French Flair in Akaroa

Kirsty Cashmore spent years in an office little realising her true talents. The owner of Tully House Linens opens her glorious B&B to alfresco magazine.
If Kirsty C ashmore has one regret it’s that she wasted so muchtime working in an office, little realising her (magnificent) talent for design. “
I was a square peg in a round hole,” she chuckles, her voice gravelly, thick with irrepressible laughter.
The proprietor of Tully House Linens admits she’s always been “a shocking collector.”
She gestures to a cupboard topped with dozens of French enamel wear jugs for which she has a particular passion. In truth, the jugs form part of an immense collection, among other collections, tastefully crammed into the shop and overflowing into Kirsty’s charming Akaroa cottage and Bed and Breakfast, Villa Vangioni. It may sound over the top but Kirsty is a curator, an archivist and a natural designer with a passion and a flair that is enviable. We’re sitting in the sunny duck egg blue kitchen, breakfasting on fresh yoghurt and berries. But for Kirsty’s constant bustling concern for our comfort (she reckons she should be on a maintenance dose of Ritalin) it would be a charming still life with cats. We are surrounded by beauty. Next door is the guest’s dining room, a romantic masterpiece glistening with cut glass, crystal and pearls hand sewn onto sheer curtains. We’ve arisen – reluctantly – from beds of gossamer in rooms so quaint and timeless it’s hard to leave. We bathe in a ridiculously divine bathroom so perfectly detailed it’s hard to assimilate all the individual elements of charm. But it’s the garden we’re here to see, we remind ourselves reluctantly during the second cup of coffee.
“Three years ago this was just grass,” Kirsty explains as we wander outside. “ I wanted a garden full of scent and colour. I suppose the look is eclectic. I combine some really expensive things with others as cheap as chips. That’s what I do. I always like to start with two or three really good pieces.”
The garden, like the cottage itself, is romantic and feminine but never cloying or girlie. It’s a gorgeous mass of whites, creams, lavenders and minty greens.
Overhead is a kanuka arbour. “Soon it will be covered in the most wonderful creamy white roses and clematis. Another arbour over the dining table will
“drip” with white wisteria.


These images taken inside and out of Kirsty Cashmore’s Akaroa B &B clearly demonstrate her natural design flair.


Some tips for achieving this look:

Garden furniture should have a patina of age – let your wooden pieces weather  •  Buy good quality wrought iron pieces and don’t be afraid to let nature take its course • Nostalgic stripes or florals – think big, blousy cabbage roses – these are always going to fashionable • Mattress ticking is a perennial look sure to charm. Invest in genuine ticking • If you can get hold of them; Frenchflour sacks. These are more than100 years old and can be used as table runners or bedding • Look out for  unusual pieces like a day bed and breathe new life into them • Create layers. Work heights and textures by stacking and grouping, always using odd numbers.

Beyond the arbours and antique wire wove enclosures, there’s a mysterious gate beckoning. There are steps leading to the creek edge. “In winter the stream roars past,” Kirsty beams; uplifted by the recent memory of such unrestrained vigour.

Some of the plants, like the weeping pear and potted strawberries, came from Greytown when Kirsty moved to Akaroa four years ago. All are treated like special guests. There’s a white rosemary border, viburnam, honeysuckle, greeny-white hydrangeas, white and mauve roses, artichokes, cardoons, tulips, self-seeded foxgloves and Nepeta Six Hills that “floats” above the ground like a sea of mauve. Over the front gate is an old-fashioned rose – Mrs Herbert Stephens and clematis that looks like a “taffeta ball gown in layers of mauve.”

There’s also a productive vegetable patch. “I have the most amazing rhubarb. It goes all year.” Among all the plants are scattered pieces of artwork. Some are old, adding gravity to the overall lightness of the garden; others are new, bought or designed especially – like the whimsical spider’s web she had made to hang from the cherry tree.

“I saw the idea about 20 years ago in Gardens Illustrated,” Kirsty explains, “I hate plastic rubbish. I think we’ve become slaves to society and surrounded by ugliness.”

While her gardening abilities are legendary in the romantic French village she calls home, Kirsty is nonchalant about her skills. She admits simply to being “over lavender combined with iceberg roses” all the while apologetically explaining that “it’s all still evolving.” In train are plans for a covered verandah at the back of the house and a potting shed with a mezzanine floor. Such things can only add to the existing charm. Kirsty’s romantic garden may look casual, unaffected and even Gallically nonchalant. Don’t be deceived. It’s been designed to look that way. Tully House Linens is located at 74, rue Lavaud, Akaroa. to see the amazing collection of French linens and antiques or to book accommodation at Villa Vangioni or phone 03 304 7261.

The Villa was built in 1870 by Italian settler, Joseph Vangioni.


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