Though dozens of properties now dot the valley beyond this grand old kauri 1880s villa - with the harbour and Rangitoto as a backdrop - it was once one of only three houses in a rural area, north of Remuera Rd.

Today's owners Michael and Laraine Scheffer have taken their roles as custodians over the past quarter of a century seriously, and although they don't know everything about its history, they've pieced together some fascinating facts.

"It appears to have been a nursery early on and [former owners] sent seeds by mail order all over the country.

"We once found an advertisement for their products in a very old copy of the Southland Times," says Michael. "The volcanic soil would have been perfect for horticulture.


"We also know that a court judge lived here at some stage later, because an elderly neighbour told us that when we first moved in. The judge would hold formal morning teas at which hats and gloves were required to be worn."

By the time Michael and Laraine discovered the once grand and glittering treasure, with its magnificent hallway and 4m stud height, it had been tenanted for a number of years and fallen into disrepair.

Bay windows had been removed and replacing them was going to be tricky, so the couple had sash windows installed instead as part of a major renovation that also involved the addition of a huge balcony on the top level.

"We tried hard to be true to its heritage and reused original materials wherever we could. For example, the kitchen benchtop is made from kauri, which came from elsewhere in the house," says Laraine.

On this floor are four bedrooms, some of which have original fireplaces. The light-filled master suite has a walk-through wardrobe and en suite.

The hallway is practically a room in its own right, and a giant dining, living and kitchen space lies beyond.

There are polished kauri floors throughout and the bright and sunny formal lounge opens on to the balcony where Scheffer family members have celebrated every Christmas, rain or shine, since taking possession in the late 1980s.

"We spend such a lot of time out here, especially in summer," says Michael. "The roof keeps it nice and sheltered."

The property also has a bottom level which has been converted into a second living area, an office and a bedroom, with bathroom.

There's a big separate laundry and access to a workshop that is deep under the house. If a future owner wanted to re-imagine this entire space, that opens onto a patio outside, with an outdoor fire, water feature plus lots of lawn, there would be plenty of potential to explore.

"When our son was a young man, this was his den, which was great because he could entertain his friends here, while pretending that his parents didn't exist," says Laraine.

"Both our children had happy childhoods here in Ridings Rd, playing on the street or taking the dog for a walk on Mt Hobson."

In a lovely twist, Laraine's life is about to go full circle as she and Michael, who met in his home country of South Africa when she was nursing there, move into the Westmere property that was her childhood family home.

"We've kept it all those years and we're going to be very happy," she says.

"This house is special but it's far too big for a couple on their own."

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