By Graham Hepburn
Moving to a lifestyle block can be a big challenge for some couples but John ter Brake and wife Donna knew what they were in for and what they wanted.
They had both grown up in rural areas: he on a small farm in the Netherlands and she the daughter of a stock agent in Wairarapa.
So when they began hankering for greener pastures and wanting to leave their home in Meadowbank, they were looking for a property with privacy and space but not too much upkeep.
It took them 18 months to find but John says they finally got what they were after in this 1930s vintage home in Drury Rd.
"It was exceptional and ticked all the boxes," he says. "We wanted privacy and something away from the hustle and bustle of the city. And once you hit Drury you are rural."
And for John, who works at Auckland International Airport, the location is an easy commute of about 20 minutes.
When the couple moved in almost eight years ago, they had great foundations to work with: a peaceful rural setting with a character home that had been moved from Ronaki Rd, Mission Bay, on to the site about 25 years ago; hence the name of the property, Ronaki Park.
John says the home was very liveable "but after several months of living here we wanted to put our own mark on it".
That is something of an understatement; they renewed the home's infrastructure, insulated rooms, put on a new roof, added a third bathroom while refurbishing the other two, installed heating, tiled the outdoor entertaining area and painted the house inside and out.
John says Donna chose colours appropriate to the period of the home, which has beautiful matai floors on the ground level.
On the lower level, the kitchen and dining room are semi-adjoining with the living room, which opens out to the covered, tiled, north-facing outdoor dining area that looks out to the swimming pool. The covered outdoor area wraps around this corner of the house, meaning there's always somewhere to find shelter from the wind.
Inside, the lounge has a woodburner that backs up the ducted heat pump.
A statement in luxury with its stone benchtops and double ovens, the kitchen measures 55sq m and has an island bench/breakfast bar.
Also on the ground floor are two offices, a bathroom, powder room, and bedroom.
John points out that it is possible to live on this level without having to go upstairs, where there are three more bedrooms and two bathrooms, one an en suite to the master bedroom, which also has a large wardrobe.
While attention has been lavished on the house, the grounds around it have also been improved.
John says within the gates of Ronaki Park there are about 40 mature trees and these have been underplanted with about 3000 daffodils.
While there is lots of lawn, John says it takes him about 90 minutes to mow it with his ride-on, and the cows take care of the paddocks.
"One of the reasons we moved out here was that I wanted to have some animals," says John. "There is room for four or five cows but we only have two at the moment."
With chickens and a variety of fruit trees, the property allows the couple to live off the land more than most.
Also on the property are a separate double garage with a lean-to for gardening equipment and firewood and, in a far corner of the property, an old cowshed - with power and a new roof - that is used for storing more firewood and other equipment.
"We've made this place better for someone else," says John.
"But now it's time to move on. We have worked all our lives so what we are looking to do is semi-retire and buy a lock-up-and-leave so we can think about travelling."