uses a side table from Kmart for both display (on top) and storage (underneath). The large partners’ desk allows two to sit at either side, and “it also means my cat can sleep on it and I still have room to work,” says Aimee. Said cat, Sappho, is an important member of the Connec+ team and a hit on Instagram. “I have an influencer cat. People send her things! It’s a crazy world out there.”
That maximalist aesthetic extends into the open-plan living area, leading into which is a circular table used as a surface for displaying beloved family photos and heirlooms. “When Stephen’s dad passed away two years ago, Stephen really wanted to keep this table where they’d sat and had dinner as a family,” says Aimee.
These days, meals are served nearby at a rectangular table custom-made by a local woodturner who has since retired. “We took him pictures of what we wanted and he made it for the space,” says Aimee. The spindle-back Vosper dining chairs, another Eaton family heirloom, were produced in Nelson in the 19th century and originally belonged to the Nelson Cathedral.
The small artworks surrounding the doorway to the living area are all by Karyn Stewart, one of Aimee’s five sisters, who studied at Elam School of Fine Arts. Another sister, Darlene Riggs, is an interior designer who’s responsible for pointing Aimee in the right direction with many of the home’s sumptuous soft furnishings.
Words by: Nadine Rubin Nathan. Photography by: Helen Bankers.