A love of trees and a dream of owning a holiday home within striking distance of Wellington was the motivation behind Susan and Wayne Klitscher’s decision to buy six hectares of bare land on the outskirts of Masterton. Little did they know, their ‘hobby house’ would turn into a generous family home – one that blended together practicality and history with their eclectic taste in furnishings and fixtures.

“We bought the land in 2000 and moved a railway cottage from Marton into position the same year,” Susan explains.

“We then set about dedicating all our leisure time to the project. We travelled over from Wellington every weekend to work on the garden, and spent our first winter planting 200 chestnut and 200 walnut saplings, as well as fruit trees of every type we could think of.”

Extending the property with a second house was never in the original plan but, after a few years, the couple bought an old villa from Bulls, which they placed two metres from the railway cottage.

Having a gap between the two properties meant they could push out the tiny kitchen to provide a spacious hub, while using the newly added villa for more general living.

“At the time, our passion for antiques was growing,” Susan says. “And the space had to expand to fit the available furniture.”

A career move to Singapore, however, caused a delay in progress at the property.

“We could only visit the house once a year when we came home but despite the trials, and the expense, of doing up removal properties we had become a little hooked. This meant we still kept an eye on the relocatable house sales yards.”

It didn’t take long before the wheels were back in motion. The purchase of another old villa in 2010, which was placed at the other side of the original cottage, created more bedrooms, bathrooms and living areas. Although Susan and Wayne were still in Singapore, they were able to organise for work to start on the new property.

It was all change again a few years later, when they returned from overseas with two young children, Amelia and Eleanor. “Suddenly our holiday cottage became our main home and we had to start being a bit more practical,” Susan says.

“A four bedroom, four bathroom house with five fireplaces was a far cry from our original plans, but we needed to get the property finished now that we were a family of four.

“Our first job was to install some kind of heating in the kitchen. For this we chose a cast iron, wood-fired stove with a window in the fire door so you can see the flames, and a wetback which heats the radiators in the bathrooms. I cook on the stove all winter and we all enjoy the ambience it creates.”

Once the essential tasks had been completed, Susan and Wayne could focus on adding the finishing touches. For this, they drew on their collection of objets d’art from around the world.

Old oak chests of drawers from 17th and 18th century Europe were placed in the bedrooms, and stone statues from Bali were used to support two of the mantelpieces – which are adorned with Chinese tomb figures, pottery horses and mythical creatures. Wooden puppets in the shape of literary figures from the ancient Indian poem The Ramayana sit on antique side tables, and ferocious wood carvings from Indonesia keep a watchful eye in the main lounge, where sunlight streams down from two stained glass panels in the ceiling.

A Dutch dresser from the 1700s and an old cupboard from Tibet serve as vanity units in two of the bathrooms. Tiles from Turkey have been used to decorate one of the ensuites, as well as the kitchen. Persian rugs cover beautifully polished wooden floors. Ornate framed paintings hang from the walls in the main bedroom, while a time-worn Flemish tapestry stretches up from the floor to the high stud just beyond the kitchen. Throughout the house, the calming tick of a dozen grandfather, or longcase, clocks can be heard.

Outside, the garden is now flourishing. With the walnut and chestnut trees, the orchards, the lawns and the flowerbeds all well established, Wayne and his father have been developing a large rose garden.

On hot days, the children play under an oak tree at the side of the house with their dog, Oscar.

“The tree was planted by Wayne and his father. They positioned it a good distance away from the railway cottage but, as the house has grown, it now sits quite close to the third property. We are loathe to take it down, so we make sure we keep it well-pruned because this tree – like us – is staying where it is.”

Story by Lisa Carruthers
Photography by Jannelle Preston-Searle