Totem Retreat


The sweeping north facing verandah and the light filtering through the trees are a perfect setting for a long evening in a home away from home, with friends on that verandah and bottomless glasses of wine. Oozing with eclectic style and romance this beauty was snapped up by Kate and Dave Arbuthnot nearly ten years ago, from Trademe. 

“The bones of the original house were great but the add-ons were rotten, in fact the day we moved in I fell through the floor!” says Kate. In the early days of the renovation, “the builders were working and the whole back wing of the house collapsed into the garden. By the time I arrived home that afternoon they’d bulldozed it into two massive piles and set fire to it. I thought, there was no way this is ever going to turn out okay! But it did.”

If these walls could talk they may be able to fill in the missing pieces of the homestead’s history. “The original plans were lost in a council office flood. It was rumoured that someone put all the house plans in plastic rubbish sacks to be moved but they accidentally got thrown away,” Kate  says. “We do know that it was the original homestead in the area built from rough-sawn Kauri off the land and owned by the Goodfellow family and later the Irwin family.” (If anyone can expand on this particular house’s history please share it with us at Junction Magazine, so we can to on.)

As a stylist, Kate’s knack for hunting out pieces and bringing them together is enviable. For four years Kate was the proud founder and owner of ‘Fossick’, in Matakana Village, a collection of interiors and vintage treasures. With a natural eye for spotting the convertible, she buys whatever she falls in love with at second hand shops but the best often comes from the side of the road. “I figure out how I’m going to make them work... sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. I also drag a lot of nature home with me, old bits of wood, big branches, collections of feathers, birds nests, and they all get displayed.” 



The wallpaper she chose for one room was produced by Anthropologie, who sent a team of designers to New Zealand for an inspirational recce. The result: a magical bushscape with kangaroos, woodpeckers and badgers!

In an effort to simplify their life with three kids, they recently moved from their beloved valley into a 70m2 bach on the water at Snells Beach. It’s a full 180 degree flip. It does however mean that their Totem Retreat, in Whangaripo Valley, is on Air BnB and soon to have its own website. 


It may seem remote but it is located on one of the most beautiful roads you’ll drive. Along Whangaripo Valley Road and into Pakiri Road, all the way from Wellsford to Pakiri Beach is stunning. Then there are the locals! Every year a group of local girls, including Kate, throw together ‘The Whangaripo Wild Food Festival’. People come from far and wide for the day, with the most incredible wild and foraged food: seafood, rabbit and pukeko stews, swan wontons, snail paella, deep-fried crickets, wild turkey terrine, smoked eel, kawakawa shortbread and nasturtium ice-cream. There are kids roaring around, dogs weaving in and out of legs, beer flowing, tug-o-war and wife carrying contests. “It’s all just word of mouth and it’s wonderful madness,” says Kate.

“I think it gives people, especially families, from the city somewhere to escape to for a relaxed, country experience. We put the bell tent up in the camping paddock in summer so kids can get a chance to sleep under the stars and roast marshmallows too.”

DesignWaimarie Dashper