Head out past the highways and suburban sprawl, and there's a slice of Albany as it used to be: bush, farms and country living.
Shirley Dobbyn grew up there when kids rode horses to school and a trip to town meant a long bus ride to the Birkenhead ferry.
By the time she and husband Michael built their 1960s home, the Harbour Bridge had brought suburbia closer, but Godley Lane was still her parents' farm.
Stephen and Minnie Godley bought the 20ha farm in the 1920s, gifting a half-acre to newlyweds Shirley and Michael in 1967. The cycle completed when the Godleys lived out their days in Shirley's granny flat, after her brother took over the farm.
"Over the years, we've created our own little world," says Shirley. "There was only one pine tree here," she says, explaining how a hardy West Coast flax became a shelter belt allowing the native and exotic trees to thrive. Now the trees are so dense, bird song drowns out any traffic noise. "It's an absolute dream in autumn," says Shirley, who loves the seasonal contrast provided by the exotic foliage.
The garden took shape when they acquired more land in the 1980s and worked with landscape designer Lesley Maughan. Lesley, known for her impressive garden, taught at Massey. Her son, artist Karl Maughan, is well-known for his landscape paintings. "It was the best thing we did", says Shirley. "We used that plan for 30 years, saved a lot of arguments." Key to the plan was the tree-lined driveway that now curves around the heated pool, gradually revealing the house settled into the landscape.
Building the house was a major project for the younger couple, too. "I had the ideas, Michael had the ability," says Shirley. Growing up there, she knew the lay of the land and her passion for architecture shows in the timeless design. The deep eaves pay homage to Frank Lloyd Wright, while the geometric lines and relationship to the landscape reflect the contemporary local style.
Shirley has a few tales about the building process, but Michael was an old-school builder with a love of timber, so the house has enduring style. The split-level allows easy access to the outdoors, with a series of sunny patios cascading down to the pool, a magnet for their daughter and grandchildren. The stacked block walls were ahead of their time, although the clinker brick, stained timber cladding and aluminium joinery were more typical.
The entrance is a retro time capsule, with rimu-panelled wall, open-tread timber stairs and pendant lights. The spacious open-plan living room opens to the patio, opposite a wall of windows that bringing the trees indoors. The massive fireplace wall is clad in Bombay stone, another hallmark of 60s style.
"We haven't changed much," says Shirley, although she did brighten the kitchen with white cabinets in the 1980s. The laminates in the family bathroom and en suite still display the original flair. The master bedroom is now a smoky-blue haven, with the original built-in storage and the north-facing balcony, sheltered from the prevailing wind. More clever built-in storage makes an efficient office, while the third bedroom is what Shirley calls her "Pollyanna room" with a tree-top view.
Downstairs is a generous laundry and the self-contained granny flat, opening to its own sunny patio.
A breezeway, constructed from macrocarpa felled on the farm, connects to the double garage. Shirley's vegetable bed currently houses chooks - Albany "savelings" who are gradually being re-homed. Shirley is still busy in the community, but it's another family's time for this slice of country so close to the city.