Being pragmatic, there were just two things Mark and Kate Kippenberger were after when they left their home in Christchurch for Auckland in 2009 — land and location.
As their youngest daughter Ella was turning 5, they wanted her to be able to walk to Kohia Terrace Primary. Epsom appealed because of the proximity to Cornwall Park, Mt
Eden Village and Newmarket shops.
But after attending just one open home at the large 1533sq m property they now live in at the end of a long drive, there was no way Kate wanted to return. Thankfully, Mark convinced her the home's topsy-turvy arrangement of rooms "that had been added on and added on" since it was built in around 1947 could be fixed. Eventually.
"Nothing made sense for the way we lived," says Kate who, like Mark, works from home as a consultant.
It took a year to get their head around the changes needed. Even an architect was perplexed. Walls in odd places broke up sight lines. The living areas didn't flow well outdoors and the kitchen was oddly relegated to a small space to the rear of a lounge that was simply too big.
Yet, without adding anything to the footprint, several years and two renovations later, the big, four/five-bedroom home has a practical, spacious, open layout where sunny ground floor living areas and the master bedroom extend through four sets of french doors to a beautiful private deck and pool.
And everything overlooks a huge, peaceful, private tropical garden. You'd never guess it had ever been otherwise.
During the first renovation in 2010, they got rid of the original kitchen, turning it into Ella's room. More recently they added a bathroom, a small en suite off the light-filled entry.
A substantial composite stone bench along the new kitchen now presides over an open-plan living area incorporating a scullery with loads of storage. Moody dark grey tongue-and-groove boards define the dining space in a nook beside the kitchen. Surrounded by built-in bench seating, this is everybody's favourite place in the morning sun.
By adding a wall to the main bedroom suite, the Kippenbergers created a large walk-in dressing room leading to their en suite, which had once come awkwardly off the lounge.
These changes allow Kate, Mark and Ella to live as though the ground floor is a grand self-contained garden apartment. However, when the older children return home or they have guests to stay, there's abundant space on the upper level, where two additional bedrooms (one is currently a large office) share a third bathroom.
Removing the door from the fifth bedroom upstairs made way for another lounge which gives yet another option to escape, so nobody ever feels they are on top of one another.
It's also a great spot for Ella to practise playing her drums. Should new owners require a fifth bedroom, it would easily convert back with a door.
Now that Ella goes to Diocesan, she still walks. And the family enjoy having everything so handy. It's so convenient, they seldom need to get into their cars although there's space for two in the garage now that they have turned the original one and a half car garage into a double.
Resolving this giant jigsaw puzzle has been a rewarding exercise.
Says Kate: "It's an amazing winter house with central heating keeping it warm. But it really comes into its own in the summer when all the doors open wide to the heated saltwater pool. You come down the drive and it's like another world."