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Garden

Gisborne Estate Agent Who Bought The Bash That Won’t Sell

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This story is from the staff of NZ House & Garden Magazine.

Bronwyn loves the white oak paneled wall in the lounge area where the sofa and bookcase are from Coco Republic, the rug is from The Ivy House and the lamp and pendant are from one of Bronwyn's favorite Gisborne boutiques, Koco Boutique.

Jane Ussher/NZ House & Garden

Bronwyn loves the white oak paneled wall in the lounge area where the sofa and bookcase are from Coco Republic, the rug is from The Ivy House and the lamp and pendant are from one of Bronwyn’s favorite Gisborne boutiques, Koco Boutique.

Certainly one of the occupational risks of being a real estate agent is seeing many homes that you would love to own for yourself.

Real estate agency owner Bronwyn Kay didn’t think about the old blue-and-white bash and his crazy lawn that had been sitting on her adjacent Wainui Beach property for 27 years, until she was commissioned to sell it. She struggled with buyers who couldn’t conceive of its potential, so she bought it herself.

The intention was to loosen up Bach and be happy. The renovation started with a new kitchen and paint job but when a builder came to look at the piles it was clear that “the old Bach was swaying in the wind and needed to be taken down”.

“I was heartbroken,” Braunen says. “I loved the old place but I had to listen to the builder. Now there are no regrets.”

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Moving quickly, she partnered with local architectural designer Shane Kingspeare. The plans and layout are literally drawn in the sand on the beach in front of the property to Bronwyn’s simple brief: a home you can move about freely with a view from back to front.

She needed to provide for her beach life and her three dogs, Ewok, Lola, and Benji.

She wanted it to feel like a studio apartment with a mix of Italian and New York design. Having spent 42 years in the real estate industry and having seen many homes, she knew exactly what she was looking for.

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Bronwyn Kay has replaced the tangled garden that surrounded Gisborne's original Bach with mostly native plants well adapted to wind and sea spray.  To the right, Bronwyn with her three dogs, to the left, Benji, Lola and Ewok;  The artwork was created by Bronwyn to match the golden hues in an antique Moroccan rug sourced from local shop The WorkShop;  Combined with the hand-drawn blue LED, it creates a sunset-like glow at night.

Jane Ussher/NZ House & Garden

Bronwyn Kay has replaced the tangled garden that surrounded Gisborne’s original Bach with mostly native plants well adapted to wind and sea spray. To the right, Bronwyn with her three dogs, to the left, Benji, Lola and Ewok; The artwork was created by Bronwyn to match the golden hues in an antique Moroccan rug sourced from local shop The WorkShop; Combined with the hand-drawn blue LED, it creates a sunset-like glow at night.

The 198-square-foot home took longer than planned to build and budgets were blown, but Bronwyn is enjoying the collaborative relationship she forged with Shane and her builder, Brendan Fry.

“There were so many aspects of the house that Brendan had never done before, but I was very pedantic about what I wanted and he listened to me every step of the way and made these things happen. He made it work. I got the house I wanted in the end.”

Important design decisions were made to suit the department and the environment. The site is excavated a meter long so that the house sits in the ground and on a single level, with no stairs to move around.

He pushed Bronwyn towards the flat, almost invisible ceiling. “It’s just a three pitch pitch that allows the roof to be flat and invisible but still functional and practical and fits with the home’s aesthetic.”

Bronwyn wanted the interiors to not only reflect her style, but also complement her lifestyle. I travel a lot, on vacation or for business, and will stay at other hotels or beach resorts. Now when I’m out of town, I think my beach house is so much better than the luxury resorts.”

The home has a contemplative beach feel that Bronwyn describes as “Wainui Scandi with driftwood and sand,” and features textures and colors that reflect the environment. It includes a white oak paneled feature wall and a wooden counter in the kitchen. Abodo veneer has an airy look with colors reminiscent of driftwood

A polished concrete floor has been laid to handle sand dog tracks and claws. And Bronwyn was not above a playful stranger slipping across her in her stocking.

Other practicalities include low glazing in all windows to help keep the house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. There is a large skylight above the kitchen and dining area, and floor-to-ceiling sliding doors open at both ends of the house. “You can walk around the house and the entire interior deck without having to stop and go back the way you came. It’s a real open plan and works perfectly for me,” says Bronwyn.

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“I’m a very busy person, so just coming home from work doesn’t mean I hang out,” she says. “I open all the sliding doors and check out the garden, then lie on the couch to finish work on my laptop. Or if the weather’s good, I go straight to the beach with the dogs to relax. Home allows me to be me. That’s who I am.”

Rather than the temptation to position the new house in front of a seaside site, Bronwyn set it back to protect it from the prevailing, salty winds while still allowing for great views of the sea. The house is sandwiched between close neighbours, with a high wall on one side supporting the large house next door which Bronwen has camouflaged by planting a box full of bamboo.

The original rambling garden was not only tamed, but cleared, with only two pōhutukawa remaining arching and framing the section. Some of the crazy original paving patios have also been kept. Bronwyn has planted plenty of Aborigines hardy to withstand the salt spray, and there’s a path to a viewing deck where she can sit on summer evenings and watch the surfers ride the waves. Bronwyn has added plenty of sculptures and artwork by Coromandel-based Gary Niven to provide subtle breaks in the natural color palette.

After a busy day at work, when Bronwyn walked out the gate and opened the house, she was at peace. “There is nothing better than sitting in the sand with a cup of tea while the dogs dig and play. All the problems of the world can quickly be put into perspective. I am at peace at home.” And it’s easy to see why.

Q&A with Bronwyn Kay

Best building tip: Love your builder – A good relationship with a builder can give you a lot. If you don’t, it will be an ugly experience.

Best decorating tip: Keep your own style and what you like. Your home is your home with your own choices.

Best money spent: White oak as feature wall in the lounge. When everyone told me I was crazy, I held on to my gun and made sure it was bolted on perfectly. Now it is a feature that everyone is commenting on.

Best budget advice: Do your homework. It’s one thing to want specialized materials but installing some materials can cost much more than that.

Favorite local homeware stores: Amy Moore’s workshop, where I got my rugs; Koco Boutique where Karen Sharif assisted with all the light fixtures and decorative items; and Fenns for the best selection of furniture.

Best gardening tip: Cut the flax below – get rid of the dead stems and the plants will look bushy and lush.

Favorite plant: “Recycled” cactus plants on the beach. They live perfectly in the harsh sea air and look very architectural when the light shines through behind them.

A well kept secret about the area: Perfect left handed waves break right in front of the house.

Best picnic in the area: Down Wainui Beach with the dogs. You can get to the end of the beach without really realizing you’ve walked that far, it’s very meditative.

One thing you must see when visiting Gisborne: Eastwoodhill Arboretum.

Favorite local restaurant: Crawford Road Kitchen.