Elevation, privacy and its leafy setting among stately mature trees attracted Monica and Chris Cotter to their property in one of Epsom's dress-circle streets 25 years ago.
The couple, who had been living in Grafton, had eyed the Mountain Rd property for some years before they bought it in 1986 when their children were still at primary school.
"The house and its grounds had always attracted us so, when we were looking to move, we approached the owner even though it was not on the market," says Monica. A house swap secured the deal and the Cotters then lived in their new home for two years before beginning an extensive, year-long renovation which has almost doubled the house's size.
Renowned Auckland architect Horace Massey designed the award-winning house, which was built in 1947 on land originally part of a 4ha estate owned by Professor Withiel Thomas. Thomas held the first chair in Botany at the-then Auckland University College and was responsible for planting several trees on his property, which was subdivided into eight sections in the 1940s.
Thanks to his foresight, the Cotters have inherited magnificent specimens, including a large oak, jacaranda, ginkgo, magnolia and three pohutukawa.
Post-war austerity possibly dictated that the original, single level, two-bedroom home had mainly modest bedrooms and living spaces apart from two grand front rooms facing Mountain Rd.
The Cotters commissioned architect Terence Hitchcock to design an extension that would respect Massey's original design, integrate its best features and retain the trees.
Hitchcock, who had worked on some of Massey's other homes, added a second storey to accommodate three new bedrooms and an open-plan office off the upstairs landing that is separated from the master bedroom and en suite by a sliding door.
The original south-facing kitchen was moved to the north side to adjoin a light-filled family room, dining room and elevated patio that all look out over the garden. This level also includes a large formal living room next to a spacious library.
Large panelled windows in these rooms and throughout the house have peaceful views out through the trees to the established, well-landscaped garden of low maintenance plants - clivias, rhododendrons and ferns.
All the rooms are well proportioned and feel like discreet spaces, while connecting effortlessly with each other.
"One of the things we have loved about living here is that everyone feels as though they have their own space. Even though it's a relatively large house, it feels friendly and has a great human scale," says Monica.
The Cotters' quality renovation included putting solid hardwood parquet floors in the kitchen, dining room, family room and foyer. "We've sanded them back and repolished them every five years and they look brand new."
Apart from adding a large window to the fourth, south-facing bedroom on the ground floor, the Cotters have made no structural changes to Hitchcock's original redesign, which has stood the test of time. Cosmetic changes have included recarpeting and repainting, plus meticulously maintaining the house and garden.
As well as the original single garage, the house's bottom level has a large storeroom and workshop that opens to the garden.
With both of their adult children living overseas, Chris and Monica spend more time travelling and no longer need such a large house.
"It has been a privilege to live here. We've felt as though we have been custodians of the property and its trees."