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A passion project with a personal connection, this authentic villa makes visitors feel right at home.

The road from Christchurch to the West Coast takes us past the patchwork fields of the Canterbury Plains, over the bush-clad Southern Alps via Arthur’s Pass, then down the Otira Viaduct before skirting Lake Brunner and delivering us to our final destination — Totara Flat. We’re spending the weekend in a classic country villa on Georgina and Steve Begg’s farm, where they take care of 500 cows, 30 sheep, six chickens, three dogs and a giant pig named Hank. The villa hasn’t always been guest-ready, but thanks to Georgie’s desire for a renovation project, it’s now a cushy base from which explore the magic of this region. 

TOP Outside, the villa’s weatherboards were painted in Resene Double White Pointer and the deck was stained with Resene Woodsman Decking Stain in Pitch Black. ABOVE Steve and Georgie have dubbed the house Cowshed 488 after the number of their dairy shed. “This is such a beautiful part of the country, with so many great places to explore,” says Georgie. “Reefton, Lake Brunner and Punakaiki are all within an hour of here, Franz Josef is two hours away and so is Hanmer Springs.“

This South Island dairy farm is a far cry from where Georgie grew up, 40 minutes south of London. However, a chance encounter with Kiwi Steve on his OE saw her romanced into a move to rural New Zealand. The 200ha farm has been in Steve’s family for years, and after his time abroad, he came home to take over the manager role, while Georgie established Print By George, which sells photographic prints depicting serene scenes from her travels around the world, and took on freelance photography commissions throughout the South Island. 

TOP “Everything gets done by word of mouth around here, and I struck it lucky with the team on the reno as they were on completely the same page as me,” says Georgie. “Part of the team was Bret Geerin of Coastwide Joinery in Greymouth, who makes everything from kitchens to coffins and works alongside another guy who does Caesarstone benchtops while also making headstones!” ABOVE MIDDLE Cowshed 488’s guests get to enjoy fresh produce from the farm, including eggs, milk and bacon. Hero décor items seen here include a pair of prints from Sweden’s Desenio and glossy tiles from Christchurch’s Italian Ceramic Tiles. ABOVE Georgie was ultra-savvy with her purchasing for the house. The fridge was bought secondhand from a Smeg dealer after someone else returned it, and the Smeg stove and dishwasher were a steal at half price too. The stools are from Williams Road.

“We were living on the other side of the farm, but whenever I drove past this old villa, I’d think to myself, ‘That’s the house I want to own one day,’” says Georgie. When it finally went on the market, the couple weren’t in a position to buy it, but as luck would have it, it didn’t sell, and a year later when they relocated to their current home on this side of the farm (which shares a driveway with the villa), they had a few extra savings behind them and were able to snap it up.
Comfortable in their own home, the villa was always going to be more of a business venture than a place to call their own. With several picturesque destinations nearby, Georgie was certain a B&B would be a winner, so they planned an update that would revive the original features of the 1910 dwelling. Recruiting the help of her parents while they were visiting from the UK for a few months, they starting by painting the walls and doors white and ripping up the carpet to uncover the rimu floors.

TOP Georgie used Resene Alabaster throughout the living spaces and Resene White Pointer in the bedrooms, which were previously dark blue and lime green. In the hallway, a second-hand artwork and a vintage-look mirror from Early Settler on the wall combine with a writing bureau from Mumma T Trading Lounge in Amberley and a chair bought in Reefton from Coutts & Jones Antiques. ABOVE Chairs from Early Settler were arranged around the table custom-made by Bret — a decison led by Georgie’s mum that Georgie was unsure of at first but now appreciates, the noir accent working well with the other hints of black in the house. The photo of the Otira Viaduct is a Print By George piece.

The next stage saw a complete do-over of both kitchen and bathroom to create an English country vibe — a nod to Georgie’s childhood road trips. “There’s a chain of hotels in England called The Pig, and they’re so cosy, all plush armchairs, comfy couches and a wintery mood, with rich colours and tartan weaves,” she says. “That’s the look I was after originally as I love that aesthetic and it makes me feel at home, but once we’d painted this place, the white walls and wooden floor lent themselves to a lighter style. It needed to be fresher.”

ABOVE Sofas you can sink into from Early Settler were one of the couple’s first purchases and set the mood for the living area, accompanied by a cosy rug from Freedom, a coffee table from One World and an ottoman Georgie brought back after a trip to Morocco. Pendants and lamps from Lighting Direct cast a welcoming glow when the sun goes down.

Building the kitchen scheme around three key features — a Caesarstone benchtop, a butler’s sink and a huge stove — Georgie drew up a few different formats before deciding to keep things super-simple with an L-shaped layout incorporating a coffee nook at one end and easy access to the dining and living areas. Choosing products can be challenging when you live a fair hike from any shop or showroom, so sourcing online was a key part of her process. 

TOP Georgie says she loves to mix old and new to make a house feel homely. In the living area, prints by Kristina Krogh from The Poster Club form an interesting vignette area with a candlestick from H&M Home, a Moroccan teapot from a secondhand store in Reefton, and a lamp and bookends from Freedom. ABOVE “My main priority with any interior space is art — it’s the first thing I think about,” says Georgie. ”I bought all of the art before we bought this house, except this large Emma Gale work in the hall. I like most things to be neutral, but with a pop of colour to add interest.” Below Emma’s painting is seating from Reincarnation Christchurch.

“I had to become really decisive,” she says. “We also bought from loads of secondhand stores that I had the chance to stop at for a rummage. Our garage was packed full of my finds while we renovated and I don’t think I paid full price for any of them.” 

ABOVE A four-poster bed also from Early Settler and linen from Foxtrot Home make for a statement lie-in situation. On the wall is a secondhand artwork picked up in Reefton, the lamp is from Lighting Direct, the bedside table is from Mocka and the chair is a Coutts & Jones Antiques find.

Most of the rooms in this house lead off a T-shaped hallway, and in each you discover personal touches, such as art, objects and books, that really make you feel at home.  I quickly learned that the freestanding tub in the bathroom is the perfect spot in which to unwind after a day trip, and in summer you can enjoy mornings and evenings on the verandah with a view of the farm beyond.

TOP Having trained as a plumber, Steve was in charge of selecting the bathroomware, including the mirror from Flux, tiles sourced through Metro Floor and vanity by Burlington. TOP MIDDLE Georgie went for panelled walls in the twin room, which she says have transformed the space. “We haven’t got as much artwork on the walls in here as it doesn’t need it. I matched the headboards sourced through Williams Road with the panels, repeating the form.” ABOVE MIDDLE Luxaflex shutters were chosen for the bedrooms for their chic look, easy cleaning and ability to block out light while keeping in warmth. ABOVE The Burlington bath and tapware offer pure luxury. On the wall is Flowering Artichoke by Rory McEwen, which Georgie discovered via her cousin, who has it in her own home as an ode to her husband — named Rory MacEwen.

With Georgie and Steve’s first guests scheduled to arrive just seven months after they began the renovation, this deadline-driven enterprise came together seamlessly in Georgie’s eyes. Developing a new passion in the bargain, she’s now studying interior design.
“I wanted this place to be a destination, somewhere people can get away to and enjoy the comforts of a well-designed home,” she says. “So far, our guests have been amazing. Meeting a wide range of interesting people from all over the world has been one of the nicest parts of this project.”
cowshed488.com

Words Alice Lines
Photography Georgina Begg