Life was rosy in the pink house

By Bronwyn Sell

167 EAST COAST RD, CASTOR BAY
4
2
2
SIZE: Land 1024q m, house 200sq m.
PRICE INDICATION: $1.2 million plus. Auction March 9.
INSPECT: Sat/Sun 1-1.30pm.
ON THE WEB: barfoot.co.nz/492261
SCHOOL ZONES: Campbells Bay School, Murrays Bay Intermediate School, Westlake Boys High School, Westlake Girls High School.
CONTACT: Nadja Court, Barfoot & Thompson, ph 478 9089 or 021 777 690.
FEATURES: A 1950s brick and weatherboard home on a quarter-acre section in Castor Bay, with views across the Hauraki Gulf to Rangitoto.
167 East Coast Rd, Milford. Photo / Michelle Hyslop
167 East Coast Rd, Milford. Photo / Michelle Hyslop

To this day, George Rae's four children puzzle about how he came to agree in the 1950s to painting his new house pink.

But pink it became - to the chagrin of his son Stephen, who got hell about it at school. And when it came time to repaint recently, George's widow Briar insisted it should remain pink.

"Everybody knows the pink house," says Suzanne, the eldest of the children.

The colour is one of the many constants in the lives of the Rae family, who've owned the landmark Castor Bay house for 54 years - since cows grazed in paddocks across the metal road and the Auckland Harbour Bridge was new.

George and Briar bought the quarter-acre section in 1957. Their building plans were hastened when, before their third child was born, a doctor discovered a second heartbeat. Their two-bedroom house in Takapuna was going to outgrow them sooner than they thought.

They built a weatherboard and brick house with soaring views across the Hauraki Gulf to Rangitoto Island, and over Lake Pupuke. Upstairs, the lounge, deck, dining room, kitchen and master bedroom all gaze out to sea, with a sunroom looking onto the garden.

Some of the features were considered revolutionary for the era. Recessed sliding doors separated the sunroom from the lounge when the kids wanted to play their Uriah Heep records. A laundry chute sent clothes from the kitchen to the "magic clothes fairy" downstairs.

The family moved in when Suzanne was 6, Stephen was 3 and the twins Julie and Jackie were babies. The kids remember an idyllic childhood, playing on the flat lawn, climbing the trees, exploring and surfing at Milford.

Even when they grew up, the house remained the focal point for the family. The four siblings would move back in when they were between houses or travels.

Suzanne and Stephen both got married there and later their own children came to stay with their grandparents. And George and Briar lived the rest of their lives in a house they loved.

George died seven years ago, and Briar six months ago.

"They had good health until the end, so they didn't have to think about moving anywhere else," says Suzanne. "All their memories and their lives were here. They didn't want to have to move anywhere impersonal."

That leaves the siblings with the difficult task of saying goodbye to the house.

"It's always been here, and never changed," says Suzanne.

The coal bucket and shovel remain next to the coal box in the tandem garage downstairs, just as they sat when it was young Stephen's job to set the fire. A classical Greek-inspired painting adorns the wall in Stephen's bedroom downstairs, just as it was when he painted it almost four decades ago.

The gadgets their inventive father created in his workshop next to the garage are still dotted around the place. And the house is still resolutely pink.

Says Jackie: "We've always known this as a family home, with Mum and Dad. we've had so many happy times here."

"It's quite emotional, really," adds Suzanne. "We've had a lot of fun here. I hope the new owners will be as happy here as we were."

- NZ Herald

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