Sunday drives in the country started Eric and Christine Winter dreaming about lifestyle changes. But it wasn't till 16 years ago, when Christine was pregnant, that they seriously researched country living options.
"We wanted to raise a child outside the city," explains Eric. "We looked everywhere and figured Kumeu had the best access to everything."
Christine took a bit of persuading when Eric found the property. "The house was a mish-mash," says Eric, "but we realised the location was perfect and we could always change the house."
Eric reckons the house had a bit of an identity crisis - a transitional villa from Grey Lynn, renovated in the 1970s with multiple styles of cladding and joinery.
Eric admits they were city folk who had to learn everything from scratch. He knows a bit about construction so loved being hands-on, working the land. "It was surprisingly easy," he says. "Cows need grass and water, then they mow the paddocks and pay the rates."
The 4ha block now sports tidy log fencing, piped paddocks and a pristine brick-edged home garden and driveway.
The house was lovingly rebuilt, too. Working with designer Peter Visini, the Winters completely renovated from the outside in, then added a matching garage and farm buildings.
"Peter was a great listener," says Eric. "We used the house's history to create a new villa."
The architect sent them driving around heritage neighbourhoods to pick out authentic details. Villa and Bungalow became a favourite haunt for replica touches such as fretwork, finials and wide weatherboards. Inside, wide skirting boards, dado rails and cornices complete the new layout.
"We even reinstated a front entrance," says Eric, "with a hallway arch to separate public and private areas, just like original villas."
A favourite feature for family and friends is the deep veranda off the living areas, complete with bull-nose roof, on the front northwest corner.
"Visitors can sit here all day gazing across the property," says Eric. "They think it's paradise."
The covered veranda flows on to a lower deck - the ideal spot for a fire-bowl. Eric cleared a jungle around a massive old Phoenix palm to create a traditional brick-edged turnaround overlooking his driving range.
Daughter Alena spent her childhood riding horses, raising calves and enjoying Kumeu's famous A&P Show. She and her friends spent hours in the fenced playground and above-ground decked pool, warmed by solar heating.
Inside, the renovation yielded two bonus levels. Upstairs, a pitched roof creates a fairy-tale bedroom with its own toilet. Downstairs, a gloomy basement became a second living room or office, with its own entrance. "Alena and her friends could hang out here, while we were upstairs," says Eric.
On the main level, the spacious living-dining room has peaceful rural views. The kitchen and family dining room also open on to the veranda, with kauri benchtops in the kitchen.
Two spacious bedrooms share the recently remodelled bathroom, with its modern sculptured tub perched on the original kauri flooring. In their tranquil master suite, Eric and Christine love looking out to the garden.
A double bathroom and walk-in closet are useful contemporary touches. Thoughtful details continue outside, with a bench seat and hidden coat storage in the country porch. The new double garage includes an area for a gym, office or sleepout, plus a huge workshop and attic storage.
Eric's vintage tractor and farm toys are protected in the extra sheds hidden away.
The Winters' friends don't want them to leave, but it's time for another family to enjoy all their hard work.