The listing agents described the Grey Lynn property that Gretchen Lowe and Blair Houston would go on to buy almost four years ago as "half a house".

What they meant was that the former owners had completed 50 per cent of a major renovation — using Lloyd Hartley Architecture — before selling up.

"They'd done the main bathroom and en suite ... and we're talking about two completely spectacular spaces, where no expense whatsoever was spared," says Gretchen.


"The marble and tiles are from Italy, and there's top-of-the range tapware and luxury lighting.


"We knew that if we took the project on, we would have to meet the same high standards elsewhere in the house, and we decided that it would be a great challenge."

While their new purchase came with plans for a major rear extension, Gretchen, a food stylist, recipe writer and blogger, and Blair, who works in finance, carefully weighed up the possibilities — before deciding to stick with the existing footprint and opening up small rooms into a single, central living area.

"We could have taken it much further out the back but that would have meant less space for decking, and for our little girl Gwynnie (now four), to play outside, so we ended up working with what we had," says Blair.

Needless to say, Gretchen had high-specs in mind for the superb kitchen, which now occupies the space where a 1930s kitchenette and washhouse once stood.

"Essentially, it's a galley style and everything (including the laundry cupboard) is integrated so that it looks smooth and seamless," she says.

The Italian granite benchtop straddles the line between inside and out, so guests can sit at the on-deck bar (it is huge) while chatting with Gretchen as she prepares food and Blair chooses wine.

Adjacent is the dining and living space, which is bright and airy with white lacquered floorboards that contribute to the overall light-filled ambiance.

Blair says that it took many coats to get the effect they wanted, and the result feels warm and smooth on bare feet, while being surprisingly hard-wearing and easy to keep clean.

Elsewhere in the house are three bright and airy bedrooms and the couple enjoy loads of attic storage space, reached via stairs.

"You'd be amazed how much we've fitted up there," says Blair.

The property has been fully insulated and has gas central-heating.

Gretchen says that's because she's very sensitive to the cold.

"But I can honestly say that I'm completely comfortable all-year-round here."

Now that Gwynnie is nearly 5 and about to start school, Gretchen and Blair are feeling the need for a new project, but they're sure that it will likely be in the near neighbourhood.

"We're so well-positioned here, with a big supermarket, an organic grocery store ... ," says Gretchen. "I think of them all as extensions of my pantry."

Blair bikes to work, and schools and kindergarten are within easy reach.

Francis St is the epitome of the classic, quiet, tree-lined suburban thoroughfare.

"Everyone knows that Grey Lynn is a wonderful place to bring up a family," Gretchen says.

"And this place is a true sanctuary: north-facing, peaceful, private, and great for entertaining.

"All the work's been done here now, so it's time for a new chapter to begin."

• 3 bedrooms, 2 bathroom, 1 parking spaces.
• Land: 447sq m, house: 114sq m.
• Inspect: Sat/Sun 12:30-1pm (or by appt).
• Auction: Wed 14 Nov 1:30pm (unless sold prior).
• Schools: Westmere School, Pasadena Intermediate, Western Springs College.
• Contact: Matt O'Rourke, 021 621 580; or Ryan Harding, 021 375 909. Barfoot & Thompson,