For Verity Wolf, the decision to give up her life in the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria and move to New Zealand after falling in love with a house in the small town of Lawrence has meant she couldn’t be happier. Wolf moved to New Zealand from Australia specifically to purchase a property and make it into a bed and breakfast. Now called Lady of Lawrence, her boutique B&B is located on Peel Street in Lawrence, a small Otago town of 474 inhabitants in the South Island. The Dandenong Ranges were filled with B&B’s and boutique accommodation, sparking Wolf’s interest in starting her own. With the expense of maintaining a large property she thought she might be able to do this too, and it became a new dream.
“After missing out on several properties, I became a little disheartened. A close friend suggested I have a holiday in New Zealand and while I was here, well it wouldn’t hurt just to have a look. Of course I said, how can I possibly move to New Zealand?”
These were famous last words, however, because she fell in love with the Lawrence house.
“Of course, some of my friends thought I was a combination of crazy and brave. What a big risk and huge life change. Now it’s a reality and despite the constant hard work to create a business and maintain a big house it’s all been worth it and I couldn’t be happier.”
After arriving in April 2015, there were two weeks of unpacking and arranging furniture. Ninety-five boxes arrived in a 40 foot container, followed by a solid nine months of work at the property to ensure it was open for late January this year. The restoration and redecoration process involved endless lists and many trips to the hardware store. Wolf tried to tackle things one room at a time so as not to become too overwhelmed. The four guest room’s upstairs and formal dining room were all completely redecorated. The preparation before painting was the hardest part, including sanding, filling and cleaning.
The colours were so strong in some rooms it took up to four undercoats before the final colour. The majority of the light fittings were replaced with chandeliers. New carpet and curtains in the bedrooms completed the boutique look. On a more practical side, heating and ceiling fans were added to the bathrooms, with one being retiled. Heat pumps were installed in both bedrooms and an old electric fireplace was shipped down from Wellington. Other pieces, such as ceramic plates, were imported from England. Outside bricks were repainted and two outside paths replaced impractical pavers. Five tonnes of crushed rock for the driveway and four for the pebbled areas created weeks of work. The garden and grounds were also a huge part of completing the project. Every flowerbed was dug up and replanted.
“I remember pulling onion weed out on my hands and knees in the cold, and after 16 hours to finish I was thinking, what am I doing?”
She said the biggest challenge of undertaking the renovation was time and sticking to a budget.
“Initially it was hard at times, feeling like I was doing everything by myself especially when tackling new DIY. I was lucky that my very handy and skilled mother, Sandra, made several trips from Australia to help too. Nothing is simple in an early 1900s home and two to four bricks, even in internal walls, means you can’t just add a PowerPoint. Working with the plaster walls was also very challenging; again you can’t just bang a nail in."
Wolf loves a clean, fresh and elegant look so she chose white, black, cream, charcoal and grey as base colours, and gold and silver for frames and mirrors. The prints and soft furnishings, such as cushions, added more colour and contrast.
“I wanted the rooms to feel relaxing and create a beautiful space for guests to feel at home. It could not have changed more significantly from the previous design.
“I’m pleased to say it’s totally different and fully transformed.”
The furniture was handpicked for each room to complement the style of the house with most being sourced from French Provincial and Recollections. She said she has had very positive feedback from guests.
“Everyone seems to adore the house. I’ve been told how comfortable the beds are and how peaceful it is. Guests like their own lounge rooms so they can watch TV or a DVD in private. The first comment in the hall on arrival is either “oh my goodness” or a simple “wow”. That’s the best part for me.
“This dream will never be finished. I will always find the next project here.”