Most people cast their nets wider if nothing's on the market in the area they want to live. But Vanessa Webb isn't most people.
Around 18 months ago, the design-savvy mother-of-two drew up a cute "house wanted" flyer. She popped it into letterboxes along three family-friendly Sandringham side streets she'd set her heart on.
She rushed around to this 1920s bungalow after being phoned by its friendly owner, and fell for its potential immediately. She whizzed husband Matt through when he returned feeling somewhat seedy after a friend's stag weekend. A couple of text messages later, it was theirs.
"When we bought this we said, 'We're never going to move again. We've made it into our dream home,"' says Vanessa. But now they're Wellington-bound for Matt's new role as regional development manager for the Radio Network.
More by accident than design, this was the fifth home in a decade for the couple, who are proud parents to Pippa, 4, and Annabelle, 2.
The series of houses began with a Wellington starter home and then a nicer model, before Matt was transferred to Auckland and they bought here. The pair were having difficulty getting pregnant, so they downsized to fund fertility treatment, then when they upsized their family with two gorgeous girls, they once again needed a bigger house.
Vanessa says, "This is a great street. There are so many mums on it and we meet for coffee and walk to the shops together."
Previous owners had already extended the bungalow without completing renovations, so the Webbs have been able to express their style throughout.
"I love the research process and I'm really into the details," says Vanessa, who has combined motherhood with working for an interior stylist. "Nowadays you've got access to so many amazing products and ideas through the internet."
She wanted to create a home that would be young, vibrant and playful, as expressed by the hopscotch hall runner topping the tongue-and-groove floors. The result is so striking that the home has already been photographed for an upcoming feature in a glossy magazine.
There are two very different living areas: a big rear kitchen-family-dining room with heat-pump and wide-opening bifolds, and a welcoming living room. Matt reckons his favourite place is probably hanging out with his girls on the family room's extra-wide window seat, which is adorned with colourful cushions, many sewn by Vanessa.
This rear hub easily accommodates 20 guests, with the big island doubling as another table. The sleek kitchen has everything Vanessa wanted, including a pantry each for food and crockery, and the clean lines of push-to-open cabinetry. It opens to a deck and level backyard, alongside a single garage fronted by multiple off-street parks.
Vanessa loves how the lounge feels like a retreat for her and Matt once the girls are peacefully sleeping. Its rear wall of shelves against black-and-cream wallpaper depicting bamboo is particularly striking.
Vanessa's clever touches add flair throughout, complementing the charm of some ornate original ceiling roses and cornices. A front, guest bedroom with window seat has a feature wall she patchworked with a range of wallpapers. Annabelle's bedroom has a wall papered in original '50s wallpaper, bought online.
The master bedroom has a walk-in wardrobe leading through to an en suite, and there's also a separate laundry and smart family bathroom.
Matt's beloved three-zone speaker system extends outside, where they've recently simplified the garden, favouring fragrant plants and those good for picking.
They'll enjoy having their Wellington family close by again. But they reckon they'll struggle to find a house capable of delivering what they've created here, and so may end up building their sixth home.