Beyond the large green gates, the Greenmantle property looks more like something from Hollywood’s golden age than the hillside at Paraparaumu on the Kāpiti coast.
One side of the sprawling, 40s-built mansion is shrouded in a deep, shady colonnade, the kind one could easily imagine Cary Grant mixing drinks for Katherine Hepburn on.
Surrounded by manicured gardens and lush native shrubs, Greenmantle was extensively remodeled in the 90s and 2000s transformed into exactly the place Hepburn and Grant would live if they still existed today: a secluded luxury lodge, suitable for diplomats , Danish heavy metal stars and golf legend Tiger Woods.
“We do not kiss, so tell us about our guests,” said former journalist and host-with-most Ralph Green, who owns the property with his wife Letizia Columbano and son Lorenzo Green.
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“Tiger Woods was pretty hard to hide. He was supposed to be a secret, but it came out because he’s like that. Other guests … I struggle to remember on purpose.”
Woods actually came to the area in 2002 to participate in the New Zealand Open before Green took over in 2012.
The then owner was the former head of the New Zealand Criminal Investigation Bureau and had also been the head of the diplomatic protection group.
“This was right after 9/11 and there were a lot of quarrels around that they should target an American icon and that New Zealand was seen as a soft target area.
“So there was something along the lines of 13 police patrolling around this place, the security was unusually high.”
The danger was very real. Someone sent a cyanide-laced letter threatening the Open to the U.S. Embassy, prompting police to increase security for the event by $ 500,000.
In recent times, Green says the diplomatic protection group has viewed Greenmantle as a place to host heads of state and given it a thumbs up. “We have a pretty high clearance.”
Without mentioning names or giving too much away, the most “surprising” celebrities he has hosted have been “well-known” rock stars, including the lead singer of a Danish metal band with a name that is too profane for him to repeat and a passion for birds watching.
However, the opportunity to host the big, the good and the loud is not the reason why Green and his family took over the property.
After growing up in the region and seeing the “beautiful pink house sit proudly up on a lovely drive”, when Green returned to New Zealand after a long time abroad and found it on the market, he and Columbano took the chance to take a tour of property.
As one walked through the gardens and into the nikau forest behind the house, it clicked.
“We went in there and fell in love. Having a watch nikau forest in your backyard was just too much. We surprised the real estate agent by saying, ‘yes, we’ll take it.’ He was a little shocked,” Green says.
“It had been a boutique hotel for some time. We turned it into a luxury lodge.
“Having a home and an income combined quite usefully. That’s how we ended up here because of the gardens, the bird life, and looking at Kāpiti [Island, which can be seen from the house], and have something quite distinctive. “
The house covers 814 sqm, located in 1.89 hectares, and has six-bedroom suites – each with its own balconies and views – seven bathrooms, an impressive double-height formal dining room, a garage for four cars and two separate guest cabins.
Near the house is a heated outdoor pool with permanent tent that houses the Green Orchid Collection, which Green jokingly refers to as the “staff’s smoking room”, surrounded by formal gardens.
And then there is the nikau forest, intersected with hiking trails that lead to a secluded covered spa pool surrounded by greenery.
“It’s like going to Indonesia, but without the heat or the insects,” Green says.
“There’s an area we call the nikau amphitheater that people seem to want to get married in. It’s so nice to sit under all these nikau and listen to the sound of the owls at night.”
Another great place on the property for relaxing at night is the helicopter pad (yes, it also has one of them), which has no light so you get a clear picture of the stars at night.
Green and Columbano have just become grandparents and their daughter lives in Venice, so the couple has reluctantly decided to divorce Greenmantle and move to Italy.
“It’s a matter of priority, we’ve become grandparents for the first time, and we want to be grandparents,” says Green.
It is also impossible to host guests “remotely” in a place like Greenmantle.
“It’s very personal. In a larger hotel, you can, but it’s very intimate. We have returning guests who love to sit and share their stories.”
You can keep the property as a private home. But anyone who wants to take on Greenmantle as a lodge needs absolute discretion and a lot of energy.
Greenmantle was last sold in 2012 for $ 2.05 million. Propertyvalue.co.nz estimates that it is now rated in the range of $ 3.25m to $ 3.5m, although it is expected to have a much higher price in the current market.
Listed by Sharon Vodanovich and Nicola Fisher for Sotheby’s International Realty, the Greenmantle property is for sale by auction, which closes at 12:00 on Thursday 9 December.