It's the hollywood style of Spanish Mission homes that appeals to Auckland real estate agent Michael Boulgaris. "They're very LA, very reminiscent of 1920s Hollywood and quite different for traditional suburban Auckland," he says. They're also very rare, and Michael's quest to find one for himself took years.
There are only three significant Spanish Mission homes in Remuera, he says.
One of them used to belong to former Auckland mayor John Banks and another sold in February for $8 million. After waiting patiently for years, in 2014 Michael found himself bidding furiously against five other contenders. "The experience scared the living daylights out of me."
As soon as the home was his, he embarked on a top-to-toe, 18-month renovation.
His Remuera home is just right for the antiques he's spent a lifetime collecting, scouring Sotheby's and Christie's catalogues for gems from London, Paris and New York.
He was introduced to antiques by property investor Olly Newland, when Michael, aged only 23, sold a house for him.
"It's unfortunately a very expensive and a very time-consuming hobby," he says.
"Every couple of months I might have a glass of wine and polish the furniture, buff it up and feel good about it, as someone would polish their car – that's where I get my satisfaction."
His home is a sanctuary, a place to unwind after long hours in the office and weekends spent at open homes for his high-end clients. "When I close those gates at night, I'm totally secure from the world, it's quiet and private and I like the space."
"Friends say to me, 'It's too big for you,' but it's perfect," says Michael of the 500sqm four-bedroom house he shares with a flatmate and dogs, Jacqui and Forrest Gump. "There are often house guests too so just as well there's plenty of room," he says. >
Michael sold his modern art collection to finance the renovation – restoring all the walls, ceilings, fireplaces, replacing every fitting, remodelling three bathrooms and two kitchens (one upstairs and one down) and refurbishing the pool.
Things didn't always go smoothly – plumbing work led to a huge flood in the kitchen that damaged the floors, walls, plastering and ceiling below. The kitchen had to be ripped out three times until the measurements were perfect. "The only saving grace was
I couldn't cook, so I lost a lot of weight by just snacking each night," Michael says.
Working in the luxury real estate market, Michael says he's accustomed to dealing with perfectionist, type-A personalities and that's how he operates himself.
"I'd walk into a room and say, 'That light switch is 3mm out.' The electrician would joke, 'What do you mean? Did you use a spirit level?' I'd pick up the spirit level and it would be 3mm out."
Now that the memories of renovation dramas are fading, Michael can enjoy the home he's created. An accident saw him confined to a wheelchair for a few months last year – he tore the quadriceps muscles on both legs after slipping while carrying a box down the stairs.
Swimming in his pool, which he heats to 38°C, has been great therapy. "My friends think it's a joke but they love it, particularly a midnight swim with a beverage."
Opening out to the pool is a ballroom where Michael recently hosted 90 people for a Hope Foundation fundraiser. "The ballroom swallowed up the people and there could easily have been 150 guests. This was a good trial run for when I host a Great Gatsby party for my clients."
All levels of the home look out to the pool and to Rangitoto. "The elevation over the rooftops reminds me of the Hollywood Hills," he says. The view is best from the top level at sunrise, he says. "The sun comes up in a big orange ball and illuminates the valley. This is when one can really be at peace."
- NZ House & Garden