Ruth and David Morse were a little nervous about embarking on a major renovation, but seeing a friend successfully refurbish a home inspired them to take the plunge.
They also knew that they had to do something about their unit on Auckland's North Shore.
"With the children getting bigger we knew we needed more space," says Ruth, "and the unit certainly needed upgrading."
The couple had bought the home after Ruth, a Kiwi, and British-born David moved from London to Auckland.
While they were renting in Devonport, a friend told them her grandparents were selling their unit. Once they took a look at it, the couple were hooked.
"(The site) had everything we wanted. It was only a few minutes' walk to Narrow Neck Beach, in a cul-de-sac, and the clincher was the giant pohutukawa at the gate."
While the location and site were good, the solidly built brick and tile unit was tired. After the family moved in, baby Charlie, now 6, was born. During the following year Ruth was at home with him and his older sister Holly, now 9, and in that time she collected renovation ideas in a scrapbook and watched how the sun moved around the property.
Ruth gave her scrapbook to an architect, who came back with concept drawings that wowed the couple.
"He came up with a plan to bowl the living half of the unit and replace it with a two-storey 'box' on the same foundations," says Ruth.
"This meant not only were we able to reuse the existing rimu floors, but we ended up with a lot of extra space."
Ruth and David knew that going up a floor would be more expensive than building on the same level but because the unit was on a cross-lease title, they couldn't greatly extend the footprint anyway.
Adding another level meant they could create more floor area with only a tiny extension of the footprint to allow for a double-height entrance lobby and a connection to the service yard at the rear.
For Ruth and David, a sunny corner on the top floor of the house is the bonus of the build.
Although mostly used as a second living area, its sea views are a major plus and its concealed double sliding doors turn it into a spare bedroom. When the doors are open, sunlight from here and from the atrium at the front of the house ensure the home's interior is flooded with light.
"A lot of what makes the house special is down to (the architect's) cleverness," says Ruth. "Instead of all being on top of each other, we have space to spread out."
Big picture: Making a scrapbook of ideas was invaluable for Ruth. "It contained pictures of things I liked and things I didn't like. I just handed the whole thing to (the architect) when he started work on our job."
Expert input: Ruth is glad they brought an architect on board, as he helped with the placement of windows and walls for privacy and light and with smaller details, such as recessing the television in the lounge and designing the bulkhead storage in the master bedroom.
Chalk face: A black chalkboard wall in the kitchen provides a contrast to the white kitchen as well as serving as a canvas for ever-changing artworks.