MID-CENTURY LIVING: THE BUTTERFLY HOUSE COLLECTION
By CHRISTINE FERNYHOUGH
Published by Penguin Random House NZ, hardback, 01 October 2019, RRP: $60.00
CHRISTINE FERNYHOUGH’S EXTRAORDINARY COLLECTION OF MID-CENTURY AND MODERN NEW ZEALAND OBJECTS AND THE STORIES BEHIND THEM
The best-selling author of The Road to Castle Hill, Christine Fernyhough’s passion for interior decorating morphed
into the obsession of a serious collector in 1994. Life’s tides had brought Christine and her family to a classic 1960s
Kiwi bach at Northland’s Mangawhai Heads. Steeped in history, it recalled a golden era in our history – mid-century
Calling their bach the Butterfly House, the family set about making it their own. Inspired by childhood memories, 1950s interior design magazines, and her passion for the crafted, the local and the handmade, Christine lovingly incorporated the
classic design elements and Kiwiana kitsch of yesteryear into the humble rooms and spaces at Mangawhai.
Acquiring everyday objects and memorabilia for the Butterfly House at car boot sales, garage sales, op-shops and auctions became a family sport. Christine’s collection grew like topsy and now forms an extraordinary repository of memories.
Today, the bach has been transformed into a beguiling mid-century fantasy that never fails to delight visitors.
Not for Christine the clinical online purchase; objects must be carefully researched, discovered and held, with serendipity often playing a part. As Christine says, ‘What started as kind of interior decorating developed as my interest and passion grew for ‘things’ – fine art as well as decorative and applied arts of mid-century New Zealand. It became more about rescuing history, a wonderful history lesson spoken in objects.’
In Mid-Century Living: The Butterfly House Collection, Christine invites readers to join her on a fascinating journey through our design history in furniture, ceramics, tableware, utensils, lamps, naïve art, Royal Family memorabilia, hand-coloured scenic posters, Crown Lynn and much more. Crisp, colour-drenched photographs by Mark Adams and Haru Sameshima of Studio La Gonda bring to life the bach and all its rooms and reveal individual objects in situ through rich close-ups, taking the
reader into our quirky, crafty and often ‘make do’ past.
Opening the doors to the Butterfly House and moving through each of the rooms, and the exterior, Christine shares the history of each object, her journey to them and her contagious enthusiasm for collectables. She warmly welcomes readers into her life and weaves her own personal story into the narrative, with memories of sunburn and lipstick, beach cricket and dancing the Twist, table manners and cocktail hour.
In an age of instant gratification and digital living, Mid-Century Living: The Butterfly House Collection is unashamedly nostalgic. It immortalises the timeless elegance of objects from our past. Above all, it pays homage to the lives we once
lived – lives that were often simpler and more splendid.
Christine Fernyhough is an Auckland philanthropist, who co-founded Books in Homes with Alan Duff in 1994 and the Gifted Kids Programme for high achieving children in low-decile schools in 2000. In 2004, recently widowed, Christine bought
the legendary Castle Hill Station in the Canterbury Alps, which she transformed into a high-performing farm. The station came to national attention in 2007 when she published The Road to Castle Hill: A High Country Love Story. Christine Fernyhough
was made an ONZM in 2000 and a CNZM in 2011, for services to education and the community. In 2015, she established the Museum of the Everyday, based on her personal collection, which is celebrated in Mid-Century Living: The Butterfly House