Some homes just seem to find their owners, not the other way round. When Kimberley Wallace came to the open home at a beautifully renovated villa in Albany Rd, she walked upstairs and saw her family home over the fence in Kelmarna Ave. She felt it was meant to be.

She had always lived in Ponsonby, apart from the stint she and husband Andy had just spent working overseas. When they returned to Auckland six years ago, the real estate market was "booming", making it almost impossible to find somewhere for their expanding family and three rowdy dogs.

When Andy phoned her from the auction, she had already mentally prepared for another let down. Miraculously, this time, the result was a yes.

They were thrilled to move into this popular area among so many young families like their own, handy to their workplaces in Queen St as well as local beaches, shops, cafes, restaurants and Bayfield Primary for the girls.

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Kimberley bought an e-bike so she could head into the city and be there within 15 minutes, rather than the 25 minutes in a car.

"Both of us are active," says Andy "Westhaven is so close to go for walks. We can stroll to the swimming pool. Plus there's easy access to motorways west and south. And although our home is unusual for The Avenues, with tandem internal garaging, you can always get a park on the street."

Kimberley says it has changed a lot since she lived here in the 80s and 90s when there were "a lot of creatives. They're still here, but now there's a nice balance of creative types and young families".

"It has been a happy experience. I didn't think we'd leave. It was going to be our lifelong home," says Kimberley.

The old villa in Ponsonby's sought-after avenues had already been substantially altered, extended and opened up in an architectural makeover so most of the changes they made were cosmetic.

A huge open plan area appealed with its high ceiling, clerestory windows and gallery-like proportions. Reaching through large glass sliders, it opens to decks in an ultra-private lawn surrounded by leafy magnolia hedging which ensures you never see the neighbours on all three sides.

When their second daughter was born, a second lounge on the ground floor soon filled up with toys and became a playroom.

For easy-care grounds, they added astro turf out the front and back, which looks just like fresh, immaculate green grass.

To make the most of a too sunny, glarey area to the side of the main living, they built an outdoor room with an electronic louvred roof so they can use it all year round.

It's now their favourite space to sit and watch their two young daughters play on their bikes on a sunken paved area.

Heating was a priority so they boosted winter warmth with central underfloor heating in all bedrooms and bathrooms. "It made such a difference," says Kimberley.

Though there are three bedrooms and a bathroom downstairs, the upstairs suite would seem natural as the master bedroom space. However, Kimberley and Andy prefer to sleep downstairs near the children.

So they've relinquished it for their guests who are treated to masses of space, an updated bathroom, tons of storage and a superbly sunny balcony. No wonder they always want to come back, says Kimberley.

It's been the perfect city sanctuary for the Wallace family. But as some of their friends have moved to the country, they, too, have been tempted to sample the delights of going rural.

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