There is loads of space for fun and frivolity in Jess and Lance Watson's backyard, but don't ever expect to see a sandpit. They loathe sandpits. "They bring sand into the house," says Jess.

There was a sandpit here 10 years ago when Lance bought this 1910 villa, keen on its long-term prospects as a family home.

He'd been living in Australia and when Jess, his Australian-born girlfriend, followed him to Auckland and ultimately into this house, she saw it rather differently. "It was just a three-bedroom villa with a backyard and a sandpit," she said.

They tolerated the shortcomings in the draughty house for six years until 2015, when they renovated and gave it a new perspective, adding an extension that includes everyday living, a bedroom, laundry and garaging.

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As for the sandpit that was four steps down to their old lawn, they kept it. But don't go looking for it. It is four steps down off the hallway, never to be seen again under the floor of their new casual lounge.

Designed by Hulena Architects, this extension has given Jess and Lance complete privacy and enhanced the original. On the outside, the villa and the new wing are distinct structures beneath their respective pitched rooflines and neutral paint colour.

17 Leslie Ave, Sandringham, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images
17 Leslie Ave, Sandringham, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images

The weatherboard-clad villa and its new blonded American Oak floorboards is on a north/south axis. The vertical board and batten-clad extension and its floorboards run on an east/west axis.

As one cohesive whole, the home of Jess and Lance and their pre-school daughters Chloe and Ailie is a world away from how they lived before.

"We could see the dirt under the house between the floorboards in our bedroom," says Lance.

When Jess' parents stayed one winter, her mother slept with a beanie on for warmth. The next day they bought Jess and Lance a gas heater.

A day or so later Lance was the first up in the household and he turned on the heater to warm the house for the others. The thermostat read 7 degrees.

17 Leslie Ave, Sandringham, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images
17 Leslie Ave, Sandringham, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images

Their front lounge had a hearth but no fireplace, which they've rectified. The old fireplace was in the next door dining room which is now Chloe's bedroom.

In the lounge they took out the lowered ceiling and discovered a pressed tin ceiling similar to the ones in the hallway and their bedroom, each with a different pattern.

When they installed a master dressing room and en suite into what was a small second bedroom, their builder managed to match bedroom ceiling panels to complete the look.

As for their old bathroom, that packed a toilet, basin and shower into a space where their four-step stairwell now stands.

17 Leslie Ave, Sandringham, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images
17 Leslie Ave, Sandringham, Auckland. Photo / Fiona Goodall / Getty Images

For each of their two new bathrooms, Jess chose stone basins and baths. Two baths was a pre-requisite. So was good storage which they've sorted with a hall coat cupboard and a linen cupboard.

Decor-wise, Jess was big on continuity. "I wanted it to flow, to keep the period of the original house with the modern extension and for it to feel like one house."

An Australian architect friend helped her confirm her "neutral with texture" choices that is in the tongue and groove panelling, Oak cabinetry, the dark kitchen splashback and new interior doors.

Jess and Lance are moving to be nearer her family in Sydney.

"If I could pick this house up and move it too then I would," she says.

17 LESLIE AVE, SANDRINGHAM
• 4 bedrooms, 2 bathroom, 1 parking spaces.
• House: 223sq m, land 612sq m.
• Auction: April 10.
• Inspect: Sat/Sun 3-3.30pm.
• Schools: Edendale, Kowhai Intermediate, Mt Albert School, Mt Albert Grammar, Auckland Girls' Grammar.
• Contact: Abbey Davis, Harcourts, 0274 645121.