Howard Gee lives on the island of Waiheke, in an old villa he moved from Mount Eden three decades ago. He owned an eclectic general and second-hand store for 14 years, but is now a real estate agent who continues to collect.
Howard Gee: My house is a little off I guess. My builders called me a hoarder.
The thrift store has filled a void, but after lugging huge pieces of woodwork around the joint for over a decade, you’re a little tired.
I collected quite a few things during this time including around 800 vinyl records, lots of china, native wooden furniture and a set of chrome yachts.
Now I’m Barfoot & Thompson’s solo property group on Waiheke. I do it full time, but when we talk about full time in real estate it doesn’t mean much. I’ve been fishing for two days.
I moved here three decades ago when my partner, an islander, was pregnant with our first child.
We were sick of the hustle and bustle, so we bought this old house for $4,500. We paid $15,000 to move it to a $28,000 section. Old houses are beautiful and it is good to reuse them.
There are more young people arriving on the island now, which is great, although trying to get them into accommodation is next to impossible. That said, in the past 18 months, I’ve moved six young couples into homes.
I am separated and my children are grown, so I am home alone. I am dance with wolves. But my daughters, especially my youngest, often come and stay.
When my 25 year old son started visiting me I said “this is your room, do what you want with it”.
She painted all the walls with superheroes up to the ceiling. She’s doing a computer engineering degree, but when she comes down, she’ll still be climbing a ladder and finishing off bits.
When people stay here and see it, they say “that’s… that freaked me out”. It’s a beautiful work of art what she has done.
Like any old house, this one requires work.
I found old cans of grey, cream and red paint in my office and started repainting during the lockdown. I did 75% of the work myself, with the help of my daughter and my neighbour.
people could hear The sound and bfm play throughout Rocky Bay, and me sing along. It’s nice to have some loud music while painting.
This neighborhood is a real community. We take care of each other here. I always drop a bit of fish to someone.
My collecting habit started when I lived on Ponsonby Road. I used to roam the thrift stores to buy the odd bit.
Now when I go to town it’s a food trip, I pass by places like Mr. Morris, Cafe Hanoi and Blue Breeze Inn.
One of my favorite pieces is a piece of a William Norrie box, circa 1875. The colonial settler built everything with hand tools.
I also have a Maori sculpture of the French Embassy in Wellington – without the middle part. I took out the mirror – and a mottled kauri sideboard.
At last count, I had three stereo systems and two turntables to play my record collection, but I have two and three records. It’s something I have to sort out one winter.
I probably have too many things. The children also have half the disease and always ask me to help them acquire their own antiques.
Will I ever retire? You never quite retire when you collect. You’re always going to see something, and if the price is right, you buy it.