SIZE: Land 263sq m, house 243sq m.
PRICE INDICATION: Above $2.3 million.
INSPECT: Sat/Sun 11.30am to noon.
BODY CORP: $1903.91 a year.
Ref: BSA10816
SCHOOL ZONES: Ponsonby Primary, Intermediate, Western Springs College, Auckland Girls’ Grammar.
CONTACT: Pene Milne, Sothebys, 021 919 940.
AUCTION: May 4, 2pm on site (unless sold prior).

To the outsider, the trek from a leafy suburb on the east of the city to one on the west is not that big a leap.

Yet when Christine and Paul Cavanagh moved into their crisp Kent Dadson-designed town house in Herne Bay in 2005, they were delighted to find not just a house, but a warm, neighbourly community.

"We are loathe to leave this community, but it is time for us to find a place that is on one level, as we get older," says Christine.

The couple, who have been driving forces in the Herne Bay Residents Association, love how easy it is to walk about their neighbourhood - up the hill to the cafes and shops at Jervois Rd, down the hill to Westhaven, the quick access to the city or over the bridge.

But once you go through the gate in the high fence, surrounded by clipped hedges and gracious old trees, the three level concrete block house is a quiet retreat from the busy city-side suburb.


The couple, who are fans of architecture and design, were downsizing from their family home.

They were drawn to the modern, international style of the house, one of three carved off the gardens of the former big house estate.

A staff house, built in 1930 by the pool, is part of the four properties in the subdivision developed in 1995.

Remarkably, Paul's mother lived here as a child when her mother was housekeeper to the family.

The concrete and concrete block house is cleverly arranged around a central dining courtyard overlooked by the kitchen and informal eating area on one side, the huge formal lounge on the other.

The rhythm of the black-framed windows, including the sunny corridor/gallery, the proportions of the high ceilinged rooms and the recently refurbished oak kitchen were a perfect backdrop to the Cavanaghs' mix of antique and modern furniture and extensive art collection.

Despite walls of picture windows overlooking the trees and sea in the living and master bedrooms, there was also plenty of wall space for the paintings and room for their huge library.

The couple called on friend Hilary Skinner of Indice to give the house a refresh in 2011.

Skinner Design's design ethos combining art, textiles and colour brought textured mosaics to the bathroom, shelving in a rich oak that matched the hardwood floors, luscious shot silk curtains against a background of white walls, smart new Italian light fixtures and, just recently, silky grey carpet in the bedroom floors.

The dated fireplace was reworked with a clean modern hearth and chimney for cosy winter evenings (there are heat pumps, too).

There are small details that delight: a slot window behind the cook top in the kitchen that frames a view of greenery, more greenery off another pair of low windows in the top floor master bedroom, a counter to the big views of sea and trees from the pictures windows and balcony, pairs of slim french doors between rooms.

Designer Richard Dawe worked similar magic in the garden, creating enticing corners all through the property - walks and steps between levels, a gravelled seating area under the trees, pretty courtyards off the lower floor bedrooms.

Clipped hedges and a layered planting scheme bring interest to the garden all year, from scented gardenia in the late winter to dazzling maple trees in autumn.

There is even a sunny corner for Paul's vegetable bed next to the double garage, while at street level there's a handy spot for a utility yard.

The private quarters are on the floors above and below the living rooms. Upstairs is the couple's bedroom, balcony and en suite, along with a clever built-in office for Christine at the top of the stairs, complete with sea view.

On the lower ground floor are two more bedrooms each with french doors to the garden.

The architect scooped out room for a bathroom, guest loo and laundry, along with two storage rooms, fitted with shelving aplenty.

"This has worked really well for us," says Paul. "The location, the design, the community."