Glorious harmony at home

Nicola Gray sits in her cosy kitchen, warmed by a large Sweetheart stove smouldering as the winter sun trickles through pink stained glass windows, creating patterns on the wooden walls and cupboards.

Meat defrosts slowly on the bench for the evening meal that Nicola will prepare for husband Randal and children Samalah, 23 and Daniel, 21. After dinner, there is no television to distract from evening activities, conversation or a good book at the kitchen table.

A humble space, the kitchen is clearly the heart of this Renwick home, reflecting the lifestyle and beliefs the Gray family hold, beliefs based on traditional Christian values and a determination to retain close family bonds in a fast-paced world.

The Grays took seven years to build their ideal home, which began life as part of St Mary’s Catholic Church in Blenheim.

Nuns taught singing and music underneath the sharply pitched roof, the sound tempered by acoustic tiles almost 5m high.

An elderly nun once told Nicola that among the many voices that rang out between the old walls were those of the Vienna Boys’ Choir, which gave a private performance for the nuns.

In the late 1980s the music room, along with two other buildings, became surplus to requirement and were put up for tender to be moved off the site.

For Nicola and her husband Randal, the timing could not have been better. They had bought a patch of bare land on the eastern end of Renwick’s High St and were looking for a way to build within their financial constraints. Those constraints were severe, as the Grays do not believe in mortgages, so everything they bought came from money already earned.

When Nicola and Randal inspected the music hall they found an empty, unfurnished building that was long and narrow and would certainly provide a challenging layout for a family home. They put in a tender and sat back to wait for the answer in a manner so fitting for the building: “We’re Christians so we left it up to the Lord really,” says Nicola. Read more


  • Article and image: Stuff


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