In the post-war years, state houses began appearing in the garden suburbs of Westmere and Point Chevalier as the areas west of Auckland city burgeoned.

Clusters of solidly built brick boxes were dotted amongst the bungalows, still on generous 600sq m sections. But in 1995, when then-journalists Jonathan Mayo and Rachel Bush were house hunting, Point Chev was a nana suburb.

"People thought we were crazy moving out here, it was only for old people," says Rachel.

"We'd just missed out on a classic Mt Albert bungalow and so, at first, Jonny just didn't see the potential.


"We couldn't see past the lowered ceilings, patterned carpets, some bad things that had been done in the 1970s. But we stepped into this generous wide hallway, and it was so exciting. It was two bedrooms, a lounge separate from the kitchen, a bathroom at the end of the hallway — classic."

The couple lived in the house for a few years, before leaving it with family and tenants while they lived in England. By the time they returned in 2002, they had toddler Jack and Rachel was pregnant with son Luke.

They were excited about the design possibilities, ready to appreciate the potential of the house's old bones.

Jonny had begun working on design magazines, so their appreciation of design had grown. They briefed an architect, plotted and planned, hired a builder and finally began their first addition in 2004.

Rather than blasting out the back of the house with a modern addition, they repeated the "square box with hip roof shape" of the original house (in corrugated iron, not tile). They also repeated the bagged brick and wooden joinery.

The two halves were joined by a flat-roofed section over the kitchen. The original wide hallway of polished matai now leads into the new open plan kitchen and living room.

The dropped ceilings were removed to show generous high studs; the new windows and doors are oversized bi-folds that open the house up to the garden, and one corner is recessed into a covered porch for Auckland's sub-tropical summers.

Levelling and terracing the yard gave the family plenty of room for a grassy lawn and sunny exposed aggregate terraces for dining and sitting.

Rachel enjoys gardening, focusing on old-fashioned roses, dahlias and zinnias as a homage to the classic gardens of the house's era and the mature trees already on the section.

The kitchen was ahead of its time with sustainable bamboo joinery and plenty of storage drawers. With white quartz counters that waterfall over the bar, stainless steel pendant lights and elegant sliding windows, it has a stylish Scandi vibe.

Jonny's choice for heating was the New Zealand design icon, a pyrolytic fire box. Rachel has a roomy study and the bedrooms and bathrooms were reconfigured to create a master en suite and two bedrooms, one from the former sitting room.

After another stint overseas the family returned with growing teenagers and a desire to add a garage.

They were excited when architect Mark Frazerhurst pushed them into thinking differently, creating a "garage with benefits" that included a new entrance, two more bedrooms and another glorious hallway.

Clad in semi-transparent plastic, the curved garage glows like a lantern from the street, hinting at the drama of the entry. Mark's wife, landscape designer Kate, created a new garden of floating concrete platforms hovering above native grasses.

Mark specified wall, ceiling and soffit of slats of cedar (a two-week job for the builder) that disguises doors to the boys' bedrooms. A pocket door opens to the garage, so it can be used as a workshop, gym or yoga space.

The exterior is a mix of detailed concrete-look panels and vertical cedar, the roof a dramatic sawtooth that repeats the bagged brick. Discreet bands of LED lights indoors and out turn the whole entry into an art piece at night.

The family returned the old sitting room to its former role, the sunny bay window a favourite reading spot. Mark added double-glazed doors to the side garden, landscaped by Kate to create another sitting area and space for a spa pool.

Rachel and Jonny are amused how the city has come out to meet their suburb. They like being able to bike to work, enjoy the local cafes and have easy buses into the city.

But with their oldest about to go away to university, they've decided it's time to live in a smaller footprint, so they are selling.

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