By Louise Richardson
While the idea of living in an inner city apartment had once appealed to Cat Chapman and Tim Checkley, reality began dawning as their baby son Thurston reached the age of six months.
"Getting the pushchair in and out of the lift was a nightmare, and he was clearly going to be a very busy and adventurous boy. It wasn't long before we decided that we'd be better off in the suburbs," says Cat, a successful artist who illustrates children's books.
The year was 2009 and the world was in the grip of the global financial crisis but that certainly hadn't affected Auckland's property market to any significant degree and trying to secure a new home was generally easier said than done.
"Just as we began despairing, we had a break-through and our pre-auction offer on this place was accepted."
The interior of the house had been sympathetically renovated by the previous owners, who were passionate villa-lovers. This meant that Cat and Tim, who specialises in music software, didn't have to do anything much except addressing some landscaping, laying a patio and converting an existing garage into a spacious studio, where Cat works during the day, before Tim uses it in the evening for his music projects.
"We love the layout of the house. Our bedroom at the front gets all the afternoon sun and the cat tends to sleep there from midday onwards," Cat says.
Adjacent is the open plan lounge with a working period fireplace and there are two further bedrooms, now occupied by their two boys, each with restful, earthy colour schemes. The bathroom features a lovingly restored claw-foot tub in a bright, modern setting.
"The previous owners had three little boys so they added a big, separate laundry, too," says Cat.
The generous kitchen and dining space segues perfectly to the decking outside, and while the section isn't huge there's still ample room for Thurston, now 8, and Miles, 4, to play with their friends from the neighbourhood.
"We like the house itself very much, but what we've loved more than anything is our Tarata St community. We knew immediately that it was something special when we moved in and everyone came over to introduce themselves straight away."
Here in this cul-de-sac, Thurston and Miles have enjoyed an idyllic kiwi childhood - visiting neighbours' houses, or playing safely on the street outside.
"It's been incredible," says Cat. "When Miles was born we were overwhelmed, with meals being cooked for us, and the other mothers would take Thurston off to the park with their kids so I could concentrate on my baby - and get some rest. We're just like a really big extended family here."
Loving the neighbourhood as much as they do, it's hard to imagine what could make Cat, Tim, and their boys consider moving.
"We started to outgrow the house," she says. "We had plans for an extension approved, which would be great. Trouble is, neither of us is good at that sort of thing, and we were a bit nervous, so we started looking further afield - as in Grey Lynn."
Salvation and a long-term solution came along when a recent Herald Homes story profiled a house in neighbouring Prospect Terrace, less than a minute's walk away.
"It's worked out perfectly," says Cat. "We'll always be honorary members of Tarata St, while the new owners here are assured of a very warm welcome."