Returning to Auckland with a baby and a toddler after five years in San Francisco, there was only one place that software developers Nicole Fougere and Richard Chetwynd wanted to live — Devonport.
"Even after San Francisco prices, it was still a bit of a shock in Auckland, there was no
t a lot of property around in 2013," says Rich. "The guy who'd lived here before, urban designer James Lunday, had done all the renovations, he'd even done a new roof. With a new baby and a new business, we didn't want to do too much work, so this was perfect."
The couple laugh that the house must have had some history, as they are often door-knocked or stopped by people in the street who had lived in the house at some stage and have stories to tell.
They have also had research done at the Devonport Museum, which dates the house to around 1900.
They understand that the original turn-of-the-century villa had layers of work done over the years, starting with a lower floor apartment put in some time in the 1940s or 50s, with more work done in the 70s and 80s.
By the time the Chetwynds bought, James had smoothed out the layout so that all they needed to do was finish some of the bathrooms and put in an HRV system and more insulation.
After five years' living there, they've just repainted the interior and decks and updated carpets. They are moving further around the suburb to be closer to their daughter's school and community.
"It's been great to bike there together," says Nicole. "But we want her to be able to walk to school, and catch up with her mates without us."
When they bought the house, Nicole was taken by James' lighting — a mix of modern nods to Victoriana in the fabric-wrapped chandeliers in the bedrooms, industrial steel and glass in the living and dining room and a striking sculptural piece hanging over the stair well.
Some original sash windows on the side walls are intact, and Nicole and Richard refurbished the front bay windows which were added at some time mid-century.
The front door and sidelight windows had new leadlight glass and modern french doors connect entrance hall to living rooms which stretch the width of the house. Its location on the ridge over the gully that drops into Ngataringa Bay gives them views across the water to Takapuna and beyond.
Friends are amazed at the Tardis-like house. Looking like a compact square-fronted villa from the street, it is 240sq m with a long back yard.
Nicole and Richard have re-landscaped the garden from traditional villa style to an easy-care combination of native trees and shrubs, centred on mature nikau. Careful pruning ensures they get full sun on the split-level decks, but are sheltered from neighbours.
There's room for a swing for the kids and a spa pool for the parents.
The galley-style kitchen was installed by James, with tongue-and-groove-look cupboards and drawers. The couple added a Carrera marble waterfall bench top and grunty farmhouse stainless steel sink, but were delighted at the style of the blue splash back tiles and the Smeg appliances.
Windows open back to the deck, creating a second living room. The floors on this level were replaced with modern bamboo, but downstairs Nicole and Rich refinished the original rimu boards in a silky low sheen that shows off the wood grain.
There are two bedrooms on the main floor each with their own en suite (there's also a guest loo). A generous stairwell leads to the lower ground floor.
At one point this was a separate flat, and it still has its own entrance down the side of the house, and a new kitchen (Nicole says it has barely been used). They've used the generous open plan living area, which has french doors to a sheltered deck, as the family media room, and one of the bedrooms was a handy home office.
It has a family bathroom, with a roll-top tub, and the three bedrooms have good sized closets (one a walk-in). There's also a big laundry and internal access to the double garage on this floor.
"We open the place up all summer, there are breezes and I love looking out over the views," says Richard.
"We can swim at Cheltenham or Windsor Park, go down to the village around the corner and the waterfront there."