Before the grey colour schemes, the security gates and late-model cars, the houses on the fringes of Herne Bay and Ponsonby were full of colour and colourful characters.
Singer Callie Blood is one of those characters, and her Georgian-style 1860s house is one of the most storied in the area. She has tracked down a bit of history about it, frustrated that she doesn't know more.
"The earliest records here go back to 1856, where it was one of only seven houses," she says.
"There was a wharf planned for the bottom of the road, which would have serviced the Cashmore sawmill at the bottom of the hill [now Cox's Bay]. This was known as the harbourmaster's house."
Callie and her partner Paul Kennedy bought the two-storied house 16 years ago.
The property is in two titles, one for the main house, with its spreading lawn and selection of fruit trees, the other for the small cottage, which has always been in demand as a rental unit.
Callie had been living in Herne Bay for 25 years and knew the former owners. When they moved down country, she pounced on the house at auction.
Callie, who has sung with the likes of the Th'Dudes, Jacqui Clarke, Nick Bollinger, Dave Dobbyn, Harry Lyon ("The Pink Flamingos, I never did sing with the Sailors," she says.
That's Hello Sailor, to the rest of us), wrote music with the late Ian Morris, in his recording studio just around the corner in Jervois Rd.
But she is yet to finish design and marketing of her first solo album, recorded with Neil Finn, and instead has limited her singing to the restorative therapy of the city's Jubilation Gospel Choir.
Fortunately, the house had been renovated before Callie and her daughter Betty; and Paul and his sons Sam and Felix moved in, and Callie has never got around to making further changes.
Instead, the family have revelled in the quirky layout of the house, with its windows and joinery that range from simple Georgian sashes to more recent french doors.
The stylish country kitchen in smokey green-grey, with stainless steel benches and huge cooker, has been well used.
While sculleries are a must-have in any self-respecting Herne Bay kitchen build, Callie likes that her scullery is probably on the footprint of the original (there's also a bathroom/laundry on this corner of the house, clues to its original wash house).
The old-school linoleum floor repeats the blues and colours of the stained glass back door.
Callie and Paul introduced more colour with the burgundy front door and entrance hall, keeping the rest of the scheme neutral as a back drop to their art (some by Callie, many by friends).
The arrangement of the house hints at add-ons over the years. The front parlour with its Victorian fireplace steps down to a second sitting room, also with a fireplace, beside the kitchen and dining area. At some point off this room a porch was closed in for a studio, but the family now use it as the fourth bedroom as it has french doors opening to the back deck.
The heart of the home is the conservatory-style dining room, with windows and french doors on three sides.
Verandas wrap the north and west sides of the house, creating the original early Victorian version of indoor-outdoor flow, while a series of terraced decks drop down to the back lawn.
As well as views of the garden, vistas from the house stretch down through the valley to paddocks on the edge of Kelmarna Gardens and up to the former convent, the city and Sky Tower.
Up the staircase is the family bathroom, complete with clawfoot tub (and more of those views) and the master bedroom.
It has a dressing area tucked into a former veranda, and french doors to a deck. Two more twisting sets of stairs lead up to the two attic bedrooms, complete with sloping ceilings and dormer windows.
The family's fruit trees benefit from the bees coming across the valley, and there are calves to see and hear in the spring. There's a path through to the gardens and Cox's Bay walkway at the bottom of the street.
It is hard to imagine the city is only a walk away. Ponsonby or Grey Lynn shops are walking or bus distance away, the area full of greenery and parks.
But with daughter Betty now in Paris, the boys coming and going, Callie and Paul are ready for a simpler life. The property is being sold as two cross lease titles.
28 AND 28A WHARF RD, HERNE BAY
• 4+1 bedrooms, 2+1 bathroom, 0* parking spaces.
• House 183sq m, cottage 45sq m, Land 736sq m in two cross-leased titles.
• Tender: Closes Tues, Oct 30, 4pm.
• Inspect: Sun 1-1.30pm.
• Schools: Bayfield Primary, Ponsonby Intermediate, Western Springs College, Auckland Girls' Grammar.
• Contact: Nic Blackie, Custom Residential, 021 505 964, John Wills 021 333 053, customresidential.co.nz/CR5869