Not many people would turn down the chance to live on Auckland's famous beachfront in Milford. But Tony and Pip Martin were well established in Herne Bay.

They'd owned the famed Gables Tavern from 1992 to 2006 and were settled in their renovated villa off Marine Parade, with no intention of crossing the harbour bridge. Ten years ago, a chance chat with a real estate agent changed that.

"We were not looking to move," says Tony. "We'd just looked at an investment property over this side, and asked the agent if they had anything else to see. I loved this straight away, but it took three or four weeks to talk Pip around."

Today Pip is sheepish about her reluctance to shift to the 1990s Mediterranean-style house on Milford Beach because, at the time, she loved her neighbourhood.


A decade later, after bringing up their two boys on the beach - George is just finishing high school, older brother Sam is in Brisbane - she is converted to the lifestyle.

The house is on the rock-edged part of the Milford-Takapuna shore walk, so for a couple of hours either side of high tide the family have the sea to themselves.

They did have a boat they could launch from the public ramp two doors away, but now they stick to kayaking and surfing.

The only drawback to the lifestyle, Tony says, laughing, is that he is reluctant to go anywhere else in the summer, living the holiday lifestyle at home. But finally, with George about to head to university and what his parents call "sponsored flatting", Pip and Tony are swapping their year-round holiday spot for a smaller lock-and-leave place so they can travel.

"It would be criminal for this not to be lived in year round by a family," says Pip. "It deserves to be full of people, with kids and their friends coming and going."

When the Martins bought the house, it had been converted from two three-bedroom town houses into one large property, but the title remains in two so it could be converted back to a home and income, perhaps for extended family, a holiday let or home-and-income.

The conversion pushed up an airy glass-edged staircase to join the ground floor and first-floor living rooms at the beach-side of the house. The second upper kitchen was removed but the Martins believe the plumbing is still there.

Pip and Tony enjoy having the second living room, its expansive deck being the best spot for evening gins watching the sunset colours on the sea.

Neighbouring houses have covenants so sun and views cannot be built out, but the original architect was careful to frame views for privacy, using frosted glass and skylights to pull light into all the rooms.

The ground floor has an entrance along the side of the house (the path continues to an outdoor shower and gate to the beach) opening into a generous lobby.

The open-plan kitchen, dining and living room open through cedar bi-fold doors to the covered terrace, lawn and beach. Tony and Pip loved the beach-friendly mix of built-in plastered concrete benches, blue-tiled kitchen counter and wood fireplace.

They kept the original sandy-coloured floor tiles that flow from indoors to out, and love pulling out Med-blue cushions for the built-in outdoor seating. Behind the living room is a second sitting room or study that opens to the view.

The Martins used this as a homework room, but it could be closed off to make a separate bedroom. On the ground floor there are two more bedrooms, including the former master bedroom that opens to a sunny courtyard.

The bathroom off this has a glass ceiling and a tub that overlooks the same courtyard. Not surprisingly, visiting family commandeer this as their holiday spot.

The double garage on this level has been converted to a rumpus room for the boys. In the summer, its glass doors lift away, so crowds of teenagers could come and go between the party and the beach. There's also a laundry and loads of storage tucked everywhere.

A second double garage and concrete stairs mark the separate entrance to what was the second apartment - now the boys us this to come and go from their upper floor bedrooms.

Tony and Pip have made the back bedroom their master suite: it still enjoys glimpses of the sea through neighbouring pohutukawa and palms.

Between that and the boys' two bedrooms and family bathroom is another sunny glass-roofed sitting room. It has a deck that is a favourite retreat in the winter. It, too, has tons of storage.

The Martins have made the most of their decade on the sea, but are excited to turn their place over to the next family to enjoy the year-round holiday spot.

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