12 Arney Crescent, Remuera
When Marion and Malcolm Johnson first looked at living in Arney Cres, they couldn't understand why it was considered so special.
The crescent, which runs off sought-after Arney Rd in Remuera, was one of the first areas the Johnsons looked at when they returned to Auckland 11 years ago after living and working in Palmerston North for 19 years while they raised their two children.
"We actually thought the street was quite ordinary," recalls Malcolm.
But after a house purchase in Arney Rd fell over, the Johnsons looked through 12 Arney Cres and decided almost on impulse to buy it.
"It was just so quiet, apart from the sound of all the native birds. We could also see how we could add value to the house," says Malcolm.
Only after they moved into their house in 2001 did the Malcolms begin to appreciate what they say is one of the street's greatest but unsung features - excellent neighbours.
"We're surrounded by great neighbours. People tend to live in this street for a long time, so they develop real bonds with each other."
The Johnsons' two-level house, one in a row of what were probably once workers' cottages, sits at the top of a ridge above a lush valley.
From their northwest-facing living room and upper-level deck, the Johnsons have views of the Sky Tower, Hobson Bay and Rangitoto.
Their tiered, 723sq m property also overlooks the rich flora of the valley, which has its own warm microclimate and is home to native birds including tui, moreporks and kereru.
Built in 1914 using kauri weatherboards and kauri and matai floors and decks, the once-modest house would have only occupied what is now its top level, but all of the space underneath has since been incorporated into the main house.
Previous owners' improvements included sympathetically renovating two large street-facing bedrooms on either side of the hallway on the top level of the house.
Impressive landscaping includes a large swimming pool and spa pool surrounded by expansive wooden decking which opens off a second living room on the ground level of the house and a petanque court on the lower level of the garden.
"All the hard work with the landscaping had already been done when we came ... and there are no lawns to look after," says Malcolm.
A double garage has been added at the street side of the house where a private, brick-paved courtyard catches the morning sun and opens off one of the two front bedrooms.
Malcolm and Marion commissioned architect Barbara Draper to sort out the jumbled layout of the upstairs living room and kitchen, which were bisected by a central stairway.
Building a solid maple stairway that leads downstairs off one side of the central hallway, and incorporating part of the original top deck in the main lounge have better integrated this living space and improved its flow to the outdoors.
The south-east retaining wall has been pushed out on the bottom level of the house to create space for a large new master bedroom, en suite, walk-in wardrobe and a laundry that opens to an outside utility area. Useful storage space behind the laundry includes a large safe.
The Malcolms now plan to downsize and spend more time at their holiday property in the Bay of Islands where they want to eventually build a new home.By Jane Loudon