An historic cottage with English style country charm, set in a picturesque New Zealand seaside village, Banksia Cottage in Akaroa has an amazing story from pioneering spirit to near dereliction and finally revival.
Have you ever fallen hard for a house?
Not just a passing fancy or crush, but a deep, long term obsession?
Imagine you are walking through a pretty coastal town, beside the picturesque natural harbour, when you are drawn to a lovely street lined with charming houses and wonderful gardens. As you make your way up the street you see a white picket fence and behind this a rambling wild garden of dreams. A little old lady is tending to this explosion of nature. You stop to admire her handy work and begin to chat.
Your interest is further rewarded as she beings to recount to you the story of a cottage, once the home of a shoe maker, his workshop and family. You spy the cottage through the foliage and are captivated by its immense charm. The seed is planted.
This is how interior designer, Bronwyn Thoms, discovered the property that would one day become her treasured holiday home. It came to pass years later when her partner, Michael, happened upon the property for sale. Bronwyn leapt at the chance to make this dream a reality.
Banksia Cottage – history and renovation
Built in 1858 (old by New Zealand standards), for a century Banksia Cottage was the home of the shoemaker, Mr Parsons, his family and successive generations. Mr Parsons squeezed his wife, seven children and his workshop into its pint size proportions. Over the years, the Parsons made several additions to the original rammed earth structure to meet the needs of the family.
Jessie Mould (the little old lady in the garden) purchased the property in 1967 and had the forethought to ensure that the cottage gained a heritage listing. In 2011, when Banksia Cottage was put on the market, it had been vacant for a decade and sadly the neglect was taking its toll. Bronwyn and Michael had the vision to see through the decay to the soul of the house and together they started the journey to breathe life back in to Banksia Cottage.
Their undertaking was more about restoration than renovation, peeling back the layers and retaining as much of the original structure and features as possible. Bronwyn, with a background in conservation and restoration, and Michael, an antiques dealer and avid collector, were perfectly placed to bring this historic beauty back to life.
Banksia Cottage now is a master class of colour, pattern and layering.
The entrance vestibule, with its rustic church pew and gorgeous Lily of the Valley wallpaper, welcomes you in and ushers you through to the living room.
Designer Tip – Transition spaces (like the vestibule above) are the perfect place to experiment with pattern. They allow you to make a bold choice, creating impact, knowing you won’t be left staring at it feeling overwhelmed.
To improve the flow of the cottage and usable space, the original narrow hall from the front door to the dining room was removed to create a larger living room and the pretty vestibule added. Isn’t the internal window a charming addition? Opening up the wall, it cleverly draws in light and creates a vista .
Designer Tip – The wisteria wallpaper, may seem a bold choice for a small cottage, however as the wisteria design is quite open and the background colour is a cooler tone, it recedes rather than crowding the space.
Designer Tip – The wallpaper is the element which pulls what were once separate spaces together into a cohesive whole.
A sunny corner in the living room is the perfect place for a pooch to park.
Designer Tip – Consistent colours draw the eye, creating a sense of flow. In what were once separate rooms shades of green and chartreuse picked out of the wallpaper, unify the spaces.
I would be quite happy in the downstairs bedroom, with its pretty wallpapered ceiling and french doors onto the veranda.
The original shoemakers workroom now makes the perfect potting shed.
Whilst the garden retains its wild charm.
If by chance Banksia is booked up when you visit, these beautiful options might also fit the bill:
Built in 1889 and recently renovated to a very high standard, Villa 114, Akaroa provides country house ambience with all the modern luxuries.
The quintessential New Zealand victorian gothic villa, French Bay House, Akaroa.
Oinako Bed & Breakfast – a grand old lady with views of the bay.
Blythcliffe is a classic beauty set in a mature garden.
Beaufort House serves up opulent elegance.
Annadale Farm Escape & Coastal Villas is the perfect place to declutch. Half an hours drive from Akaroa at Pigeon bay, with four very different properties to chose from, splendid isolation never looked so good!