Don't most young Kiwis doing their big "OE" in faraway cities dream of securing the classic back-to-nature lifestyle for their children on their return home?
Michelle Cowley and Richard Hay definitely did. After returning from their travels 12 years ago, they did a stint of living in Ponsonby and then decided to escape the hustle to a prized cliff-edge property at the end of the Laingholm peninsula on Auckland's west coast.
"It's tranquil, like living in a private oasis yet you're close to the city," says Michelle.
"There's something incredibly relaxing sitting at my kitchen bench and having a coffee, looking out through the native bush to the water. I love the serenity; the sound of native birds; the moreporks at night."
Having grown up in this special place, Michelle and Richard's three children — Letizia, 11, Tito, 9, and Caterina, 7 — can look back on wonderful memories of an idyllic Kiwi kid outdoors lifestyle.
They have loved playing among the native bush, making forts in the trees, riding bikes on the quiet street outside, kayaking to Cornwallis in the bay opposite, fishing and collecting scallops at the bottom of the garden and driving to west coast beaches.
The couple were enchanted by the home's timeless contemporary design. Clad in cedar with a dramatic high-pitched roofline, the two-storey home is filled with natural light.
Polished rimu floors and sarked ceilings add a feeling of warmth enhanced in winter by a heat pump in the family area and a log fire in the adult lounge upstairs.
It was perfect for a couple. But, as the family expanded, they outgrew its spaces so they commissioned designer Martin Northcott to extend it with a seamless addition that in no way compromises the look and feel of the house.
By adding on two more bedrooms and a third bathroom, his new design is so cleverly integrated with the original part of the home that it's hard to envisage it has been any different.
"Everything from the front entry along the hallway to the sliding cavity door that opens into the living space is new," says Michelle. To the side of this voluminous double height entry area, two large bedrooms share a family bathroom and connect to the ground floor living across a deck. Northcott also enclosed the carport to create a more functional internal garage and laundry stepping straight into the living area.
When doors between the open plan kitchen, central dining area and the family room were removed, it created one big flowing space that reaches out to another deck.
As the living is split across two levels, the upper level lounge provides a versatile parents' hub and a place to escape. "With its cosy log fire, it's a haven, especially in winter," says Michelle.
"The kids can be downstairs doing their thing while parents entertain upstairs. There is so much space, everyone has their own area. And the water views from up here are beautiful."
Michelle and Richard's bedroom suite is also upstairs off the living room. Lying in bed, from windows on both aspects, they can see the harbour on either side of the peninsula.
It's a great place to contemplate how lucky they are living the dream.
"It's a warm, friendly community and great schools are handy." The children all went to the "lovely little Laingholm Primary" and a bus at the end of the road takes children to Glen Eden Intermediate and Green Bay High School. But Michelle and Richard are moving to be closer to family.
97 KAURI POINT RD, LAINGHOLM
• 5 bedrooms, 3 bathroom, 1 parking spaces.
• Land 1067sq m, house 210sq m.
• Price: $1.1m-plus (CV $1.3m).
• Inspect: Sat/Sun 2-2.30pm.
• Auction: August 10 (unless sold prior).
• Schools: Laingholm Primary, Glen Eden Intermediate, Green Bay High School.
• Contact: Sven Higham, Barfoot & Thompson, 021 0260 5057, barfoot.co.nz/760233