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  • Rural Reality

Rural Reality

 WORDS Holly Jean Brooker IMAGES Alice Veysey

Meet the Kiwi couple that could...

Clearly, Lisa and Joe Gill laugh in the face of a challenge and they love a bit of crazy. Ever the bargain hunter and savvy online shopper Lisa had swapped scrolling Etsy for real estate listings when she stumbled across a home in Coatesville that ticked all of the boxes - an imposing villa overlooking 5 acres of stunning native bush which had enough bedrooms for their 5 children and partners who are constant fixtures in the home. And with some serious retaining walls and landscaping, it would also fit a swimming pool - Joe’s only request. A far cry from their beach side Milford home, the three-year search had paid off.

Fast becoming a hot spot for those wanting a rural slice of paradise near Auckland, the West Auckland region features rolling hills, farm land and native bush. But there isn't much else in Coatesville to lay claim to - except for the epic steak and blue vein cheese pies from the local store at Old Albany Village - oh and Kim Dotcom’s former mansion.

But it was that old school country charm and the house-find of a century that most attracted the couple. At the time the renovation seemed doable, but Lisa admits later, “We definitely bit off a lot more than we thought we would chew!” She explains, “as with many older houses uncovering one layer exposes several more layers beneath”.

Wanting to retain as much of the original villa as possible, they focused their efforts on modernising the homes aesthetic with their unique mix of Scandinavian, industrial and French farm house style. The original timber panelling throughout gave a dark and depressing feel. “We got our paint brushes to work straight away, painting out the dark timber ceilings, architraves and window frames,” says Lisa.

Instead of moving in straight away they rented a home nearby for a month spending every weekend and evening painting, often until midnight. The colour choice? “We used Resene Double Alabaster throughout to give a seamless approach to the mismatched timber interior. We love the clean Scandinavian approach so this was the ideal colour palette for us to start from, and it allowed us to connect the different wall panelling around the house”.  

But their proudest achievement comes from the stunning Rimu floorboards. They had these sanded back and for the first time, they attempted staining them themselves. Using a natural beeswax and linseed oil from “The Natural House Company”, they achieved the rich depth of colour and matte finish they had never been able to achieve with professionals. Both working in professional day jobs, the Gill’s have spent years renovating homes. Together for 30 years, the couple obviously have a real sense of partnership and mutual satisfaction working together, not to mention a shared cheeky sense of humour.

Lisa has the design smarts, sourcing materials and fabrics, finding furnishings, and coming up with unique interior ideas, while Joe is the handy one, who happily gets stuck in to get the job done. And at the end of a long day, he still plays his role as head chef, whipping up dinner for whoever is home to enjoy over a glass of wine on the deck. Logically then, he played a key role in the redesign of the kitchen where the couple enjoy hosting. Here, they chose white cabinetry and tiles with copper accents to compliment the stunning hammered copper basin Lisa sourced locally in Helensville, to reflect the French farmhouse feel.

Hosting is key for the social family, who have a regular stream of guests. “Because it’s a small town we entertain at home and once here, people don't want to leave so we have a designated spare room for guest sleepovers.” She adds, laughing, “Now that our pool is in, I expect we are going to have a lot more permanent guests, not just here to see us but to enjoy a mini vacation!”. - Of all of the carefully designed rooms, the guest room is Lisa’s favourite. “The room is bathed in sunshine in the afternoon and has a zen-like serenity with a peaceful view over the Ridge and into the green valley below. The sunsets can be spectacular!”

The local community is small, but friendly and the Gill’s are slowly getting to know their neighbours as they find more time now the renovations are slowing down. A short drive to the local Coatesville Markets to gather fresh organic produce, gifts and antique finds is a favourite weekend pastime, and local eatery, Hallertau, has become a top family dinner spot. They grab organic vegetables from local hero “Joe’s Red Van” regularly seen parked on the Coatesville-Riverhead Highway, and Lisa walks a few houses up to buy free range eggs, but she laughs, “Two houses up is almost a 1km walk!”.

With a wholesome laid back rural lifestyle on offer, it’s clear to see why Coatesville has won the hearts of the Gill family. 

All information is believed to be true at the time of publication | For more have a read in the latest issue of Renovate Magazine no. 23


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    Renovate Magazine