Claire and Paul Steele reckon they live in the ultimate "picket fence" neighbourhood in their reserve-side cul de sac of Francis St, off Hauraki's Jutland St.

They are leaving what they had planned as their forever house only because life in the country beckons.

"We'd been in Bayswater for two years, but we'd done the research and wanted to be in the Hauraki school catchment," says Paul.

"This had all the fundamentals - a flat quarter-acre section, and pool, a good house. We just had to modernise and update."

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The couple, originally from England, quickly settled on their biggest change - replacing draughty and dated windows from the original 1950s house and 1970s aluminium from later renovations with new double-glazed white aluminium joinery.

The effect was immediate. Not only did they get a crisp and modern uplift to the look of the house, they immediately noticed a difference in heating and cooling the house (there is underfloor heating in some rooms).

Claire says the 27 windows were done in two stages, so that they could live comfortably in one half of the house with babies Harry, now 4, and Francesca, 2 while the other half was done.

Claire says she is not a designer, but for years she ran her House of Botanicals terrarium business from the cute pool cottage on the back lawn, supplying to cool design shops around Auckland - and her stylish eye has made the most of the solid house.

88 Francis St, Takapuna, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images
88 Francis St, Takapuna, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images

The couple were lucky that the kitchen had already been done by previous owners, and there were wood floors through the living spaces.

A series of separate living rooms had earlier been opened up, giving up views of the garden from the minute you step into the roomy glass entry porch (a handy spot for strollers, trikes and boots, but equally pretty as a sitting area).

The couple could then focus on finishing touches - double doors between family room, modern lighting and an icy blue glass splash back to complement the white quartz on the kitchen benches and island, cool wood flooring and storage in the roomy laundry and powder room off the kitchen.

They added double doors between the formal and casual living rooms, to close off a kid-free haven for adults.

88 Francis St, Takapuna, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images
88 Francis St, Takapuna, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images

Crisp white paint and clever storage made the most of the rest of the house, while outside they added more landscaping to complement the mature palm trees around the perimeter of the garden.

The back deck had already been divided into a series of rooms, some covered for rainy or hot Auckland days, others gently stepping down to the lawn, so just needed dark stain to update.

Claire commandeered the cottage for her business, but it would make a pretty summer house or teen space, and there's a shed next door for the pool and gardening gear. The double garage has room for more storage, too.

The ground floor includes a spacious master bedroom opening through french doors to the decks and garden.

88 Francis St, Takapuna, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images
88 Francis St, Takapuna, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images

The couple updated the closets, but the en suite, with its corner spa bath is a favourite for kids and parents.

Next door is a single bedroom that was perfect as a nursery for each of the babies, but could be a study or parents' retreat.

Upstairs, Paul and Claire rearranged the open plan landing to create an airy study and a bay-windowed guest room.

The two other bedrooms are charming sunny rooms for the children, both with double aspect and good storage.

88 Francis St, Takapuna, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images
88 Francis St, Takapuna, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images

The house has been great for gatherings of kids and friends, but the couple have also loved their walkable neighbourhood.

At the bottom of their street is the nature reserve, part of the green cycleway that runs off road between Takapuna and Devonport, while around the corner is the area's famed Little & Friday cafe, plus the shops at the top of Jutland Rd. Another block away is Takapuna beach.

"We really had to think hard about leaving this," says Claire. "But we're excited about trying a new life, too. People will love living here."

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