luxury family time at Millar Rd in NZ’s Hawke’s Bay
Sitting having an impromptu wine tasting with Greg Collinge as the light danced on the burnished Tuki Tuki hills on the last night of our New Zealand holiday, I couldn’t help but think all bearded hipsters are going to look 20 years younger than the rest of us if they ever decide to shave it off.
For Greg Collinge is a bit of a hipster. And he certainly looks younger than his 40 something years. But his list of achievements, including setting up the wonderful Millar Rd luxury property chain and an artisan wine label Supernatural wines alongside a two decade long career in something financey give the game away. His offerings are a confident tribute to the best of New Zealand, seen through a Europhile’s eyes. There is no naff cultural cringe in any of his endeavours, just a passion for quality and artful curation that could stand up in New York or London. Even his excellent organic sauvignon blanc is more reminiscent of a French style white. No ‘cat’s piss on a gooseberry bush’ here.
Along with his mother Ginny, he is the owner of one of my favourite holiday houses which ticks so many boxes – sea views, set in a pretty vineyard, swimming pool and cabana, flexible enough to accommodate everyone, safe for kids, fantastic natural light, great art and great wine.
Haumoana House in Millar Rd is the perfect venue for an ex-patriot returning home for a family Christmas. We have rented it twice and will most certainly be back a third time given the wonderful surety of Hawkes Bay weather and the back to back success of two great multi-generational family holidays.
The Hawke’s Bay is not on everyone’s must see list when they go to New Zealand, but if your favourite people are with you, you like great wine, excellent food, gorgeous beaches, pretty much guaranteed hot dry weather and you hate crowds, then you should definitely make a detour. For us it was the perfect place for three generations to catch up in the sunshine and eat, drink and be merry.
Greg and Ginny have conceived a fantastic modern environment with a perfect layout designed by Nick Bevin of Bevin and Slessor Architects. Seemingly endless polished concrete floors with blackboard sized glass windows providing views to cows soaking up the sun in the parched Hawkes Bay hills are lined with outsized artwork and photography that would happily be at home in any of New Zealand’s leading galleries. The roll call of artists include Anton Parsons, Chris Bryant, Jeff Thomson, Para Matchitt, Wanganui ceramicist Ross Mitchell-Anyon, Paul Dibble, Elizabeth Thomson, Martin Poppelwell and Dick Frizzell, pictured above hanging his own art in Haumona House. We were so taken by the cool art on our first Millar Rd sojourn we nipped into fantastic Auckland art gallery Gow Langsford on our return journey and picked out two Dick Frizzell and two (of the cheapest!) Max Gimblett pieces and had them shipped to the UK.
The bookshelves, with fantastic mid century style joinery and red leather inlaid desks, are home to what simply must be the most perfectly edited collection of novels and reference books, along with the entire Tin Tin collection. (Note to self: edit out all the trashy paperbacks in your bookshelf when you get home). It is the sort of house that introduces you to how it feels when you take a top to bottom and left to right approach to excellent design – in architecture, lighting, joinery, interior design and simply understanding people. Knowing how people eat, sleep and socialise and incorporating it into a project should be common sense, but you realise, in lesser properties where your room is the only one off the lounge when people are up reminiscing all night over too many bottles of wine outside your door, or you are miles away from young children, that it so rarely is.
The main house has three bedrooms and a study, which can accommodate another two people. It can sleep six in luxury or eight including the study as a bedroom. The dining, terrace and living areas, which look out over acres of vines to the ocean, are well situated on the other side of the kitchen meaning if you are the host for festivities your private sleep spaces remain private.
On the estate are another two ‘cottages’ – something of an understatement. These sumptuous retreats are again full of plumped up expensive pillows incased in fine linen beneath beautifully curated art. The rest of the family were housed in these and gave rave reviews. We all holidayed happily together for a week and perhaps the secret was the ability to escape and re-emerge refreshed. In total, the estate can sleep 16 people.
Kids ran freely around the property like we would have back in a 1980s summer, with total surety nothing bad would happen. Afternoons were spent swimming and lounging in the fenced pool area complete with a bar and summer kitchen or playing cricket on the expansive flat lawn over looking the vines. Relatives came and went and the house accommodated scaled up and down get togethers. Christmas Day for 20 was a breeze, with plenty of cutlery, plates and glasses in the main house and the table decorated with Pohutakawa blossom from trees in the garden. Long, ridiculously high quality family lunches at nearby Black Barn and diners at Craggy Range vineyards were enjoyed, followed by a day at Splash Planet following four year olds down hydro slides. Walks, sand castles and picnics were ticked off the list at the nearby stunning Ocean Beach. Vague attempts at shaking off our inner gourmands’ hefty shadows were made in morning jogs alongside the nearby river.
One of the things I have found having stayed at Millar Rd twice is that it is a wonderful place to find clarity. It has a minimalist feel, but yet oodles of personality. It is proudly Kiwi in so many senses, but in a pared back uber stylish way. It makes you think about all the things in your own home and their place in your life. All of the objects had both charm and purpose. Something to ponder…
New Year’s resolution number one: less, but better quality. Feed your soul with good things made with passion.