Rita was on a mission to find her villa. However, when husband Jordan Luck, legendary songwriter and lead singer of The Exponents and the Jordan Luck Band fame walked down the rose-tangled driveway in 1999 to discover a very special woodland glade, all the couple's previous plans evaporated.
"This is it," he declared.
"Don't you want to check out the house?" said Rita.
"Let's take it," replied Jordan. So they did.
The love affair had already begun. Jordan was instantly enchanted by this surprisingly peaceful, secret paradise hidden in a leafy spot between Great North Rd and the motorway.
Though it is centrally located at the entry to Pt Chevalier, with Westfield St Lukes shopping centre around the corner, there is nothing suburban about this property. It's more like a slice of Titirangi in the city.
Although there are neighbours nearby, they are effectively blocked from sight by a profusion of tropical and native trees as well as a large old willow that drapes into the Meola Stream gently flowing around the edges of the property.
The magical setting has inspired Jordan's musical talents over the past two decades.
But the Luck's creativity was not solely focused on music and entertaining. Many of their own touches have transformed both home and garden. There have been changes aplenty. One of the first things to go were the roses.
"I'm not going to look after those," said Rita who turned the drive into an easy-care tropical garden filled with agaves, bromeliads, native grasses and leafy palms.
They also updated the original three-bedroom house, which was built in 1990. First to go were the old carpets which were replaced with rimu floors throughout.
A smart white kitchen and a new bathroom brought the interiors up to date, and the walls have been refreshed with white paint several times over.
It was goodbye olive green paintwork on the exterior and hello to an all-over rusty red — "like an old barn, which suits the character of the home really well," says Rita. The story goes that the paint was payment for a gig sponsored by Dulux.
Outdoor entertaining options were hugely expanded by adding large decks off the basement and the living area. They also created an outdoor terrace where they can enjoy the western sun pouring into a second living/studio space, a wonderful escape for guests and teens that was converted from the original garage.
Stairs from the deck continue down to a wooden walkway along one side of the house leading to the orchard.
The Lucks planted fruit trees in abundance. Figs, macadamia, pine nuts, plums, grapefruit, paw paw, lemon and blueberries provide a bountiful feast as if they were living a country lifestyle.
"It's been brilliant living here, so close to everything," says Rita, "the schools, Western Springs Park and the zoo. At night we can hear the lions roaring and the monkeys chattering."
1010A GREAT NORTH RD, PT CHEVALIER
• 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 0* parking spaces.
• House 125sq m, Land: 2/3 share of 1537sq m.
• Sale: By negotiation.
• Inspect: Sun 12.30-1.15pm.
• Schools: Pt Chevalier Primary, Pasadena Intermediate or Western Springs College.
• Contact: Lucy Shelton, Barfoot & Thompson, 027 274 4492 or Jason Tsang 021 815 545.
*OSP: for 6 cars