The concept of two degrees of separation is at the heart of this home, built on a typically challenging bush-clad Titirangi site overlooking French Bay.

The story of its transformation from a cottage of the 1930s to what it is today begins with architectural designer Martin Northcott, who pretty much grew up next door to the cottage in the 1950s and 60s.

Enter Don McBeth and Gail Sanders many years later. They bought the property and cottage and, wanting to update it, looked around the French Bay neighbourhood for ideas.

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Conversations with a neighbour here and a neighbour there led them to Martin, who these days lives at Algies Bay, near Warkworth.

The two degrees of separation narrowed. Martin travelled back down memory lane and told Don and Gail how, as a youngster, he used to cut through the Valley Rd property to get to the beach.

He even built a P-class yacht in the basement of the cottage, back in the 1960s and around the time when his architect father Brian Northcott designed the local yacht club building.

Martin knew both places inside out. The two degrees of separation narrowed further — Don and Gail told him they run their accountancy and travel agency businesses from the same yacht club, five minutes from the cottage.

That clinched it. The link in the chain was complete. Keen yachtsman Don figured the best person to give the cottage a new lease on life in its bush surroundings was Martin.

His local knowledge helped negotiate the challenges of this build and its tightness to the bush that includes three towering nikau palms rising up through the back deck.

The footprint of this home takes up only 15 per cent of the site, with the remaining in regenerating native bush. "There was minimal disturbance to the bush," says Martin.

Rather than demolish the old cottage, the decision was made to incorporate the single concrete garage into the design so that the house could be built on the same footprint, with its front wall on the front boundary.

"We needed to come out that far to get the view of the bay," says Martin.

That garage sits to the left of the covered escalator-style staircase, with the second garage on the right.

The staircase, with its steel treads and back-lit, mesh risers leads to first floor living including second lounge/bedroom, with the main bedrooms further up a flight of conventional stairs.

Of the dramatic entry, Martin says: "That was a crazy idea I instigated and they took it up and carried it through. It's like going up a disco staircase."

First floor views take in the bush off the sweeping living and dining areas and their respective decks. The beach view is off the main living area and bush off the dining area.

The porthole in the anodised aluminium wall that replaced the original cottage gable
offers another leafy snapshot.

At the top of the rear stairs, the glass door looks straight into the bush, with views from the adjoining bedrooms including an outlook across the Manukau Harbour to Mangere Bridge.

During the 14 months it took to secure the consents for the 2005 build, Don and Gail researched everything from polished coloured concrete flooring and solar electric hot water heating to wheelchair-friendly bathroom design and the minutiae of a good kitchen.

"This is not a suburb," says Don. "We are living in a really special place here."

41 VALLEY RD, TITIRANGI
• 3 bedrooms, 3 bathroom, 2 parking spaces.
• Land 1201sq m, house 253sq m.
• Auction: Dec 12.
• Inspect: Sat/Sun noon to 12.30pm.
• Schools: Titirangi Primary, Green Bay High School.
• Contact: Lynn Lacy-Hauck, Ray White, 021 190 0611, rwponsonby.co.nz/auckland/titirangi/41-valley-road-pon26320/