Aucklanders hot under the collar about the dangers of housing density would do well to have a chat to Denise King. Seven years ago, this hotel manager bought into a closely held row of terraced town houses bordering Freemans Bay School and has only good things to say about her pocket neighbourhood.
"There is definitely a community here; everyone is very nice. We are mostly owner-occupiers, there is a very good body corporate and we want to give more care and attention to our homes. We've recently repainted the outside. It's very, very safe - people can go away to their beach houses or travel and not worry. Some of the owners bought off the plans 20 years ago, others have been here at least 10 years."
After years of living onsite in her hotels, Denise admits she had very high expectations. As a newcomer to Auckland, she was attracted by the idea of being able to walk to the city or Ponsonby, but still have the security (and storage) offered by a double garage, a rarity in the inner city. The architecturally designed row has aged well in its 20 years, with each house carefully sited for privacy, sun and views of the city.
But it was the layout that won Denise over. "The courtyard sold it to me," she says. As well it should. From the ground-floor entrance, double-height glass and French doors open into the charming patch of green. The previous owners had created a haven of pleached and clipped arched hedges - modernist-meets-English-country - to surround the paved dining area. The hedges are tall enough to muffle the sound of the nearby city but let in the sun, and the compact garden is complete with fruit trees (clipped again), pots for picking herbs, scented gardenia and even a pretty Italian fountain. Denise admits she leaves this to her skilled gardener/florist David Bell Booth to keep it looking immaculate, but that the greenery and yet another angle on the Sky Tower are what she loves most about her home.
The home's design is versatile enough for a grown family or a work-from-home arrangement.
A bedroom and en suite on the ground floor would make a perfect office overlooking the courtyard, while the expansive middle floor is versatile enough to accommodate two living spaces and separate dining. Sunlight from the full-height windows and a room-sized skylight helps expand the space. The kitchen, with its island bar/bench, and the understair area offer a surprising amount of storage.
Upstairs, the two double bedrooms share an unexpected rooftop deck with great views to Ponsonby ridge to the south and the city, framed by a Norfolk pine, to the north. As well as fresh paint and finishes, Denise has recently refurbished both bathrooms with sleek Italian-style fittings and stone-look tiles (meticulously installed to hotel-spa quality by an Italian tiler).
"I'd always said that this is the only house for me," says Denise. But she's fallen in love with a "dolls' house" in Ponsonby and has decided to follow another dream project to do it up instead.