Frequent travellers David and Sue Milne visualised the European-style home they'd like to build - and then walked straight into it.
They'd often visited countries such as France and Italy in conjunction with travel for their export business. Sue says: "We wanted to build and we had all these lovely ideas from Europe. But then we walked into this home and it was really all here - as well as having a few extra luxuries we might not have given ourselves."
The solid concrete home with concrete mid-floor and imported Italian roof tiles was new when they purchased eight years ago. It was designed by architect Peter Eising of Pacific Environments and built within large grounds by a developer who let them choose some finishing details. It had a continental ambience, with generous family-orientated spaces and landscaping which has matured beautifully.
Sue adds, "David was impressed by the workmanship right throughout. Everything was of the highest standard so we thought, 'Why try to build this ourselves?' It was probably a little larger than we needed, but we could just see our grandchildren here.
And we were busy with the business so it was fantastic finding what we'd visualised already built."
A driveway with two sets of iron security gates in a basket-weave design and a spectacular promenade of pencil cypress lead to the well-zoned home, set back from the road. It's essentially two-storeyed but a central tower climbs higher, echoing the bell-towers of Europe. Workmanship extends to finishing details such as eaves sarked in wood and painstakingly capped with copper.
A gracious entranceway has parquet flooring in American oak; a timber used elsewhere in floorboards. Windows on three sides of the spacious kitchen-family room capture sun as it moves around the northerly-facing home. David says of the ambience, "It's informal and relaxed but retains the European elegance of a grand home."
The kitchen is a beauty which came outfitted with chunky granite benches and premium European appliances including a double oven and the Miele coffee maker in its butlers pantry. Sue sighs, "It's the nicest kitchen I've ever worked in. It's actually improved my cooking."
This room flows out to a walled front courtyard with heated fountain-fed pool and outdoor fireplace and to a side pergola next to gently rolling lawn. Sue says in summers before retirement they'd come home every weeknight, pour a glass of wine and sit by the pool until about 7pm. "You feel like you're in Italy."
The roomy interior and big grounds easily accommodate large get-togethers including one son's after-wedding luncheon and David's 70th, for which they brought in a band and outdoor dance floor.
A separate building nearby with one room and a bathroom can be a guest bedroom, a pool-house or an art studio. The Milnes have used it as a playroom for granddaughters Madeiline, 3, and Claudia , 1.
Downstairs' more formal lounge features a gas fire in the same style of grand concrete surround chosen for fireplaces in the family room and the upstairs master suite. A rear wing with a bedroom, bathroom and laundry culminates in an internal-access quadruple garage, and the home is storage rich.
Upstairs a little study off the landing has a double-height ceiling, being under the tower. On one side of it is the luxuriously large master suite with kitchenette. Initially, the Milnes wondered if roomy separate his-and-hers en suites flanking their walk-in-wardrobe were an indulgence but now laugh at how much they love not having to deal with "his untidiness" or "her potions".
On the other side of the landing is a compact upstairs laundry, two more bedrooms utilising an en suite and another bathroom plus an upstairs TV room/library (which can be the fifth bedroom if the separate building isn't).
Now the couple plan to split their time between a newly built Coromandel beach house and a smaller lock-up-and-leave Auckland base.