Matt Hodgetts says Grey Lynn five years ago reminded him of Hampstead when he was growing up in London: a bit bohemian, with a strong community feel. When he came to Auckland with his Kiwi wife Jodi, it was the only neighbourhood they wanted, and this house was the first they saw.
"There was just a feel about the house and the street," Matt says. The romance was complete when they bought the house on Valentine's Day, the third owners since it was built in 1911. With baby Charlie a few months old, they knew the square-bay villa was a real family home.
Jodi and Matt both worked in hospitality, so they had very clear ideas about what they wanted - a house built for entertaining.
"We built the en suite bathroom and camped in the front rooms for the first year," says Jodi.
That meant they could create a new open-plan kitchen, living area, and west-facing rear deck. They gutted the old lean-to, keeping the sloping ceiling and original sash window.
Cooking is Matt's passion: "We designed the house around the kitchen," he says. "I even built a foam-board model to test the work-flows."
The white cabinets, with metres of sleek stainless steel counters, were built by friends at Form Design. "My contribution was the bookshelves opening onto the living room," says Jodi, who also got a second oven, for baking.
They've hosted 16 people for dinner, but mostly the clever custom-made table tucks under the island bar, freeing up space.
Matt says the view down the hall also reminds him of Hampstead, with its glimpse of trees from one of three sets of French doors.
The front half's original kauri floor meets the rear's nearly matching macrocarpa, separated by a restored stained-glass villa door.
The built-in bench-seats solved another typical villa problem, by incorporating extra storage.
"There's even a laundry chute to downstairs," says Jodi.
The sunny window-seat opposite is a favourite winter spot. The TV sits above a space already consented for a gas fire, although with central heating and HRV, they haven't needed it.
Outside, Matt made sure Charlie could kick a football, terracing the garden to create a flat lawn neatly edged with planters and white-chip paths.
The laundry is under the house, an area which could be developed. A small office space off the kitchen could also become a laundry or scullery.
On the south side of the house, the couple carved out an en suite, family bathroom and the office from a former dark living room. The en suite reaps the rewards: a graceful corner fireplace that still works. "It's so romantic in the winter, bathing by firelight," says Jodi.
The sculptural oval tub was an indulgence, matched by the oval sink. The same sink reappears in the family bathroom, along with the over-sized glossy tiles and a generous shower.
The twin corner fireplace decorates the master bedroom, which also has an original ceiling rose and morning sun pouring in the double-wide sash windows. Across the hall, Charlie and his baby sister Chloe enjoy their sunny bedrooms.
Charlie loves his mezzanine platform bed, which cleverly creates more storage and play space for him and his mates.
He also loves chatting to the neighbours from the back deck, and walks to the popular Grey Lynn School.
The family have loved the house, the neighbours and the street, but are itching for another project. However, they won't be straying from their favourite neighbourhood.