Country comfort . . . Chris and Kay Dennison are delighted with their home on the family farm. PHOTO: SALLY BROOKER

You can’t compete with a castle, but Kay and Chris Dennison aren’t in the least bothered.

The Hilderthorpe farming couple are opening their new home to thousands of visitors during a NZ House & Gardentour in mid-February. The star attraction in the tour is Dot Smith’s Riverstone castle.

So many people are eager to see inside the giant landmark that tickets sold out weeks ago. A second tour was added; it has also sold out.

NZ House & Gardenorganises tours of homes in different parts of the country each year to raise funds for the Breast Cancer Foundation NZ.

Mrs Dennison said they were “thrilled” to be approached to take part, after their interior designer, Annabel Berry, from Design Federation, recommended them.

“We were pleased to be able to help such a worthy cause.”

They are also looking forward to exploring the castle. The owners of all houses on the tour can visit the others while representatives from the magazine are on duty at their place.

The Dennisons moved into their house in May, the culmination of a five-year project. Mr Dennison has lived on the farm all his life, apart from his time at university. The family grew a world-record wheat crop there in 2003, and in 2005 won the national FMG rural excellence award.

The wet spring has delayed their plans to sow the lawn around the long, low, dark timber house with its back to the prevailing wind and views across the paddocks to the north and west.

Natural materials are prevalent throughout, from the handcrafted stone pillars at the entranceway to the American white oak window and door frames, floors and vaulted ceiling in the open-plan living area.

Wheat is also present in a specially commissioned chandelier comprising dozens of glass filaments, each in the form of an ear of the cereal. It was a housewarming gift from Mr Dennison’s father, Jim.

The house was designed by Hamish Muir, of Dunedin firm Mason & Wales Architects. Signature features are high ceilings, big doorways and wide hallways. Oamaru builder Roger Gilchrist was the project manager and Firman Joinery made the fittings.

The Dennisons chose underfloor heating and gas fires to augment the sun in warming their house – no more messing around with firewood.

Speaking of mess, they have installed an uber-practical back entranceway with a grated floor to allow mud to drop off footwear and clothing.

The outdoor amenities include a seating area with a roof that closes automatically when it senses rain, and a petanque court.Running sneakersTHE SNEAKER BULLETIN