The Macdonalds describe 20 Orakei Rd as a house of laughter and light. Penny Macdonald recalls, "It was always full of people, food and music", and her children are the family's fourth generation to explore the nooks and crannies of the elegant four-storey house.
Penny's late father Graeme lived there since the 1940s when his parents Eric and Winifred bought the property. After he returned from England in the 1960s, Graeme and wife Joan built a house in the garden then swapped with his parents in the 1970s, raising their own family in the spacious house.
Remuera old-timers remember decades of parties in the house and garden. Grandfather Eric entertained children from his sister's kindergarten nearby, with the piano hauled into the garden for performances. Graeme often hosted parties for his neurosurgery ward staff, and son Jonathan continues the tradition with his pharmacy team. The house featured in the 1980s TV series Gloss, where appalling fashion sense (and behaviour) did not resemble real life.
Penny, Jonathan and sister Rachel knew adjacent Waiata Reserve nearly as well as the property's substantial park-like grounds. The old stables and brick well are still there from the original farm, while the round lawn was completed in the 1940s from the same stones as Mt Eden prison. "When we were kids, Mum always made extra dinner and had spare beds made up for the people that gravitated here," says Penny.
Somewhere in Canada is the house's twin, minus the spectacular view of the Waitemata Harbour. That's because architect George Goldsbro' worked with Canadian architect R. Mackay Fripp, who introduced the Arts and Crafts shingle style to Victorian Auckland. His client in the 1880s was Frederick Winstone who, as a manager for the company, was no doubt open to cutting-edge style.
Fifty years on, grandmother Winifred clearly had an eye for the property's heritage, as a passionate historian and president of the Historic Places Trust. "It was designed for the light, unusual for the time," says Penny. Many rooms feature a bay window to collect the sun, with cleverly placed dormers and clerestories pulling in extra light.
Life in the house revolves around the deep, north-facing veranda, extended by grandfather Eric in the 1950s. "It's sunny in winter, shaded in summer," says Joan.
Jonathan recalls the parties there, and everyone is drawn to the striking harbour view across the greenery.
Inside, period details reflect the Arts and Crafts style. In the wood-panelled dining room, a deep fireplace inglenook with built-in seats echoes the more delicate white-washed window seat and fireplace in the formal living room. Despite fireplaces in nearly every room, later generations of Macdonalds appreciated the central heating, and the TV in the book-lined library. The former servants' quarters are now two pitched-ceiling bedrooms and a modern bathroom, while the basement laundry looks just like Mrs Tiggywinkle's. The old butler's pantry remains in the spacious modern kitchen. Three of the four bedrooms upstairs have fireplaces and open on to another covered porch to enjoy that gorgeous view. The quality of the design is still evident in panelled doors, vintage brass fixtures and even the original etched glass windows. Joan loves the outlook and morning sunshine in the tiled bathroom with its original tin tub.
Penny's children loved the huge loft space on the third floor and the attic. But now it's time for the Macdonalds to downsize, and another family can ramble through their great-grandparents' light-filled "Canadian bungalow".