Doing a renovation on a local landmark can often be fraught, particularly if it is all but tumbling down. But Mary Eyre and her late husband Stuart were spared that worry — one of Stuart's work colleagues had already done all the work.
The couple had just returned from the UK with a container load of antique furniture. They were staying in St Mary's Bay, had a baby on the way, and had been invited to a party hosted by the colleague.
"Stuart had been in the building industry, so we spent the whole dinner party going over a photo album of every detail of the renovation," says Mary.
"We said we'd be really interested if the house came on the market. And when it did, we didn't even get a builder's report, because Stuart knew everything they'd done."
The corner house, part of a tiny enclave in one of Herne Bay's priciest streets, still has an old-fashioned family atmosphere about it. Indeed, Mary can name the families who have come and gone in the street over the years.
The renovation added a two-storey wing to the Georgian-style house, wrapping authentic verandas top and bottom.
Mary still needs to check plans and photos to confirm what is old and what is new.
In the family and dining rooms in the original part of the house, the renovation pushed out more bay windows and added tall french windows at the front and side to flood the room with light.
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One set of windows replaced what had been the original front door opening to Sarsfield St. The renovation had switched the door to the Cremorne St side.
The rooms have huge high ceilings and a marble-trimmed fireplace befitting a grand Victorian family. The Tibbs family who build the house owned much of the surrounding land. Mary even has a framed map of the streets from 1908.
The renovation retained the original wide-plank kauri floors, restored all the sash windows, skirtings and architraves, matching new with old.
Mary retained the kitchen as it was, a generous U-shape with granite tops, a floor-to-ceiling storage wall — and quirky hatch door that opens to the media room next door.
"Pretty much every boy who visits has climbed through it," Mary says. "It was intended as a servery when the media room was a formal dining room. On the other side, it's disguised as a wall of bookshelves."
The new wing houses a formal living room downstairs and a bedroom upstairs. Behind the sweep of staircase is a service hallway with laundry and bathroom.
The back door has a charming frosted window that repeats the pattern of the leadlight windows in the grand front door.
Upstairs are four good bedrooms, each having views of the sea to the north, or the Waitakere Ranges (and sunsets) to the west.
In the family bathroom, Mary loves the restored clawfoot bath next to the windows — there are no curtains, so she can enjoy the evening light from the tub. She also has a master closet and dressing area, and a sweet en suite bathroom.
The garden is famed for the spreading old tree on the lawn. Stuart built a remarkable adventure playground-cum-treehouse for the children (and the street's children), which the couple's teenagers, 18 and 16, will find particularly hard to leave.
Stuart and Mary also added a swimming pool to the front deck, and landscaped the entry court with patterns of clipped hedges and bay trees.
Mary loves her selection of old fruit trees, including lemons and mandarins, and old-fashioned hydrangeas and lavender, which are kept perky in dry weather by a sprinkler system.
But with eldest daughter about to start university, Mary's decided it's time to move on from the house and the wonderful neighbourhood.
3 CREMORNE ST, HERNE BAY
• 5 bedrooms, 2 bathroom, 2 parking spaces.
• House 266sq m, land 827sq m.
• Tender: March 7.
• Inspect: Sun 1-1.30pm
• Schools: Ponsonby Primary, Intermediate, Western Springs College or Auckland Girls' Grammar
• Contact: Jan George, Ray White, 027 478 4119.