The Med comes to Queenstown at this quirky home


This is not the first time Vivienne Hagen and her Queenstown home have appeared in the pages of NZ House & Garden. Accompanying a letter to the editor in 1994, Vivienne provided a photograph of son Olly’s bedroom with walls creatively clad in old maps, as an example of “what can be done on a modest but comfortable income, plus a little ingenuity and a lot of fun”.

A rustic look with old signs, pew seating and plenty of flowers make this shaded outdoor area a favourite spot for Vivienne and Russell Hagen in summer at their Queenstown home.

Fiona Tomlinson/NZ House & Garden

A rustic look with old signs, pew seating and plenty of flowers make this shaded outdoor area a favourite spot for Vivienne and Russell Hagen in summer at their Queenstown home.

It turns out this was just the start. Vivienne and her husband Russell still live in the 1960s Arthurs Point home from the photograph, however a lot has changed since its humble beginnings – and nearly all of that transformation is down to the ingenuity that Vivienne mentioned some 28 years ago.

READ MORE:
* Old Eltham post office update gets stamp of approval
* Luxe lakeside Ashburton home ticks all the boxes
* The Hawke’s Bay estate where even horses are welcome to stay the night

The kids – Olly and Scarlett – have grown up and moved on but, for Vivienne and Russell, the home is an ongoing labour of love. From the front gate on, it’s highly detailed but cleverly balanced, with treasures, creatively restored and embellished furnishings, and ornaments filling every corner.

“I am proud to be a maximalist. Like [fashion designer] Donatella Versace, I am not a fan of minimalism,” Vivienne laughs. The truth of this proclamation is borne out right at the start, with an entrance path lined with lush lavender and adorned with Mediterranean-style columns. Gargoyles look down on visitors and vintage signs create an amusing arrangement at the front door. The house has a nameplate: Villa Vecchio, or old villa, which is testament to the homeowners’ love for Italy and also serves as a reminder that this is a home that’s deserving of its own identity.

For Vivienne, a penchant for collecting, salvaging and creating came from her upbringing. “My father, Jimmy McArley, worked in auction rooms for 45 years so things would come and go in our household, and I would see things and like them. So it’s always been in my blood,” she says.

The garden was a simple sloped lawn when the Hagens bought the property; it now resembles a Roman amphitheatre.

Fiona Tomlinson/NZ House & Garden

The garden was a simple sloped lawn when the Hagens bought the property; it now resembles a Roman amphitheatre.

“When I met Russell, he had a gorgeous wee house with similar things and plants everywhere and we just seemed to match. And we’ve gone from there.”

The home’s original footprint has been slightly extended to include a new bathroom and a living space that opens onto the garden. Russell is a skilled handyman and the couple don’t use tradespeople much, with the exception of work that needs certification such as the skylights, which now flood the entrance hall and dining space with natural light.

“The first thing I did after we moved in was to wallpaper the original toilet with old magazines,” Vivienne says.

“A lot of these articles on the walls are about Queenstown. People come out laughing!”

The map-clad walls in Olly’s room, now Vivienne’s dressing room, have been replaced with black and pink floral wallpaper, while velvet curtains create a luxe, feminine space. This is a room dedicated to a love of fashion with furnishings salvaged from a closed-down clothing store in town.

In the couple’s bedroom, precious items from Vivienne’s father take pride of place. In another bedroom, a regal colour palette of gold and green is anchored by an ornate wallpaper of columns and domes.

An en suite has been added, with the bath positioned beneath a window that opens up to a glorious view of the Shotover River and Coronet Peak.

Even the living room coffee table has a story. It was created from a discarded door and set on salvaged outdoor bench seats, with a piece of glass from an old shop counter placed on top.

From the shaded patio at the front of the house there are views over Queenstown Hill, Shotover River and Arthurs Point village.

Fiona Tomlinson/NZ House & Garden

From the shaded patio at the front of the house there are views over Queenstown Hill, Shotover River and Arthurs Point village.

The resourcefulness and imagination that brought the piece to life is a source of pride for the couple. A collection of antique glass light fittings are positioned in a beautifully ad hoc manner overhead, while salvaged stained glass windows and a vintage sliding door finish the cosy, classical stylings of the room.

The kitchen is another exercise in bold colour, with lime green cabinetry and wallpaper depicting a European-style townscape.

Plants are everywhere in Villa Vecchio; Vivienne admits to being a plant addict. “I can’t stop buying them, and actually neither can you, Russ,” she says. “We love growing things. We have a fantastic tomato house and growing house and we are self-sufficient with our fruit and veges.”

The couple are passionate about Queenstown and enjoy walking in the hills surrounding their home.

“It’s a wonderful place to bring up children,” says Vivienne. “Even though it has grown, it’s still a lovely place and you can’t get away from the beautiful scenery. We don’t have curtains in the living room. We still have that beautiful view even after all these years.”

While a smaller home, Casa Luna, has been built below the main house as a possible retirement plan, the couple hope not to have to move anytime soon.

After all, there are plans afoot to renovate the bathroom as well as big ideas to bring to fruition in the gorgeous Mediterranean-style rear garden. An old water tank is being transformed into a landscaped grotto, adding to what is already a lushly planted oasis complete with fig trees and alive with birds.

“There’s always stuff to do,” says Vivienne. “We’re always thinking of new ideas.”

Q&A with Vivienne & Russell Hagen

Best decorating tip: To disguise rough walls, use anaglypta wallpaper then paint it. This gives great texture and you can choose the pattern and add to it with your choice of colour. (Vivienne)

Best budget tip: Source from op shops and garage sales, and take cuttings of friends’ plants. Be open to repurposing things. (Vivienne)

Best money we ever spent: Skylights and double glazing.

The home improvement that caused the most debate: When is enough plants, Viv? (Russell)

Favourite new find: Concrete gargoyles bought in Auckland while visiting our son. (Vivienne)

Flowers I couldn’t live without: Lavender, sweet pea and anything scented. (Vivienne)

This weekend we will be: Planting bulbs and espaliering fruit trees. (Vivienne)

Favourite family treasure: I treasure the things my dad and mum (now passed) gave me over the years. I am often gifted special pieces from my sister and brother as they know I will treasure them. (Vivienne)

My family videos. (Russell)

A quote I often use: Good things take time. (Vivienne)

Best-kept secret in the area: The Moonlight Track to Moke Lake. (Vivienne)

Favourite local eatery: Farelli’s Trattoria for great Italian. (Vivienne)

Best place for coffee: Raeward Fresh for coffee and pastries. (Vivienne)