A Home From Home

About six months ago Gillian and I bought our first home together. Since then we have had a lot of questions but very few visitors. This post aims to correct this state of affairs.

The Story of Sam

We picked up Sam, our 1997 Toyota Estima, from a nice chap called Anthony in Christchurch. He had just under 200,000km on the clock, countless previous owners, and a few scratches, but we saw potential and fell in love. For just $4000 (around £2000 in those halcyon pre-Brexit days), we were the proud owners of both our first car and our first home. Since then he has taken us over 10,000km around New Zealand, with only minor hiccoughs.

For five weeks we slummed it around the South Island with a basic kitchen; a portable gas stove that blew out if you sneezed within ten feet of it; old ripped-up pillow cases for curtains; and a storage system which necessitated the emptying of all our worldly possessions onto the ground outside in order to find, or not find, a clean pair of socks. Luckily, just as Gillian was reaching the end of her tether, we reached Jo and Hamish’s farm in Taranaki, where we worked for three months. While we were enjoying the luxury of a real bedroom in a real (and lovely) house, Hamish kindly gave me access to his man cave and the wealth of power-tools therein, a load of plywood to play with, and the benefit of his experience, both as a builder and as a former campervan-backpacker. In return I gave him the entertainment of observing my first foray into carpentry.


Two months and a lot of mess later we had a slightly more functional kitchen and some under-bed drawers for our clothes (to access which we still have to empty out all our shoes).

Meanwhile Gillian was making seat-back bags in lieu of bed-side tables, and curtains that actually keep out light and stay up (I had the rather nerve-racking job of drilling bolts into the framework of our beloved Sam to support the curtains).

img_5957Then it was just a case of putting on the finishing touches (a lick of paint here, solar powered fairy lights there, etc) and we were done.

We now request the pleasure of your company at a virtual house-warming.

Take the tour

Come in through the front door into the foyer/office/winter dining room/’The Bridge’. Have a seat in our comfy chairs while I fetch you a possibly cold drink from our temperamental fridge.

Then scramble over the back of your chair into the ‘cosy’ bedroom/living area (which was also a dining room until setting the table up proved too much of a hassle). Please ignore the black marks on the ceiling from where we have whiled away the hours squashing mosquitoes while trying to get to sleep.

Our living quarters – cosy, in the true estate agent sense of the word. Note Gillian’s special anti-homesickness curtains

If you choose to go snooping under the bed you will find: a large storage chest, home to camping equipment, surplus clothes, and my ‘man-drawer’ (a screw-driver, spanner and a few screws); a scarily large number of seemingly essential pairs of shoes (‘Suppose we’re invited to a yacht party by drug dealers’); the book box (I can never resist a second-hand book sale, no matter how little space we have); and our cunning drawers-within-drawers clothes storage.

In keeping with the modern fashion for open-plan living, the bedroom opens onto the kitchen – even if one has to go outside to access it – all carefully designed so that Gillian can lie in bed and watch as I make her tea in the mornings.

The kitchen, as seen from the bedroom

The kitchen itself has been the focus of our home improvement efforts, and we are very pleased with the indoor-outdoor flow we have been able to achieve, ideal for summer entertaining.

Gillian’s ‘At Home’ day

We ripped out the unnecessary plumbing (who needs a sink?) and replaced it with an impractical but pleasing pantry, featuring some up-cycled peanut butter and marmite jars. We also now have a semi-inbuilt two-ring gas stove, replete with a fold-away windbreak which can double up as work surface. And a fridge, which looks good, and which on occasion has even deigned to lower the temperature of foodstuffs.

The new kitchen


That more or less concludes the tour. Why not take a stroll around the grounds?

Our new abode can be a little cramped at times, but the views normally make up for it.

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