Suzi Mudge confesses she'd been playing a bit of a long game when she brought partner Mark Burns along to check out a clever house on a wedge of land in Grafton, just around the corner from Carlton Gore Rd in 2012.
"Years ago I was doing my PhD at Auckland University med school, and used to park around here. I'd watched this house go up in 2005 or so and always loved it," she says. "I said to Mark, that house looked amazing, we have to go see it. We put in a pre-auction offer and it was ours."
The couple were moving in together with Mark's teenage sons — him from a classic Mt Eden bungalow, her from a similar modern townhouse in Point Chev. Their list of requirements was long: they wanted something handy for the boys to get to Auckland Boys' Grammar, easy access to the city and university for Mark and motorways for Suzi (her business is based on the Shore), a family home where the boys could spread out, Mark could have an office (he's completed a law degree in the time they've been at the house). Plus great entertaining and cooking spaces.
"We were about to buy a standard place at the top of Mt Eden, so this is a bit out of the box," Mark says. "But for two teenage boys its been a great youth space, they've commandeered the top three levels for themselves and their friends, its like their own suite while we've had our wing. It's worked out for us and them. We didn't hear them, they got to be the cool boys with their own space. It's like an inner-city apartment, but with our own big outside areas and without the hassle of a body corporate."
The concrete house was indeed an early model of good city density. Designed and built by architect Jason Bailey to make the most of the wedge-shaped site, the concrete, steel and timber building is roomy, spread over multiple levels.
Bailey staggered the levels, making the front half of the central stair-spine his office, over three levels. The back of the house, which opens to a courtyard, was his apartment. He did allow space for a second small staircase, and clever swipe-pass electronics so that the apartment half could be completely self-contained.
It's worked perfectly for Mark, Suzi and the two boys. The ground-floor meeting room
and kitchenette has been made a private guest suite as there's a bathroom half a level below, as well as a huge laundry and utility room, opening off the garage.
The two floors above, which had been drafting studios — complete with huge windows looking across to Outhwaite Park — have made generous separate sitting rooms for kids and parents.
In the grown-up's room, the concrete walls are lined with books, and softened with persian rugs and leather sofas. The room above, which starts the 'boy zone' has a more industrial vibe. There's more storage built into each landing of the stairwell.
A final flight of stairs leads to the roof terrace, the crowning glory of the building. It has views all around the city's maunga, the park, and Rangitoto.
The living half of the house is centred around a wedge-shaped family room and kitchen on the north east corner. Walls of glass are carefully position to capture sun but ensure privacy.
The entire back corner has glass doors that slide back (with glass safety balustrades) to open the house up in the summer. Clever landscaping has turned the corner yard into a great dining spot, with room for barbecue, herbs and veggies and a Japanese-style water garden.
Both Mark and Suzi are keen cooks, so their first move was to upgrade the bachelor kitchen, using designer Mal Corboy. He used black and steel cabinets on the bench and island, but his best touch was a butcher block table/island on a wheeled steel base.
It's cosy for a couple for dinner, but can comfortably fit 13 people for Christmas dinners and big parties. Corboy commandeered the gap left for a future stair, turning it into a far more useful butler's pantry hidden behind a frosted glass door.
The couple's master suite is an intriguing series of corridors, walk-in closet and bathroom, flooded with light from windows and skylights. There are nooks to display an enviable shoe collection and Suzi's vintage clothes, while the bedroom becomes an outdoor room in the summer — glass doors slide back; louvres regulate privacy and breezes.
The black mosaic bathroom, complete with a huge soaking tub, sold Suzi on the house. The boys' two bedrooms and a further bathroom are on the upper floor.
The boys have now left home, so Suzi and Mark are selling the house to focus their energy on restoring native bush on their property in the Coromandel.
They've been delighted at how well their unconventional place has worked so well for the boys' teenage years. Its easy location, minutes from the bus and train, and an easy walk to the city or Newmarket, has made city living a delight, but the house could easily revert to a mixed use for the next owner.