The Clarks used to be one of those families who would feature in friends' address books after a list of crossed out addresses - serial movers and renovators. But in 2008 they put the brakes on moving so often, buying a little house as their 10th and biggest home improvement project to date.
Aaron and Liz Clark even renovated when they spent a year in Croatia six years ago with their two young daughters Caitlin (now 13) and Eleanor (now 9). They helped a friend overhaul a 230-year-old home there.
When they returned they wanted to buy a do-up handy to Good Shepherd School, which Caitlin had attended pre-Croatia. The house they found was small with a generous "to-do" list. Aaron recalls that Liz, a teacher, saw it first.
"She said, 'I wouldn't live there if you paid me'." But they foresaw the potential of the circa-1929 home, where the previous lady owner had lived for about 45 years.
"It had that pretty transitional character at the front, on a decent-sized bit of land in a great location."
They lived in the little weatherboard home for two years, using their combined creative talents to imagine it transformed into a spacious family home. 'We really enjoy getting something old and making it look interesting while retaining the character." They re-piled, re-plumbed and insulated, enjoying the security of using Gary Meyer, a builder they had already worked with and trusted.
The property has a front fence for privacy and four-car off-street parking. A picturesque front porch with fretwork and a gloriously wide original central hallway are particularly welcoming. Fox terrier Betty Boo (named for animated 1930s character Betty Boop) trots along the hallway's polished wood floor.
The layout has three or four bedrooms, depending on whether you retain the front formal lounge with character fireplace and window-seat. Aaron says, "We like it as a lounge. It's quite a Zen, contemplative room, whereas the extension is more of a full-on family space."
They added wardrobe systems to both the girls' rooms and concealed storage in the hallway. A sophisticated family bathroom includes an impressive egg-shaped bath. Clever use of space gives the master bedroom its en suite and walk-in wardrobe.
Aaron is pleased they didn't just butt the big living-kitchen-dining room against the end of the existing house, instead extending the hallway past a side patio. "I wanted to create that slight feeling of separation."
The master bedroom, hall and rear living have French doors to the patio, creating flow.
The rear open-plan living space of almost 60sq m has polished concrete floors and double glazing. Its gourmet kitchen has stone benches, soft-close cabinetry and an avocado-hued glass splashback co-ordinating with the room's statement wallpaper.
"We like character and we don't do sterile," says Aaron.
He wondered about putting a vintage plaster ceiling rose he got from the Mercury Theatre up on the ceiling of this big room.
But instead he's installed it in their recently opened Dominion Rd cafe, Cafe Urania, which is named after its vintage Croatian coffee machine. Aaron may be a cafe owner now but he used his photographer's eye to ensure all new windows at home have pleasing outlooks.
A big bank of bifold doors opens wide to the rear garden, featuring rock walls and a level lawn.
"The girls are right into their netball and love hanging out there, shooting hoops."
Aaron and Liz did up this villa anticipating they'd live here for a long stint.
However, Liz's Mother passed away last year and the family is now looking forward to welcoming her 85-year-old father Ross to live with them. They have bought a Mt Eden property which includes a self-contained set-up for him.