Winchester’ is the name on the gate at Balcairn. The tree-lined drive leads to a picture-perfect villa bathed in slanting golden winter sunshine. Owners Jeremy Evans and Andrew Bain meet us on the villa’s veranda which connects its flanking bays. There they show us a cut in the old decking, marking the line where this home was once sliced in half, before being jacked up and loaded onto a truck.
It turns out Winchester is named after Winchester Street in Merivale, Christchurch, which is where it originally stood. It was built in 1908 and remained in the same family – the Talbot family – through to the mid-1990s before being sold to a developer. The villa was then transported to its new location in Balcairn, North Canterbury. Three consecutive families added their own improvements to the property before Andrew and Jeremy purchased it in 2010.
At the time, Andy was working on a farm in Hawarden. Jeremy is a dentist in Merivale – so Balcairn made sense as a location for both of them from a commuting perspective. ‘We came to look at this place one winter’s day in the late afternoon and made an offer that night’, Andy says. ‘We loved it.’
That love has only deepened over the past eight years. They recently threw a 110th birthday party for their well-travelled villa.
Both share a passion for character homes. This one had the added attraction of 15 acres of land and spacious garaging, the latter being used to accommodate their eclectic collection of classic cars, including treasures such as a sporty late 1950s Austin Healey 100/6, a 1964 Volvo P1800 (like the one Roger Moore drove in The Saint) and a pair of classic Range Rovers.
Andy grew up around the smell of motor oil and old leather, with his father and uncle having run a classic car business called Fazazz out of Lichfield Street in Christchurch for many years, until the showrooms were lost to the February 2011 earthquake.
In 2012, Andy set up his own boutique agency called Bains Classic Motor House, initially running out of the Brick Mill, Waikuku (see latitude, Issue 43). He’s since brought the showroom floor home. Specialising in English and European classic vehicles, the motor house is today sited in a picturesque converted barn only a short stroll from their villa. ‘I’ve gone for an old English-style building, in terms of how it looks: it’s a style that doesn’t date and it looks really smart.’
As a starting point for a relaxing country drive, Jeremy and Andy reckon Balcairn is hard to beat – with Waipara’s vineyards and wineries, plus Amberley’s restaurants and farmers’ market to the north, beaches to the east, and all the amenities of Rangiora to the south. ‘It’s lovely for my clients to be able to test drive vehicles on our amazing roads, too. We’re only 35 minutes from the airport: people enjoy coming out of the city and experiencing something a little different.’
Car clubs often visit over summer too, with members enjoying a picnic in the grounds and the motor house displays of classic cars, memorabilia and magazines.
Andy and Jeremy haven’t made any structural changes to Winchester, but the décor has had a complete makeover. They selected all the current interior colours, carpets, drapes and light fittings. The entire home has been re-plastered since the damaging 2016 Kaikoura earthquake.
As we chat about their villa, seated in deep leather couches in the main sitting room, it’s evident that this is a home of comfortable good taste. The room’s log burner is throwing out a cosy heat. On the wall next to it is an eye-catching framed painting of St Paul’s Cathedral, as seen from the Thames. Jeremy describes their personal style as ‘eclectic’: broad enough to embrace the room’s grand Victorian sideboard and, in the adjoining breakfast room, a contemporary glass side table. They particularly enjoy older pieces and the history inherent in them; Andy often picks up interesting things at auction.
The villa’s capacity to accommodate larger scale furnishings and paintings is something they have channelled effectively, exemplified in an imposing work by Otago artist Jo Robertson in the breakfast room. This is Andy’s favourite room. ‘I love the morning sun in here and the big window views of the garden.’
Villas are renowned for their adaptability. Here, one of the front rooms has been repurposed into a library with deep grey walls (Resene Trout), looking out through French doors to an avenue of trees. It has a hunting lodge vibe, with its well-worn green leather suite, game birds stiffly displayed atop corner glass-fronted cabinets, plus a mounted stag’s head and a vintage fox head fixed to one wall – the latter more than 100 years old, having been passed down to Andy from his father. The cabinets hold books along with family photos and mementoes gathered over the years. ‘It’s a great room to be in at night – with its dark décor, it’s quite dramatic’, Jeremy says.
Another former bedroom now serves as an elegant dining room, with warm brown walls (Resene Oilskin, also used in the home’s guest bedroom) and a gorgeous chandelier providing centrepiece lighting. Large mirrors on opposite walls add an expansive note.
Across the hallway from the library is the master bedroom where Resene Periglacial Blue is the predominant colour, selected for its calming ambience.
It has a spacious dressing room and ensuite and, via a back door, conveniently connects with an outdoor spa.
Winchester’s outbuildings reflect a strong commitment to repurposing. Jeremy’s mother lost her house in St Martins in the Canterbury earthquakes, and two sets of French doors from that house have been incorporated into Winchester’s pool house and a small custom-made ‘pub’ shed, which has its own fire pit nearby. Old chimney bricks from Hororata were used to floor this characterful garden retreat, while recycled timber off-cuts line the walls. Seed sacks tacked to the ceiling and items like a milk churn, meat safe and old wooden barrel complete the rustic look. With its own log burner, it’s a cosy space for sharing a few drinks on a winter’s evening.
Andy retrieved the pub’s exterior deer head from a loft at Fazazz before the earthquakes. Stone features from Fazazz’s quake-wrecked façade have also been kept and used elsewhere in the grounds.
Winchester had a small easy-care garden when Andy and Jeremy arrived in 2010. They have since redeveloped the grounds on a grand scale, through planting hundreds of trees and shrubs and removing a kilometre or more of fencing. Garden sculpture has been added to complement the natural environment, where hardy species such as rhododendron, camellia, poplar, golden elm and oak now thrive.
The garden layout is seamlessly linked through a series of rooms, including Jeremy’s favourite semi-formal Nazareth garden that features a section of earthquake-salvaged railing from Christchurch’s Nazareth House. It is planted out with iceberg and winter roses and flanked with formal box hedging.
A stumpery, comprising massive root balls dating back to the 1968 storm that sank the Wahine, is another intriguing part of the garden that references a slice of New Zealand history.
A pond in a paddock was added last year. Its surrounds were planted with native trees and shrubs and this area is now a flourishing haven for bellbirds, wax-eyes and fantails. Winchester’s orchard, meanwhile, produces an abundance of seasonal fruit including apples, pears, mandarins and feijoas.
More projects are planned for the garden in coming months. ‘We’re so lucky because there’s always scope and space to create new areas’, Andy says. ‘Eventually we’d also love to extend Winchester itself with a new kitchen and living room, but really we’re very happy with what we have here. It’s perfect for the two of us.’
[ WORDS Kim Newth, IMAGES Lucy Hunter-Weston ]