For the owners of this sprawling Taranaki holiday home, comfort – not least that of their many house guests – is paramount. We meet the interior designer who has helped them realise their vision in magnificent style
In his early 20s, Michael Mansvelt worked at Britain’s largest privately owned home. His job was to look after guests who, on arrival, were shown to their rooms where vases of fresh flowers had just been placed and fires lit. Everything was taken care of – from their first just-shaken martini to the fowl they brought in from the hunt. Hospitality was in proportion to scale – no small detail was left undone in an estate the size of a small village.
Michael, now a landscaper, interior designer and interior architect, says that this type of hospitality is at a level “we don’t really know of in New Zealand”. Yet he has the privilege of experiencing something similar every time he visits the clients who own St Georges by the Sea, a coastal clifftop holiday home just south of New Plymouth.
It’s not unusual for owners Ed Newton and Linda Hasenfratz to arrive on an early morning flight from their permanent base in Canada, and then by 10am to be hosting a lavish breakfast for a house full of people who have just poured in the door.
“They are amazing entertainers,” says Michael. “From the day they arrive, the house will be full. Linda, who was nominated CEO of the Year in Canada last year, and heads a multi-billion-dollar company with 26,000 staff, can still get off a flight, put on a pretty dress and make a beautiful eggs Benedict breakfast for 30 people. It just amazes me. Everything they do is about comfort and making people comfortable and that’s what I love doing, so we get on well.”
St Georges by the Sea is the holiday home the couple and their children retreat to for three weeks every summer. Ed, who grew up in Taranaki, met Linda (who was made a Member of the Order of Canada last year) on his OE, and – determined to keep their Kiwi connection thriving – they built the home in 2011.
It’s here that their guests are embraced by generous hospitality and treated to the best of times. The family’s annual New Year’s Eve party, followed by a tennis tournament the next day, is the event of the year, says Michael, who is humbled that he and his partner are invited to join the party at the home he recently redesigned.
Linda, who was a client at Michael’s shop, Plantation Design Store, contacted him when they were considering adding a new wing to the guesthouse, which would include three bedrooms and a dining room. But what turned out to be a request to consult on some soft furnishings evolved into an entire redesign of the extensive home’s interior.
Michael, whose projects vary from inner-city apartments to the extensive gardens of country estates, found his dream clients in Ed and Linda. On his first visit to the sprawling, pavilion-style, 11-bedroom compound, Michael was not only taken by the sheer scale of the property, but the owners themselves.
“I became enamoured with them, their passion for the property and Taranaki. Ed had spent two years planning the home and it was built to schedule in just nine months – he is so organised.”
Words by: Jo Bates. Photography by: The Virtue.