It took a bit of moving around the country for Jeremy Fleming's job for he and his wife, Maria, to know what they wanted when they finally settled in Auckland — seaside, a
village feel and room for their kids to spread out.
In 2003 they finally hit the jackpot when they found a rundown villa on Seabreeze Rd, Narrow Neck; over the road from the park, a walk to village and schools, the sea at the bottom of the street, and a bus to the ferry for city commutes.
"There was an old bungalow on a steeply sloping site, it had been knocked around and was too far gone to be renovated," says Jeremy. "But we bought for the location and views. The park opposite is well used by families all summer."
The couple's brief to architect Donn Roberts was to make the most of the site to capitalise on the views.
While they wanted modern, they also wanted to respect the bungalow style of the neighbourhood, so settled on traditional weatherboard and more modest windows and trims.
Being in the timber trade, Jeremy made sure the best materials were used, with plenty of eaves and overhangs to protect against Auckland weather.
With three girls from early to late teens, the Flemings were keen to create living spaces for them that were separate from their parents' space, asking that the family meet in the middle for living and entertaining. Their brief was a good family home, "not full of en suites and marble", as Jeremy puts it.
Roberts slid the house to the front of the section, meaning the top floors are elevated for great sea views while leaving a huge, flat back lawn.
On paper the huge section could be subdivided (there is a side driveway, currently used as boat parking) but Maria and Jeremy have loved gardening the entire yard, with raised vege beds, flowers and a mix of productive old fruit trees and grand trees.
Their covered back porch, with its bungalow-style half walls is like another living room and Jeremy has commandeered the back bedroom that also opens off this as his office.
On the ground floor the double garage opens off the street (there is also boat parking to one side). The soft blue paint is offset by copper gutters, white trims and the entry stairs paved in warm terracotta.
The first floor became the girls' suite. With two good bedrooms, a bathroom and a sitting room, plumbing to install a small kitchenette, and with a secure fire door to the main house, this could easily be carved into a holiday let, a nanny or granny flat. It even opens to its own covered terrace with park and sea views.
Stacking the floors like this means the main living on the second floor is level with the back yard. Maria chose pretty English-style pastels and terracotta for the colour schemes to complement antique furniture and art, adding detailed built-in joinery for shelving and sideboards in warm timbers, and a mix of floral curtains and white shutters at the windows.
At the front of the house is the formal sitting room with a fireplace, formal dining room and a deck for summer sitting watching the park and sea.
The kitchen mixes cork floors, warm white joinery and soft sage-green walls: it has been the hub for big dinners, the girls' 21st birthdays and summer entertaining.
Maria says she loves to move the furniture around, swapping out casual dining and sofas, bringing things indoors or out depending on the season. There is a bathroom on this floor, as well as plenty of storage and utilities.
Upstairs is Maria and Jeremy's bedroom. Again, the architect mimicked bungalow-style, creating an old sunroom-style square bay window for the best sea views from the master bedroom.
There's a further double bedroom on this floor with a shared bathroom. A shared balcony is a favourite for the couple to start their day checking the water before
heading down to the beach for a swim.
"This house has comfortably worked for eight adults living here, and children coming and going, everyone has their own space," says Maria. "I think we'll miss this more than we realise."
But with kids long gone the house is now bigger than they need, so they are selling to find something smaller. After finding their ideal suburb in Devonport, they don't plan to move far.