The charming ficus-covered wall across the front initially intrigued Jodi and Julian Prior when they began searching for a home in Ponsonby five years ago. After sharing Jodi's Ellerslie home, they had taken their time to find just the right place together.

When they walked through to the living room of the O'Neill St home, with its sundrenched tropical vibe created by louvres across the back, "within minutes, we knew it was the one", says Jodi.

There was so much to love about the property, including a sunny enclosed garden at the rear dominated by a massive bird of paradise plant.

Unbelievably tranquil, the location was perfect with great coffee, restaurants and shops just up the road. Julian could be at his downtown office within minutes.

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But first impressions can be deceptive. While everything looked great, the renovation was not quite up to the couple's meticulous standards.

So two and a half years ago, they embarked on another overhaul, pushing the living area out to incorporate the deck inside and wrapping it behind bifold windows and louvres that give the same tropical ambience.

Jodi says they both love to cook so they invested heavily in a super-duper new chef's kitchen.

"We worked with designer Maggie Gardener and ripped out the old kitchen to start again ensuring the highest possible standard of perfection, using Miele and Gaggenau appliances and Blum servo-drive cabinetry."

The electrical technology makes it easy to open drawers overhead. "Because I'm short, the pantry drawers pull down to my height and you can push a button and overhead cupboards above the hob lift up without having to reach up."

Side by side, "two Miele ovens are like iPads with screens that ask you what you're cooking. You simply select the programme you want. There is even a thermometer inside that senses when you need to add water to a dish. It's absolutely idiot proof," says Jodi.

She says she's seriously going to miss the giant Liebherr fridge when she leaves.

The only downside of enclosing the deck meant they couldn't light a barbecue inside.

Instead, they continued the same Brazilian granite from the kitchen island out into the extension, installing a teppanyaki hob with an extractor that feels just like a barbecue.

Even better, there are two wine fridges under the bench.

"Now we serve barbecued tapas straight from the hob to the table. It's like having his and hers cooking zones. While I'm inside cooking, Julian is doing his thing in the extension."

At night, the couple who both love movies, retreat downstairs to a second large living area with a big TV screen and doors opening to a full-width deck.

"In summer, when it's blisteringly hot, we get more shade under the umbrella, down among the greenery where there is a pizza oven on the deck. We spend a lot of time out here," says Jodi.

With a big tropical garden and four double bedrooms — two upstairs, two down — the home has been great for Julian's two sons plus guests. During the renovation, they recarpeted throughout and updated the master en suite and laundry to the same high standard, squeezing in loads of extra storage.

"We have really managed to maximise the space for Ponsonby," says Jodi. "We've carved out a little oasis and we've really treasured that."

Just when everything was the way they wanted it, along came baby Harrison. Now they need an extra room so they're heading to Mt Eden where properties tend to be bigger.

70 O'NEILL ST, PONSONBY
• 4 bedrooms, 3 bathroom, 1* parking spaces.
• House 198sq m.
• Auction: 20 Feb (unless sold prior).
• Inspect: Call for times.
• Schools: Ponsonby Intermediate, Richmond Rd School, Auckland Girls' Grammar, Western Springs College.
• Contact: Robyn Ellson, Ray White, 021 800 891, or robyn.ellson@raywhite.com.
*Plus 1 OSP