France's entrancing design aesthetic continues to cast a spell over those who have lived in this celebrated, 21st century example of a 17th century French farmhouse.

It certainly did for interior designer Paula McIntosh, who owned it 18 years ago. Now its textural, aged patina has captivated Geoff Richards, the fourth owner.

For Geoff, who was born in Australia, it was the photo of the eastern terrace wing of this three-storey home which stopped him in his tracks early last year.

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"I thought 'Is this in New Zealand?' 'Is all this French character here? In Remuera?'"
Memories flooded back of a 2004 holiday in the medieval town of Sarlat, in southwest France. Three generations of his extended family stayed in a three-storey, 200-year-old farmhouse for a fortnight.

"This place here? This is it. I couldn't believe it," he says. "When I saw this it went straight to my heart."

Paula McIntosh knew that feeling. On holiday in France in 1999, she sourced 100-year-old floor and roof tiles, thereby committing her builder husband Ross to a solid masonry home on a site that he believed was too difficult.

Geoff and his wife had no intention of shifting from their home in Parnell, which they
built when they and their two sons shifted from Melbourne six years ago.

But beyond the charm of this home's fountains, clipped hedges, juliette balconies, tiled terraces and dramatic archways, there was important pragmatic appeal.

The 3m steel gate and masonry fence helped guarantee complete privacy for Geoff and his wife, who are both doctors. "This is a home that has been built for us," he says.

The view into the sun-filled west courtyard and back from deep inside their living area is especially appealing.

"If we close the big gate and leave the wrought-iron gate open we can see as far as the street, but no-one can see us," says Geoff.

This progressive entry is all about symmetry. Two single garages flank the path and potted trees into the inner courtyard. The front door is a discreet transition to the right, complete with a courtyard table setting. Service areas are all on the south side, including the travertine bathrooms and tiled stairs leading to the north-facing, sisal-carpeted bedrooms.

North-side entry-level living opens through french doors to a courtyard with a wood-burning fireplace, table seating for eight and a lounging area. Fireside living/dining indoors includes the stepped-down sitting room with its rich parquet floor and access to the eastern terrace.

Throughout, wall sconces add detail to design elements that include the wood-encased steel ceiling beams, double-thick concrete walls and terracotta tiled floors.

The farmhouse kitchen has its own granite island bench near the scullery/laundry and pantry/wine storage area.

About five years ago, a previous owner developed the basement level into self-contained guest accommodation with its own entrance, adding 110sq m of living and the third level to the floorplan.

Above it all, views skim neighbouring rooftops and treetops and take in the local reserve. "It's nice to have our own little green valley," says Geoff.

The deciduous Virginia creeper that cloaks this house adds European integrity. "It gives a lovely sense of the seasons, too," says Geoff.

81 PORTLAND RD, REMUERA
• 4 bedrooms, 3 bathroom, 2* parking spaces.
• Land 1011sq m, house 440sq m.
• Sale by negotiation: Offers in excess of $5 million.
• Inspect: Sat/Sun, 11/12, August 1-1:30pm.
• Schools: Remuera School & Victoria Avenue School, Remuera Intermediate, Auckland Grammar School, Epsom Girls' Grammar School.
• Contact: Ricky Cave, Ray White. 027 222 5419, oneroof.co.nz/1177689
*Plus 4 OSP