Visit the childhood home of a world-renowned writer: Katherine Mansfield House & Garden
Take a step into 19th century colonial Wellington and the life of Katherine Mansfield, one of the world’s most acclaimed writers
A historical discovery
In the 100 years that had passed since Mansfield’s family had lived at the Tinakori Road address, the house had been converted into flats and its connection to the internationally famous author all but forgotten. That was until 1986, when the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society formed, and work began to restore the house to how it would have looked when Mansfield’s family lived there in the late 19th century.
Recreating a family home
To recreate what the interiors might have looked like when the family lived there, the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society worked closely with Dr William Cottrell, an expert in the furniture and interiors of 19th-century New Zealand, to choose furniture, design and curios that would have appealed to a fashionable, upwardly mobile colonial family.
Victorians liked vibrant colours
The wallpaper in the hallway is a recreation of the original then-on-trend wallpaper made from fragments found in the 1980s renovation, and the dining room is painted a vibrant hue of sky blue (reflecting the little-known Victorian era appetite for colour) and contains furniture made from rare native New Zealand timber, but stained to look ebonised as was fashionable in Europe at the time, and taxidermied birds arranged in bell jars.
I think the only way to live as a writer is to draw upon one's real familiar life... And the curious thing is that if we describe this which seems to us so intensely personal, other people take it to themselves and understand it as if it were their own
Katherine Mansfield, 1922
Mansfield's short but significant life
Katherine Mansfield began writing as a teenager and decided at an early age that she wanted to make that her career. After completing a couple of years of high school in London, Mansfield was hooked on Europe and decided to make the Northern Hemisphere her home as soon as she could convince her father to let her go.
In 1908, Mansfield finally got her wish and left for Europe, where she spent the remainder of her short life living in England, Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland, writing some of her best-known Modernist short stories and mixing and mingling with other progressive and well-known writers, artists, intellectuals and philosophers.
Mansfield died tragically young in 1923 at the age of 34 from tuberculosis, but her legacy of letters and short stories live on, inspiring writers, musicians and artists and drawing visitors from around the world to visit her birthplace in Wellington.
Worth another visit
Katherine Mansfield House & Garden underwent a second major renovation project in 2019 with refreshed interior design and historic furniture sourced from across New Zealand, so even if you've visited before it's worth a second look.
What made Katherine Mansfield so famous?
In spite of her own conviction that 'I shall not be "fashionable" long', Katherine Mansfield has acquired an international reputation for her extraordinary achievement as a writer.
Mansfield is regarded as a central figure in British modernism. Although she was influenced by other writers, notably Chekhov, she created a model of short fiction that was new in many ways.
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