Spy: Revealed – the secrets of Auckland’s newest Palace Estate
Artem Zhigarev and Anna Ksenofontova of Lone Pine Estate.
A young couple from Auckland have created a dream Italian villa in Riverhead – and pitched it to admire the A-listers.
The lavish party at the 15ha estate was originally scheduled to host 1,000 guests, but hosts Artem Zhigarev and Anna Ksenofontova had to scale back to 100 VIPs due to Covid rules.
The black-tie gala-style event featured celebrities, influencers and locals in equal measure, to publicize Auckland’s newest – and perhaps flashiest – rental venue.
Attendees included Coast Breakfast host Toni Street, List Rich Seeby Woodhouse, former Real Housewife Anne Batley Burton, BossBabes’ Edna Swart and Lyia Liu and Rhythm and Vines co-founder Hamish Pinkham.
The lavish home features a grand entrance leading to the marble hall, a grand ballroom/dining room, where guests enjoyed the evening’s formal dinner with an array of Murano glass chandeliers above.
Over the next six months, the couple, who live with their young child in the seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom estate, told Spy they will explore options for visitors to stay on the estate, with a second guest wing under construction.
Zhigarev was born in Russia and has lived in New Zealand since he was 2 years old. He works in software and commerce, and is now proudly at the forefront of the field. Ksenofontova runs the estate’s events and loves fashion too, designing the two couture-style dresses herself that she wore for their opening.
They met when Ksenofontova was visiting Godzone from Russia for a language course.
After he left, the romance continued virtually, until they reunited in France and traveled Europe together.
The house is a love letter to this journey and to the couple’s legacy. Especially Zhigarev’s ancestor who had a castle in Italy, although the castle no longer exists, the vision of Lone Pine was taken from a small photograph.
“We chose aspects from different eras and styles, basically what we liked and worked best together in Europe, Russia and France, with a focus on Italy,” they told Spy.
“The estate was originally conceived as a family home, the concept of our friend and architect Nicolay Pronin, when he was traveling New Zealand as a visitor. It sits on top of a hill like a castle, overlooking Riverhead and up to SkyCity.”
The Lone Pine estate has huge hand-forged gates opening onto a driveway lined with Italian pine trees, leading to a medieval-style fortress with two watchtowers and a 20m rotunda.
Numerous marble water features, fountains and ponds are below and beyond with handcrafted Florentine mosaics. There’s a Greek-style amphitheater and luxurious terraces that overlook lavender fields and a vineyard, which produces Albarino grapes, making 350 bottles a year.
All the handcrafted ironwork is Russian, the various marbles are Italian, the interior furniture is also Italian as well as the stained glass windows.
There is also a swimming pool, a 3 km path that meanders inside the bush/forest, with a small waterfall, and the couple are training horses and a pony for riding. The estate also has an olive grove and there are plans to produce honey, macadamia, almonds and pine nuts.
The couple targets both the local and international luxury markets, from business men and women to athletes, artists, as well as the wedding and celebration market.
They can provide hospitality for a small table of guests at a massive event such as the planned opening night of 1000 guests. The on-site chef will create bespoke menus.
“Nothing is too big or too small,” the couple say. Transportation can be included, whether it’s a luxury limo, bus for larger groups, or, of course, a helicopter to the estate’s landing pad.