This tasteful sea-gazing Orakei home's quirky history includes an opulent art gallery up a ladder and a brush with the Dotcom saga.
Angie Crafer and her former partner, Bruce, bought the 1930s home around 2001. Bruce had lived nearby and had become intrigued by the huge opportunity for improvement it offered.
"It was originally built in a very opulent style," he says. "We've got a copy of an old photograph showing when it was one of only two houses on this hill, surrounded by fields."
Ceramic wolves' heads, thought to represent Rome's legendary she-wolf, stand sentinel on the gateposts, mementos of the successful early Auckland immigrant of French-Polish descent who built the home. The late Rene Bieleski prospered as a French manufacturers' representative and New Zealand's first agent for Michelin tyres, installing plenty of flourish and craftsmanship into his home.
But some aspects were tired by the time Angie and Bruce bought here. They renovated the grandly proportioned home under the guidance of late architectural consultant Peter Beaumont and designer Peter Reid to better capture panoramic harbour views and to suit modern living.
Bruce says, "You would never be able to build this home ever again. It's 15m tall, which is more like the height of a small apartment building."
Many elements of original craftsmanship were carefully replicated, such as especially wide, rusticated weatherboards milled by a New Plymouth timber yard to match originals. Myriad major modifications included reinventing the layout, altering part of the roof-line to create a third-floor birds-eye master suite, adding scenic verandas and an in-ground pool within landscaped gardens. Tiled lower-ground level internal-access garaging holds five cars, with gravelled boat parking nearby.
Angie and Bruce tenanted the premium home following its upgrade. Public records show one of their tenants, Megaupload programmer Bram van der Kolk, was bailed to this address, along with two of his co-accused following the Dotcom raids. Bruce is discreet about his former tenant, merely saying Bram and family were "fabulous tenants".
The weatherboard home's front entrance is supported by two concrete pillars believed to have been gaslight bases in an early hotel. Inside, original detailing such as bevelled glass doors and elaborate cornices gracing high ceilings emphasise the home's classical origins.
A big foyer with a reconditioned 1920s French chandelier introduces a lift servicing the lower three levels. Its alternative is a staircase, believed to have been installed only in the 60s, seeing Rene's first-floor art gallery isolated until then and originally accessible only by ladder.
The ground floor's family room with kitchenette has doors opening to the first of two layers of wrap-around verandas, stepping down to the pool.
Angie says, "When you open all these up, it feels just like being outside."
This level's two big en suited bedrooms with walk-in wardrobes are accompanied by another on the lower-ground level, which can alternately be an office with its own entrance.
The expansive first-floor living-dining-kitchen is still topped by two of the three inverted ceiling domes Rene installed when this level was his art gallery. Bifolds to the verandas celebrate the view here, too. There's a separate TV lounge on this level and the sophisticated kitchen favouring Gaggenau appliances is supported with a scullery.
The uppermost master suite, including his'n'hers dressing rooms, an en suite and a deck, has stellar city and harbour views. Angie says, "You could lie there and just look at the view all day, from dawn to dusk."
Smart features include keyless entry and advanced cabling thoughout. Angie and Bruce have decided now's a good time to sell to realise their considerable investment in the property.