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This lavishly decorated Herne Bay home feels like an Italian cathedral

Article by Simply You

Colour and creativity flourish in George Hewitt’s family home, inspiring her daughter’s coveted fashion label, Maggie Marilyn

This lavishly decorated Herne Bay home feels like an Italian cathedral

From the polished antique gold mirrors to the silver 17th-century French candelabras, a visitor finding themselves in the Hewitts’ lounge would be forgiven for thinking they’d wandered into a sitting room in Europe. Turning their gaze skywards, to a fresco originally painted for the Duomo di Todi cathedral in the small hilltop town of Italy, they’d also be forgiven for thinking they were in heaven.

The ceiling scene, depicting the Universal Judgment by 16th-century painter Ferraù Faenzone, has been vividly captured as wallpaper for the modern day by Rebel Walls – they’ve called it A Priori. In this Herne Bay, Auckland, home surrounded by flowers – where even the street verge has been planted with roses – it’s a reminder to take a moment and appreciate the finer things in life.

George and Mark Hewitt purchased the heritage villa four years ago when they moved from Kerikeri, where they own a sawmill, to Auckland with their four daughters – Maggie (23), Sarah (18), Kate (17) and Coco (13) – plus three rescue pups. Far from crowded, the two-storey home has six bedrooms and six bathrooms.

The decorator of the home, George has introduced delight and surprise in every corner and on every surface, with an eclectic mix of personality-packed homeware and vibrant art. When it comes to interiors, she says she loves all aesthetics. “I love old and modern and quirky, mixed together. I don’t like one particular style.”

To begin, a polite horse greets guests at the front door. Holding a lamp on its head, the steed has been captured in life-size proportions in PVC laminate by Moooi. Standing next to him, the eccentric furniture brand’s burnt wooden armchairs are another hint that callers are in for a treat as they follow a fuchsia-pink floor runner further into the home.

Leading past the master bedroom to the right and a study with striking monochromatic striped wallpaper to the left, followed by the aforementioned luxurious lounge, the narrow Cronz carpet comes to an end at the open-plan kitchen and living room.

While the kitchen recedes as a calming, functional, all-white workspace, the seating area is filled with eye-catching goodies, from Kartell’s gold lamps and vases to Designers’ Collection’s jet black armchairs. “It’s beautiful, I think, that someone can make something that’s old but modern,” says George, about the vintage-inspired furnishings.

Downstairs the corridor winds around her daughters’ bedrooms as well as a cinema room, laundry and a walk-in wardrobe. Each bedroom has found its own character through styling, from a laughing and tattooed Marilyn Monroe frozen in a golden frame in one room, to the Byronic-inspired crystal Schonbek chandeliers from ECC above most beds. Each room also has a makeup station either in the room or nearby in an ensuite.

The bathrooms are tranquil spaces where slick, large marble slabs from SCE Stone are softened with plush sheepskin rugs in pink or white. One bathroom boasts a floral Christian Lacroix wallpaper, and all have custom-built cabinetry by Doug Kemp from the antiques supplier John Stephens & Co.

The large walk-in wardrobe, beautifully organised over two small rooms and filled with colourful clothes and accessories, is in hot demand by George’s daughters. “I do feel like there’s a bit of clothes-stealing around here. We’re all the same shoe size. It’s really dangerous,” declares one.

Luckily, they can all be dressed by the oldest daughter, who is the founder of Maggie Marilyn – a coveted, locally made clothing label that is creating hype in the esteemed fashion departments of Neiman Marcus and Selfridges abroad, as well as The Shelter and David Jones closer to home. Maggie has temporarily moved back to her parents’ home while she finds a place of her own, and she continues to be inspired by her mother’s skill in interiors, especially her bright and bold colour palette.

“Mum’s always been really creative and I can see her eclectic and colourful style within how I design,” says the designer. “For us, we get energy from colour. She has had an influence for sure.” George says Maggie is an inspiration to her in turn. “Maggie’s just such a determined, driven, hard worker that it does inspire me. I love watching her,” she says. “She’s so passionate about doing the right thing. She tries to be as ethical as she possibly can be.”

George brings her own dexterity to decoration. While everything seems to be positioned just so, the mother-of-four is, in fact, constantly moving her belongings around, so much so she bought her own furniture mover. “I’m a serial changer. I’m obsessed. Some days I just wake up and I’m like, ‘Right!’, and I literally drag things up and down stairs. I’ll go to any length you can imagine. I just heave and ho. Because I love it. When you’re creative you want to change things up.”

Most of the art in the villa is by artists from the family’s home town of Kerikeri, including a zebra painting by Helen Jean and a colourful pop art-inspired painting by Candy Clarke. But sometimes, when she just can’t find quite the right shades to incorporate into a room, George will take matters into her own hands. “Often I think, ‘I need something colourful here’, but I don’t know where to get it, so I go to the hardware store, get some paint and just start pouring it, literally pouring it on the canvas.” The resulting artworks are alive with vibrant and playful texture.

The other place George loves to curate is the garden, including the patio out the front and the two-tiered lawn, entertaining and pool area at the back, the latter of which is still a work in progress. Both have whimsically planted flowers ordered by box hedging in an English-garden style.

“I wanted the garden to be structured but chaotic within the structure. I’m one of those old-fashioned gardeners so I love brightly coloured cottage gardens – just every type of rose and perennials and annuals,” says the constant gardener. “I am very passionate about it. If I’m feeling a bit stressed that’s how I lose myself.”

George also grows roses by the letterbox on the street to give passers-by a pleasant surprise, and she is often surprised herself by notes of appreciation left by the neighbours. “They can’t wait to see what colour rose will come out.”

As home to the family of six, the Auckland villa’s glossy black front door is constantly being opened for friends and extended family members popping by. “It’s really fun having a big family but, man, it’s full-on. I always feel sorry for the new boyfriends that come over. They must just be like, ‘wow’,” laughs Maggie.

The family are close and they enjoy spending time with one another at home, preferably over a cheeseboard and Champagne poured into George’s 1930s prosecco glasses – “They’re great to drink Champagne together,” she says.

Next on George’s to-do list is more decorating and renovating – there are bathrooms that need to be done again, wallpaper and curtains to replace and a pool house to be built around a reconfigured pool and spa in the lower garden. George keeps herself on her toes – she’s also renovating an impressive property on Kerikeri’s water’s edge into an Hamptons-inspired home. Watch this space.

Words by: Jessica-Belle Greer. Photography by: Helen Bankers.

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