Wish lists for houses are many and varied but few have "room for a grand piano" near the top.
It was, however, a priority for Barry and Christina Cairns when they were looking to downsize and find something that still had plenty of space.
They were delighted when they found a home that had ample room for the piano in the dining area, as well as big rooms, expansive entertaining areas inside and out, and sea views.
They had been living at Sandspit when they heard this house in Green Rd, Matakana, was about to come on the market.
They were a week too soon but managed to get an early viewing, and when they saw the grounds and views they made an instant decision to buy it.
The two-level house had not long undergone a renovation so there were no major alterations to be made but Barry and Christina wanted to put their own mark on it.
Barry lined over the open timber framing in the garage and removed some beams to turn the area into what he describes as "double-plus".
They pulled out the existing fireplace and replaced it with a hi-tech model, and added a chimney chase to the roof instead of the more usual flue arrangement.
"When we'd finished it a neighbour phoned up to say how fabulous it looked from her place," Barry says.
They had the three decks sanded and re-stained to match the house — a big job as one of them runs the length of the house.
The decks mean there's always somewhere sheltered to sit outside. Indoor-outdoor flow is provided by the several sets of bi-folds that open the dining room, lounge and master suite to the outside.
This, plus the big spaces inside, have made the house ideal for entertaining. The smart white kitchen with its black-tiled splashback, numerous cupboards and modern appliances, has big, sliding windows to capture the sea views, and it adjoins the dining
room where the dining table occupies one end and the grand piano the other. Each area has its own bi-folds to the deck.
The lounge sits at a slight angle to the kitchen/dining area, which gives it additional privacy.
Also on this level are three bedrooms in a separate wing that can be closed from the living area. The master bedroom with its cleverly designed en suite is secluded downstairs, where it has its own deck and views across the garden to the bay.
Barry says the garden has benefited from "a good tidy-up" and lots more planting, including swathes of lavender and grasses. There are solid raised garden beds and seats, and sweeping lawns.
Extra guest accommodation is provided by a little cottage overlooking the duck pond. There are wetlands on the property so resident birds are a welcome feature of the landscape.
Barry will miss the ducks — one year there were a dozen ducklings and he observed a drake taking on a hawk to save one of his brood. "I wish I'd had a video camera," he says.
"We'll also miss the space here. Green Rd is all rural with farms, so there's stock on either side of the road. Yet it's only five minutes to Matakana and about 10 to Warkworth."
The upside of their move back to Auckland is that they will have less time on the road.
253 GREEN RD, MATAKANA
• 4 bedrooms, 2 bathroom, 2 parking spaces.
• Land 10012sq m, floor area 216sq m, plus decks.
• Sale: By negotiation.
• Inspect: By appointment.
• Schools: Mahurangi College, Matakana School.
• Contact: John Upton, Sothebys, 021 518816.