For more than 20 years, Maree Hynes’ clients have invited her into their homes.
The interior designer now feels it is time to return the favour.
On June 22 and 23, Mrs Hynes will open her new home to the public – raising money for Hospice South Canterbury through the gold coin donation entry fee, and giving people possibly the first chance to see inside one of Timaru’s notable historic homesteads, Harlau House.
And when the doors close behind the last visitor, the builders will be preparing to move in, as Mrs Hynes embarks on a major renovation.
In January, Mrs Hynes and husband Mike moved into Harlau House, on Beaconsfield Rd.
“I just love old homes and I wanted a new challenge for my career. We love the setting, and we wanted to be closer to town. Because we are farming, we could do this and Mike could commute to the farms.
“We’re wanting to bring this beautiful house back to its former glory, and bring it into the 21st century with our amazing extension.
“This is a real Timaru icon homestead, there aren’t many left. We’re just custodians of it, and I feel like people deserve to see this beautiful old home.”
While Mrs Hynes was focused on her plans for the homestead, local people were clamouring for the restaurant, established years earlier in the homestead’s stables, to be reopened.
“So we threw our suitcases in the door and went over to open up the cafe. Our plan was just to come here and have a quiet life with this amazing project. But people were wanting it open, they wanted it back, so we did.”
The business, employing 14 to 16 staff, is open seven days a week and has been renamed Harlau House Cafe.
The couple are also responding to inquiries about whether the homestead’s stunning gardens could be made available as a wedding venue, and a major garden clean-up is under way.
While much of Mrs Hynes’ day job is inside homes, she said she loved getting out into the garden, and Harlau House’s garden was a delight.
The couple have big plans for the house, so the open days are a chance for people with a penchant for history to take a look at the house as it stands now. And when the work is done, Mr and Mrs Hynes will open the doors again.
The renovation project will centre around the single-storey 1950s extension. The plans outline an orangery effect to provide the indoor-outdoor flow often lacking in older homes, and make better use of the space available.
It will be the latest in some significant changes to the two-storey home, since it was built in 1890 for newspaper owner Edward George Kerr.
It was designed by French architect Maurice de H’Arven Duval, whose local work also includes the Convent of Mercy in Timaru, and St Mary’s Church, Geraldine. His buildings were often identifiable by his cornerstone, or “quoin” motif: concrete blocks laid horizontally, long and short alternatively.
Harlau was a portmanteau of the names of two of Mr Kerr’s children: Harry, who drowned as a child in the Washdyke Lagoon, and Laura, who died as a young woman.
In 1947, then owner R.H. Kerr embarked on extensive renovations, removing eight rooms of the eastern part of the homestead, as well as the downstairs covered veranda and upstairs balconies.
The single-storey extension was added in the 1950s, and a swimming pool was built in 1963.