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This Hawke’s Bay home surrounded by olive trees is a dreamy Airbnb spot

This small secondary dwelling on a Hawke’s Bay lifestyle block was designed to accommodate extended family but has found new purpose as an Airbnb

Meet and greet

Mike Stanton and Carol Stanton (both retired).

Sydney-side to countryside

When Kiwi couple Mike and Carol Stanton returned to New Zealand after 27 years in Sydney, their intention was to step away from the demands of busy jobs in the big city where Carol was purchasing officer for a prestigious hotel and Mike had a business renovating hotels and motels. The Hawke’s Bay lifestyle block they chose provided an ideal contrast to the fast-paced life they’d been leading, but didn’t exactly offer a quiet early retirement – Mike swapped his building tools for gardening tools and the couple embarked on an ambitious planting programme to establish an olive grove and small vineyard.

It has been 19 years since Carol and Mike traded hectic Sydney for a more relaxed, rural life in Hawke’s Bay. Their olive trees and grapevines are now well established and adjoin an orchard of more recently planted fig trees. Another building has also been added: a secondary dwelling, set amid the olives, which the hard-working couple built three years ago for their son, Brett, his wife, Mia, and their little girl, Georgia.

With family in mind

A council condition of building a secondary dwelling on their site was a floor area limit of 100 square metres. Carol and Mike had long admired the architectural design work of family friend Brian Elliott, co-director of award-winning architecture practice Designgroup Stapleton Elliott. Carol called Brian and asked if he had done any small places that would suit their requirements. “Brian called me back later that day and sent through a plan he had sketched on a blotter pad. It was terrific. The final result hardly deviates from that sketch,” Carol laughs.

As the dwelling was primarily for Brett and Mia, Carol invited them to collaborate on many of the design decisions. Tall in stature (both are over 1.8 metres), the couple decided high ceilings and extra-tall doorways were a must. Polished concrete flooring with underfloor heating was a priority and Mia decided she wanted the bath to be a feature of the master bedroom rather than the ensuite.

During the build, Brett and Mia’s employment circumstances changed and, after less than a year in residence, the family moved to Melbourne. Mike and Carol had to find new occupants for the stunning little cottage located in an olive grove just 500 metres from their own home.

“We were left with an extra house and a mortgage,” Carol says. “Short-term guests offered a more favourable option than a long-term let. We were not keen on having tenants living close to us, so using the house for Airbnb was an ideal solution.”

No wasted space

The batten and board-clad cottage has three bedrooms and two bathrooms which flank a central, open-plan living and kitchen area. Recessed sliding doors to the north and south of the living room open out to kwila decks. The extensive use of glass gives an immense sense of space and allows guests to transition from inside to out, depending on the prevailing wind or preferred view.

Every effort was made to minimise the impact of the cottage on the olive grove and only a few precious trees were moved for the building project. An annual olive harvest party is a highlight for friends and family – after picking the olives, guests are treated to a long lunch served along with copious quantities of Mike’s own wine. Everyone involved can also sample the fruits of their labour. “The olives are pressed within 24 hours at a local press,” says Carol. “Each picker gets a bottle of oil with a personalised label. A Napier bistro uses the oil and Airbnb guests receive a complementary bottle.”

More bang for your buck

A career as a purchasing officer taught Carol to seek out the best deals for interior fittings. The macrocarpa dining table and seats were built by son Brett with wood sourced from a neighbour. Carol saw a similar table in a Wellington shop but baulked at the $7000 price tag. Her son’s skills enabled her to achieve a comparable dining suite for a fraction of the cost.

The hide butterfly chair was not such a steal. “I saw that in a shop in Havelock North and, on impulse, bought it for $500. The same day I saw another one for $100 more. I was very happy until I saw the same thing at The Warehouse for $100!” Carol laughs.

Built-in shelving units are decorated with books, baskets and bowls, and the lower cavities are ideal for storing firewood. Throughout winter, guests love to stoke up the central fireplace. In fact, guests love a lot of things about this unique Airbnb, says Carol. “People love holidaying in the middle of an olive grove surrounded by birdsong, quails, rabbits and a resident golden pheasant. Night stars are a bonus. These are things we take for granted but they’re so special to people who live in cities and other countries.”

More on Airbnb

Mike and Carol have found that Airbnb is a great way to let out their deluxe cottage. Carol says the advantages are:

  • We meet lovely people who appreciate the house while enjoying all this area has to offer.”
  • “Our guests have all been rated by previous hosts; they are reliable and responsible.”
  • “Our location is well worth sharing. We are surrounded by vineyards and apple orchards and close to extensive bike trails – that makes our location quite unique for passing guests.”

Words by: Ady Shannon. Photography by: Florence Charvin.

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