Bill Ralston appears to be only half joking when he says he's concerned about the economic impact on local restaurants when he and wife Janet Wilson sell their Auckland home.

"I fear Ponsonby Rd's restaurants will collapse once we move out," says the journalist, broadcaster and media consultant. "We've been keeping them going for years."

The couple's Franklin Rd home is just around the corner from the iconic street with its many restaurants, cafes, bars and shops — and they have both made good use of them in the 12 years they've owned the house.

"We're two doors down from the nearest cafe; you turn the corner and you've got so many great restaurants," says Bill.


"We know all the staff and the shopkeepers around here. It's such a good location."

Bill and Janet had been living in Herne Bay but bought their heritage villa because they wanted to be close to Ponsonby Rd in one direction and the city in the other. As a result they were able to go down to one car.

And of course leafy Franklin Rd has become famed in its own right for the display of lights residents put up on their homes in the weeks leading to Christmas.

5 Franklin Rd, Freemans Bay, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst
5 Franklin Rd, Freemans Bay, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst

"It's a really nice atmosphere and I think it's why everyone is so friendly around here, because of the lights. We know all our neighbours," says Bill.

If they want to escape Christmas crowds it's easy to shut the front door and retreat to the rear of the house, where it is quiet.

But the festive frenzy only lasts three weeks, and it is lovely to sit out on the front patio, which is screened from the street by shrubs, and listen to carol singers and the oohs and aahs of people seeing the lights.

Along with its traditional front porch, the home has all the other features you expect in a villa, from high board-and-batten ceilings, sash windows, ornate fireplaces, decorative architraves, elegant chandeliers and original wooden floors.

When they updated the kitchen and bathrooms around three years ago, Janet and Bill made sure they were in keeping with the style of the home, while providing contemporary comforts.

The kitchen, which Janet calls her command post, has provincial-style cabinetry, granite benchtops, a cooker with gas hob and two bars where guests can pull up a stool and chat to the cook.

"You can get six or seven people around them while Janet is working in the kitchen. It's very sociable," says Bill.

Both the kitchen and the spacious living room have bifold doors opening out to the rear deck, which looks out over the private tropical garden.

Says Bill: "It's so peaceful out here you'd never know you are so close to the city."

5 Franklin Rd, Freemans Bay, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst
5 Franklin Rd, Freemans Bay, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst

The main bathroom also had a makeover and now has sleek fixtures and fittings along with the luxury of a heated floor.

The two bedrooms on this level have plantation shutters on the windows, and one has a beautiful old fireplace.

One of the first things the couple did after buying was move the laundry up from under the house to a large walk-in cupboard on the main level that also has shelving for linen.

They haven't done anything with the basement area, which includes a storage room, but there is potential to develop it and create a kids' playroom, media room or work-from-home space.

A path down the side of the house would provide this area with its own access.

Previous owners had already extended upwards, putting on an extra storey that contains the master bedroom and en suite bathroom.

It also has a special bonus — a large deck hidden in the roofline.

Bill and Janet can sit up there and enjoy the afternoon sun while looking out at the canopy of plane trees that line Franklin Rd.

If the weather's not conducive to sitting outside, a window seat in the bedroom is the perfect spot to curl up with a good book and a glass of wine, while enjoying the view of the cityscape and the Sky Tower.

Bill and Janet have had very happy times in the home but they're selling to put the money towards a home they're building in Hawkes Bay.

• 3 bedrooms, 2 bathroom, 0* parking spaces.
• Land 310sq m, house 150sq m.
• Auction: Thur Feb 28.
• Inspect: Sundays 2-2.45pm.
• Schools: Freemans Bay School, Ponsonby Intermediate, Auckland Girls Grammar, Western Springs College.
• Contact: Martin Dobson, Kellands, 021 376 952 and Caroline Daniel, 021 922 223.
*1 OSP