A seaside haven is a dream come true for a Bay of Plenty artist and her growing family – especially their beach-loving pooch.
For most of her adult life, Mandy Williams has been edging ever closer to her ultimate coastal home.
The Mt Maunganui artist and her investor husband Carwyn both grew up in the Waikato and have lived in England, then Australia, then in homes on Tauranga’s rural outskirts and most recently in a Tauranga city suburb. The latest move has fulfilled a long-held wish to cross the city’s harbour bridge, with teenagers Kobe and Jade, as well as two cats and Ccino the Cuban Havanese dog.
“We always dreamed of being on the beach, in Mt Maunganui,” Mandy says. “We’ve always loved it, we’re just drawn to it. When we were younger, this is where we’d come for holidays. Even when we were living in Ōmokoroa or Te Puna, I’d always still drive in and go up the Mount.”
Now, she climbs the iconic volcanic dome most days and walks her Havanese “coffee partner” Ccino (pronounced as in “cappuccino”) across the road and onto the beach daily. “I love that the dog gets me down there. There’s just something about the moving ocean, the people, all the dogs. It just clears your head. Whenever I need space for anything, I go to the beach.”
Despite the obvious appeal of the location and the handsome four-bedroom cedar and bagged-brick home, Mandy says it was the three-car garage that sealed the relocation deal. Their previous house had less garage space for Carwyn’s beloved vehicles and driveway parking was tighter. They also enjoy the extra space inside the 440sqm abode, which was designed by local architect Brendon Gordon and won several accolades in the 2018 Registered Master Builders House of the Year competition.
The spare bedroom and extra living areas are particularly useful given the teenagers who flock to their place at weekends. So too is the large laundry, which processes a steady stream of soggy beach and pool towels.
Mandy says the house easily absorbs groups of adults and children, some by the pool, some in the lounge, others in the upstairs living area. A leafy courtyard offers another entertaining option, with an outdoor fireplace.
“I like the flow of the house, it’s really well thought out. There’s great storage – the scullery is so long you need roller skates – and you can tell they understood the site really well in terms of the light and weather and the sun going up and down.
“And this room is like a greenhouse,” she says of the plant-filled main living area. “I never thought I had green fingers till I came here.”
They have made some changes, including adding the swimming pool, sanding back the decking for a more natural look and investing in new outdoor furniture and indoor sofas. However, Mandy was pleasantly surprised to find most of the family’s existing furnishings and art fitted comfortably into the new spaces. A Mr Brainwash artwork bought in New York slots neatly into a spot by the front door, while Mandy’s painting of a woman and a fantail look perfectly at home in the kitchen.
The Williams’ art collection includes plenty of Mandy’s pieces, including a pair of young children in traditional Māori dress flanking the fireplace – a boy and a girl. The girl’s features are based on her own daughter, set against a heavily patterned backdrop.
“Carwyn is Ngāi Tahu, so the combining of the Māori kids with the English William Morris wallpaper represents the strength, beauty and pride that comes together when they unite. Balanced and beautiful, as per the titles [of the artworks], Pride and Courage.”
The former advertising company art director has always immersed herself in creative endeavours. She worked in graphic design and once had the same job that her artistic mother held around the same age – dressing windows at a department store.
Since shifting close to the sea in June 2020, Mandy has found inspiration on both sides of her home. She is working on a commissioned piece set on the beach and says a recent oil painting course has revolutionised the way she views and paints the sea and sky. The golf course vista over her back fence, meanwhile, has inspired a new series of paintings that includes a woman swinging a golf club.
“I may not have taken up golf yet but I’ve painted it. I absolutely love that view and the fact it’s people out there ‘playing’. So often in life, we don’t stop and play. Of course, some you can hear are just about throwing their clubs but the majority are enjoying it.
“Every place I’ve lived has influenced my art. It’s amazing how your surroundings do shift your focus. When I was painting birds, I was living on a farm and my studio was in an orchard. Now, I have to drive along past the ocean to my studio.”
Mandy is also trying to let the beach teach her a few lessons outside the studio. “I go to the beach and I see all these people just sitting, taking that time – not always just needing to go for a walk, be in a rush. I’m trying to do that, too.”