Nina and Noel Simpson's Herne Bay villa sits high above the pavement, handsome with its return veranda, bay window and stained glass detailing in the front door.
But it is the area at the back of the property that is the couple's pride and joy. This private space, screened from neighbours by hedges of bamboo, Mexican evergreen and bay leaves, comes into its own when Nina and Noel slide open the large glass doors from the living room to make this one large indoor/outdoor space.
"The privacy in our backyard is the best thing about this property," says Nina. "Because you are in the city and living on top of each other, it's nice to have a private sanctuary."
When they bought the villa in 2003, it was a one-level dwelling. The couple had been living in John St and it seemed a natural step to move to the northern slopes. "This area is so wonderful with the schools, the cafes, the shops and the restaurants," says Nina.
Nina and Noel lived in the villa for 18 months, before handing Jones Architects their renovation brief for a safe family home, with a practical layout to make entertaining easy.
They then moved out for nine months while the interior was gutted, the extra storey added for the master bedroom and the excavation made under the home to allow a large garage.
"We kept the outside shell. We wanted comfortable living but we love the old traditional style of villa," says Nina. "The only walls we didn't move were the hallway's. We have re-wired, re-plumbed, and insulated. Basically, it is a new home in an old villa."
The house starts with a standard villa layout of three bedrooms and one bathroom off the central hallway, and French doors to the open-plan living area with lounge, dining and kitchen. This room has also been extended, with "Bob the Builder" Bob Jansen sourcing the recycled kauri flooring for the extension that matches the original so well.
The kitchen is placed so Nina can keep an eye on children Anton, 6, and Isabel, 4, when they play outdoors; and the layout caters for family meals through to larger gatherings.
"It works extremely well, with the large room, the kitchen, the garden and the lawn. Especially in the summer, it's like one big room; you just open up the doors."
A sunroom on the north side of the living room is one of the smaller rooms in the house but also Nina's favourite. "It has a great feel, it's peaceful and on a sunny day it's nice and warm. If I am lucky enough to have a day at home, I come in here with a book and unwind."
Nina has enjoyed decorating the home, choosing Karen Walker Wan White for the interior walls, Milk White for the exterior and a warm chocolate stain for the kauri floors to convey a relaxed feeling.
Upstairs is the master suite with its north-facing balcony capturing harbour views, the en suite and walk-in wardrobe.
"When the children were babies we used the adjacent room as a nursery but now we use it as TV retreat."
Downstairs is the three-plus-car garage where Noel indulges his passion for cars.
Nina and Noel think the house's obvious appeal will be to other families but it would suit a wide section of buyers.
"We'll be sad to move but we are moving on to another project," says Nina. "We both like a challenge and it has taken us a while to find another property to renovate because we both like to get things right.
"With this house we thought we could make something amazing and we have. We're really proud of it. My husband and I are a great team; we work together and we make good things happen."