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NZ Where art meets garden

Property Here - Saturday, March 16, 2013

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Transforming a basic rural property into a lovely family home and art gallery within beautifully landscaped grounds takes the right people. Like Shelley Chignell, a former landscape-design writer with a passion for art, and her husband Ed, who has outdoor machinery on tap as chief executive of arboricultural company Treescape.

Shelley says, "This has been a wicked family home. And outside the work has all been done - decks, landscaping, pool, paths, plants and mature trees. The gardens are in a really good stage to just enjoy."

Ed was in his late 20s when he bought this Coatesville property in 1987, before he met Shelley, who now works in arts and publishing.

She was editor of More magazine under her maiden name "Clement", wrote about landscape design for Next and later retrained in arts management.

Shelley has fond childhood memories of big gardens. So she and Ed relocated to this property, which had been rented out, when they were living in Onehunga and expecting their first child.

Back then, it was just a simple cottage, a few mature trees, a sheep paddock and a barn, later replaced by Shelley's art gallery business.

After a decade, with children Rory (now 18) and Grace (nearly 16), they outgrew the cottage. At first they planned to extend it, but instead replaced it with a new home designed by George Clarke Architects.

"It was on the same footprint, because I said to my husband, 'I've already done 10 years of landscaping here and we're not wrecking that!"'

Fortunately, their 2003 tradespeople anticipated future regulation changes, building a solid plaster home with large eaves, equipped with full flashing and a cavity system before those features were mandatory.

There's a separate driveway and parking for the Flametree Art Garden and Gallery, Shelley's outdoor art business.

This light-filled exhibition studio with covered front courtyard, rear toilet and storage, could continue as a gallery, become a gym, or be used for another home business.

A driveway leads to the two-storey home, near the gallery's namesake flame tree. Shelley studied Japanese garden design, which is the influence behind floating platforms prefacing the house and gallery that encourage people to "pause and think before you enter a dwelling".

The house relates cleverly to the garden, with views from every window and a pavilion effect when opened up. But it's mainly a functional family home, with loads of room and attractive materials, such as ground-level jarrah floors.

The main open-plan kitchen, dining and family space looks out over a big, level front lawn.

The dual-oven kitchen has cool drinks in an extra fridge, ready to take out to two north-facing decks or the rear in-ground pool and spa.

A sunny extra lounge has recently been a "teenage boy pit", for watching TV, playing computer games and cranking up pool-side music. This level's two bedrooms, family bathroom and big laundry are rounded out by upstairs' third bedroom with en suite and master suite. As well as an en suite and walk-in wardrobe, it offers a quiet parents' retreat - a lounge/study with balcony.

"We have fantastic views," says Shelley.

"And because we're part of a corridor of bush, we have a really big resident population of tui and wood-pigeons."

The established grounds have hosted garden tours, but Shelley's proven the upkeep is manageable - "a day each month or a few hours each fortnight".

Some outdoor art stays with the property. Garden highlights include a fountain courtyard, an outdoor room with chiminea fire, a sunken garden and a vege-flower garden with chook-house.

The double garage incorporates another office and storage.

Now the children are entering university years and Ed's often travelling for Treescapes, the Chignells are moving on.