Victorian Villa Visionary

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words & images: Leanne Gichard

Kath Shea had a vision.  The moment she looked through the window of a sadly neglected villa and spotted the original mouldings and ceiling roses intact, she just knew there was no turning back, she simply had to buy the house.  That was 1 August 1991.  The villa is now 130 years old.

The Victorian villa had been converted into three separate flats and was in a sorry state of repair – so sorry in fact, that when her brother-in-law sighted the place he later said, “Are you sure you can’t get out of the contract to buy that house?”  Kath laughs at this memory and says he was not the only one who proffered similar advice, but Kath saw only potential. 

Kath has laboured for 28 years to create an exquisite garden and luxurious home.  As I stepped through the gorgeous wrought iron gate, the divine scent from hundreds of flowers encompassed me and delighted my senses.  The garden is absolutely sublime.  It has been well thought out and arranged into a series of “rooms”, with seats available to sit, relax and feel at peace.  The colours are bright, and plants of every description thrive under Kath’s tender loving care.  Chairs, benches, pots, arches have been painted in vivid shades of blue and green which really stand out against the luxuriant green foliage and bright gold daisies.  Even though you are in the middle of town, the garden affords total privacy and it feels as though you are totally cocooned.

The moment you step over the threshold you are drawn into another world – a world of sumptuous, unabashed opulence.  Kath said, “I don’t like pastels or beige, I like colour!” and you will certainly not find any beige or pastels here!  It is bold, sumptuous and magnificent.  Kath has taken great care to restore all of the original features.  “I bought the carpet for the drawing room for $30 and a missing ceiling rose was found at a garage sale,” she says proudly. Kath’s style is all her own.  Each room has its own colour theme and the mouldings and ceiling roses have been accentuated, using a variety of paints and finishes, some metallic in hues of gold, bronze or antique burnished green. She adores antiques and the quality of stately homes and admits she was probably born in the wrong era. 

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.