Before I left New Zealand I ruminated to the point of obsession on what I would miss once I left. I thought if I did this ahead of time I’d avoid unexpected attacks of sadness. No matter how much love your new home there is always something you will MISS. For me, it’s people. My dearest friends are there and it was very hard to leave them.
This is Dave Harré and his wife Barbara, two of the most extraordinary people you could ever meet.
They have several kids and grandchildren, all of whom lead fruitful and busy lives of their own, but can often be found helping out around the family homestead, or cooking one of the delicious meals that are always offered to the revolving parade of visitors. Everyone is welcome at Dave and Barbara’s house. And what a house it is. A 19th century homestead in Oratia on the outskirts of Auckland. Dave likes to restore and protect old things. The house is one of these. It was his family’s home, where his mother supported the family by running a restaurant on the premises. It’s a beautiful old villa set back from the road.
There is always a project on the offing, and collections of things that might be needed for that project
A recent undertaking was the wallpapering of a bedroom. Barb was papering the old fashioned way, on scrim.
Dave loves to restore things. He once heard of a prayer house that was tagged for demolition, rescued it and placed it on his land. He organizes recitals there in summer time. But trams and trains are his passion. He has already restored one and given it to the city of Whanganui. This is a train carriage he brought all the way from Arizona. He shortened it and is turning it into a self-powering tram, the track for which is being laid across the lawn. It will be a moving guest house when it’s finished. I can’t wait to try it!
The whole property is in a state of elegant and controlled decay. That’s the way they like it. Location scouts do too.
Everything is perfect in its wildness. Whenever I’m there, I get inspired by the way nature is left to take it’s course with the minimum of interference. No perfectly mowed lawns or preened flower beds here.
A vineyard on the property. The wine is good, and the bottles recycled.
Betsy trying her come hither look.
Let’s go inside the house. The dining room is lined with native kauri planks, on the walls and floor. Sitting at the table you feel like you’ve dropped in on another century. When I first met Dave it was at this table, over which hung a flickering light that was powered from a dam on a stream that crosses the property. His very own hydro-electric power. Dave is inventive and prescient. He was doing things the authentic, slow way before the green movement was in diapers.
early New Zealand pottery
hand made textiles on every chair
Dave is a francophile. He ends most statements with total! pronounced the French way, and keeps this 2CV, bought during a family trip to France where they lived for a year in the Pyrénées.
No story of Dave would be complete without this one: on a trip to visit his nephew in Paris, he was wandering home one evening and found a pile of stuff discarded from a nearby building. Never one to lose an opportunity for a good fossick, he rescued a set of architectural drawings of a neo-classical house and this coat. Both came home in his suitcase. This is his attempt at a Napoleonic pose, sans chaussure.
A sense of mischief keeps Dave younger than his years. So does his generous spirit. When I was there taking photos for Everyday Finery, he appeared at lunchtime with a pot of hot soup for our whole team, models, photographer makeup and me. Thank you Dave. You’re a treasure.
Dave and Barbara created a folk art museum on their property which you can visit by appointment. It’s open Sundays 1-4 pm, at 527 West Coast Road, Oratia, Auckland. Phone number is 09 813 3884