By Louise Richardson

Robyn McElroy is tall - as was her late husband Dick, so the soaring ceilings in this classic Remuera property caught their attention right away.

"We'd been living in a house just down the road with our two boys and they had recently left home when we felt like a change and moved here, 23 years ago," says Robyn.

"It wasn't exactly downsizing as this property is very large, but it was ideal for our furniture, which is all on the big side."


The character-packed house, which looks like something from a fairy tale, sits on an expansive site, complete with solar-heated swimming pool.

Knowing the original owner's grandson, who is now in his 90s, has helped Robyn find out its history.

"It was built in 1914 and stayed in the same family until 1972," she says.

"Apparently there were three huge glasshouses at the back when the section was half an acre or more, and the owner grew ferns and orchids."

Only one shade house remains, in a corner, and Robyn grows the same two species there.

Apart from maintaining the garden and installing a new kitchen, carefully designed to fit within the period framework of the house, she says that she and Dick had to do very little to the property, which is a true showcase of early 20th century style.

Beyond the front door is a glass vestibule, which gets very hot in summer, according to Robyn, and the formal lounge adjoins it.

The exquisite fireplace has been converted to gas, although it's rarely used as the home has central heating, and the wallpaper is French.

"I liked it because it complemented our furniture and so it's stayed."

Handsome wood panelling, beautiful leadlight windows, polished kauri floorboards and plaster ceiling domes all add to the charm of the home.

Robyn's bedroom is the biggest. It, too, has French wallpaper, a fireplace and room for a desk and a sofa. A cute little en suite with shower, toilet and basin is practically the size of a large cupboard and there's plenty of wardrobe space.

The guest bedroom opposite is similarly spacious while another smaller bedroom, next door, is currently Robyn's home office.

Also enormous is the separate dining room: "We've had some very good times in here," says Robyn.

The family bathroom, off to the side of the hallway, with a fourth bedroom beside it, is something a new owner would probably change, Robyn thinks.

All up, she's lived on Arney Rd for around 40 years and just loves the neighbourhood.

"It's close to the motorway, the city and Newmarket, yet it's incredibly quiet and peaceful here.

Birds just love the native trees and I like to feed them, because it means they keep coming back."

Robyn knows that leaving the house will mark the end of an era but she's confident a new owner, perhaps with a family, will appreciate its innate character and remodel it sympathetically, where required.

"It's got a huge basement and I suspect that developing that would be high on their list of priorities. There's certainly a lot of potential."

Robyn won't be going far, and will miss her neighbours.

"It was hard making the decision to leave," she says.

On the web link