The Med comes to Queenstown in this whimsical home

It is not the first time that Vivienne Hagen and her Queenstown home have appeared in the pages of NZ House & Garden. Along with a letter to the editor in 1994, Vivienne supplied a photograph of her son Olly’s bedroom, with walls creatively covered with old maps, as an example of “what can be done with a modest but comfortable income, plus a little ingenuity and a lot of fun”.

A rustic look with old signs, chairs and lots of flowers make this shaded outdoor area a favorite summer spot for Vivienne and Russell Hagen at their Queenstown home.

Fiona Tomlinson/NZ House & Garden

A rustic look with old signs, chairs and lots of flowers make this shaded outdoor area a favorite summer spot for Vivienne and Russell Hagen at their Queenstown home.

It turned out that this was only the beginning. Vivienne and her husband Russell still live in the 1960s Arthurs Point home from the photograph, but much has changed since its humble beginnings – and almost all of that transformation is due to the ingenuity Vivienne mentioned some 28 years ago.

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The children – Olly and Scarlett – have grown up and moved on, but for Vivienne and Russell the home is an ongoing labor of love. From the front gate onwards, it is highly detailed but cleverly balanced, with treasures, creatively restored and ornate furniture and ornaments filling every corner.

“I am proud to be a maximalist. Like [fashion designer] Donatella Versace, I’m not a fan of minimalism,” laughs Vivienne. The truth of this proclamation is confirmed right at the start with an entryway lined with lush lavender and adorned with Mediterranean-style columns. Gargoyles look down on visitors and vintage signs create a fun arrangement by the front door. The house has a nameplate: Villa Vecchio, or old villa, which testifies to the homeowners’ love for Italy and also serves as a reminder that this is a home that deserves its own identity.

For Vivienne, a penchant for collecting, saving and creating came from her upbringing. “My dad, Jimmy McArley, worked in auction rooms for 45 years, so things would come and go in our household, and I’d see things and like them. So it’s always been in my blood,” she says.

The garden was a simple sloping lawn when the Hagens bought the property;  it now looks like a Roman amphitheater.

Fiona Tomlinson/NZ House & Garden

The garden was a simple sloping lawn when the Hagens bought the property; it now looks like a Roman amphitheater.

“When I met Russell, he had a beautiful little house with similar things and plants everywhere, and we just seemed to match. And we’ve gone from there.”

The home’s original footprint has been slightly expanded to include a new bathroom and a lounge that opens onto the garden. Russell is a skilled handyman, and the couple doesn’t use craftsmen much, except for work that requires certification, such as the skylights that now flood the entry and dining area with natural light.

“The first thing I did after we moved in was to wallpaper the original toilet with old magazines,” says Vivienne.

“A lot of these articles on the walls are about Queenstown. People are laughing!”

The card-covered walls of Olly’s room, now Vivienne’s dressing room, have been replaced with black and pink floral wallpaper, while velvet curtains create a luxurious, feminine space. This is a room dedicated to a love of fashion with furniture salvaged from a closed clothing store in town.

In the couple’s bedroom, precious objects from Vivienne’s father take pride of place. In another bedroom, a regal color palette of gold and green is anchored by an ornate wallpaper of columns and domes.

An en-suite has been added, with the bath situated under a window opening up to glorious views of the Shotover River and Coronet Peak.

Even the living room coffee table has a story. It was created from a discarded door and placed on salvaged outdoor bench seats with a piece of glass from an old shop counter placed on top.

From the shaded terrace at the front of the house there are views of Queenstown Hill, the Shotover River and Arthurs Point village.

Fiona Tomlinson/NZ House & Garden

From the shaded terrace at the front of the house there are views of Queenstown Hill, the Shotover River and Arthurs Point village.

The ingenuity and imagination that brought the play to life is a source of pride for the couple. A collection of antique glass fixtures is placed in a beautiful ad hoc manner overhead, while salvaged stained glass windows and a vintage sliding door complete the room’s cozy, classic style.

The kitchen is another exercise in bold colors with lime green cabinetry and wallpaper depicting a European-style cityscape.

Plants are everywhere in Villa Vecchio; Vivienne admits to being a plant addict. “I can’t stop buying them, and neither can you, Russ,” she says. “We love to grow things. We have a fantastic tomato house and greenhouse, and we are self-sufficient in our fruit and vegetables.”

The couple are passionate about Queenstown and enjoy walking in the hills around their home.

“It’s a wonderful place to bring up children,” says Vivienne. “Although it has grown, it is still a lovely place and you cannot get away from the beautiful nature. We don’t have curtains in the living room. We still have the beautiful view even after all these years.”

While a smaller home, Casa Luna, has been built below the main house as a possible retirement plan, the couple hope not to have to move anytime soon.

After all, there are plans afoot to renovate the bathroom as well as big ideas to bring to life in the beautiful Mediterranean-style backyard. An old water tank is being converted into a landscaped grotto, adding to what is already a lushly planted oasis complete with fig trees and alive with birds.

“There’s always something to do,” says Vivienne. “We’re always thinking of new ideas.”

Q&A with Vivienne & Russell Hagen

Best decorating tips: To hide rough walls, use anaglypta wallpaper and then paint it. This gives a great texture and you can choose the pattern and add it with your choice of colour. (Vivienne)

Best budget tips: Source from thrift stores and garage sales, and take cuttings from friends’ plants. Be open to recycling things. (Vivienne)

Best money we ever spent: Skylights and double glazed windows.

The home improvement that sparked the most debate: When are plants enough, Viv? (Russell)

New favorite find: Concrete gargoyles bought in Auckland while visiting our son. (Vivienne)

Flowers I couldn’t live without: Lavender, sweet peas and all fragrance. (Vivienne)

This weekend we are: Planting onions and trellising fruit trees. (Vivienne)

Favorite family treasure: I treasure the things my father and mother (now passed) gave me over the years. I often get special pieces from my sister and brother as they know I will treasure them. (Vivienne)

My family videos. (Russell)

A quote I often use: Good things take time. (Vivienne)

Best kept secret in the area: Moonlight Track to Moke Lake. (Vivienne)

Favorite local eatery: Farelli’s Trattoria for great Italian. (Vivienne)

Best place for coffee: Raeward Fresh for coffee and cakes. (Vivienne)

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