Tucked away up a long drive in suburban Havelock North is a house as flamboyant as its owner. Designed by renowned architects John Scott and Raiford Gardiner in the 1970s, the home is now occupied by Suzanne Beaumont, her husband John and their beloved Maltese poodle cross, Molly.
As you walk through the garden to the front door, you get a hint of what lies ahead. Swathes of bright dahlias adorn an outdoor dining table, dramatic decorations hang overhead and colourful flowers line the garden path.
The couple bought the home in 2006, while Beaumont was living in Sydney and John in Hawke’s Bay. Searching for a home when your partner lives in another country is never easy, but it didn’t faze Beaumont, who had a plan.
“We’d find potential houses online and John would check them out. If he liked one, I’d get one of my girlfriends to go as well for a ‘girl’s perspective’. We were struck by this house – it was a very typical John Scott design, complete with its concrete block construction, hardboard on the walls, cork floors and knobby door handles that caught on your clothes – but it had great bones, was quirky and the perfect size for the two of us, with enough room for when our children come to stay,” she says.
The house is also HQ for Beaumont’s two businesses; Suzanne Hardy Hair & Makeup and vintage hire company, Style Me Vintage. Although the house is modest in size, the layout is well considered, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a snug, office and make-up studio; the latter with an antique day bed for extra visitors.
Before returning to Hawke’s Bay, where she grew up, Beaumont was working in Sydney for Channel 9, running the network’s hair and make-up departments. With 90 staff across three states, it was a huge job and one that regularly took her around the globe, often at very short notice.
“It was nothing to be rung and told you were needed on the other side of the world the next day,” she explains.
“I loved the life, the excitement and the energy that living in a big city brought.”
What Beaumont hadn’t counted on, though, was falling in love with someone who lived in New Zealand. “After three years of trans-Tasman dating, something had to give and one of us needed to jump ship,” she says.
“John had built up a very successful ophthalmology practice so it made sense for me to move. I grew up in Hawke’s Bay, so it wasn’t completely foreign to me, and I’m able to live here and still work globally.”
The house was in its original 1970s condition when the couple moved in, but it was never going to stay like that for long.
“The first thing I did was paint the walls in the snug – everything was cream, olive and earthy. It was drab and dark, which sounds ridiculous as I’ve painted it black, but it’s now more encompassing – the olive tones looked cold. John went off to work one morning and came back to a black room. Thank goodness he loved it!” Beaumont laughs.
Eclectic and luxurious are fitting descriptors for Beaumont’s interior style, with a generous feeling running throughout the house and garden. A neutral background of black and white provides the canvas for the myriad objects and furniture collected by the couple. Green is Beaumont’s favourite colour and is evident throughout the house, and masses of flowers adorn every room.
“Everywhere in the house are things we love, things we’ve collected and things that please us. It’s totally individual, totally us,” she says.
Three years ago Beaumont renovated the kitchen and “without a practical bone in her body”, enlisted the help of designer Leanne Larking. “We wanted it to look a little 1970s but modern, and we’re thrilled with the result.
I especially love all the black, the chandeliers that we sourced from a local lighting store and our white leather padded wall,” she says.
New cork flooring was laid in the kitchen and dining room. “We decided to keep the cork – I’m so clumsy and drop everything, and with a business that involves a lot of crystal, glass and china, it made sense to have a floor that things can bounce off. It also brings warmth to the rooms,” explains Beaumont.
The dining room is the hub of the house, with a 10-seat table and easy access to the kitchen. On the wall is an ‘installation’ as Beaumont calls it – a mix of green 1950s Carlton Ware and Wedgwood from the 1800s, mixed with New Zealand pottery. Antiques happily sit beside modern pieces, creating visual impact and interest at every turn.
The lush garden wraps around the house and features secret paths, sitting areas and flower gardens. “I love being outside,” says Beaumont. “The garden is my favourite room. We eat outside all summer and in winter we sit by the outdoor fire and chat. I feel like the garden envelops us and we’re so hidden from sight here, it’s magical.”
The garden, like the house, is full of items the couple loves. “Rather than someone’s plan to make it all perfect and ordered, we throw things in and if they grow that’s fabulous and if they don’t, we move them. We both love a garden that changes with the seasons, and John loves bulbs and plants hundreds of them, which makes for a spectacular sight in the spring.
“I once tried to have a green and white garden but it didn’t last long because I kept falling in love with things that weren’t green or white. You could say I have no discipline,” she laughs.
Beaumont’s love of vibrant colour and sense of fun is as evident in the garden as it is in the house. “In summer I’m incredibly busy with work so the outdoor styling stays put, but in winter I’ll do something completely different.
At Christmas my husband stood on the table hanging decorations for eight hours under my artistic direction. Inside, I’m always creating different table settings – John never knows what he’s coming home to, but it is always welcoming.”
The studio in the garden is used for storage for Beaumont’s hire business, Style Me Vintage. Hundreds of vases, candelabra and china plates, table linen, brass, silver and glass adorn the shelves. The business has grown so much she styles between one and four events a week.
“I started off hiring vintage cups and saucers for high teas, and although that look is still around, there’s a more glamorous look happening, which is what I personally like. It’s definitely not shabby chic – it’s a luxe vintage look – antique silver candlesticks, brass vases and sequinned runners with Waterford crystal and gold porcelain vases.”
Demand for Beaumont’s hair and make-up services within New Zealand and internationally, means she is booked out for the next two years and often travels abroad for work. Four years ago, Beaumont flew to the royal wedding in London at the request of one of Channel 9’s presenters.
With a gorgeous home in Hawke’s Bay, a career that takes her around the globe and a husband she loves dearly (and who is willing to hang decorations for hours), you could say Beaumont is living the dream.
Writer: Sarah Thornton
Photographer: FLorence Charvin