Sometimes, in reality, a dream takes on a shape that is bigger and better than we ever imagined. When food writer and cookbook author Allyson Gofton and her husband Warwick bought their boxy Californian bungalow in Auckland's Eastern suburbs nine years ago, it was as a home for two career-driven folk who liked to entertain.

"I loved the full site and the community mix - from well-known businessmen, to retirees and stay-at-home mums," says Gofton.

"I loved that people mowed their lawns on the weekend and that smell of fresh grass."

Gofton's vision was to transform the humble weatherboard house, built in the 40s, into a welcoming pad for friends. The original staircase that descended to the garage was to become her ladder to hospitality. She saw a light, airy dining room and generous kitchen in that space - and amiable dinner parties where she could share her joy of food.

What she didn't anticipate was the late-in-life addition of two family members who preferred dippy eggs and Vegemite soldiers to a three-course meal by candlelight.

"At that stage we never imagined we would have children," explains Gofton. The arrival of Jean-Luc (now 6) and Olive-Rose (2) changed the shape of the couple's future - and their home.

It's not that Gofton didn't carry through with her plans: it's just how the space is occupied that has altered. Indeed, the addition has a Moroccan flavour that has more than doubled the floor space.

Adobe walls, inset with bright orange and blue tiles, now greet the street. They're painted a rich orange named "Cumin", a colour that is continued on the weatherboard panels of the original house and serves to knit that and the extension together. In the back garden, flashes of striking "Paua" blue walls break through the greenery of a Mediterranean-style garden.

The kitchen, with its hanging pot racks, terracotta-tiled floors, and a central island with open shelves, continues the Moroccan theme while the generous dining room features bi-fold windows that open to fragrant bricked herb beds and a lush ornamental pear tree.

Two years ago Gofton opted to work from home to be closer to the kids. It's a decision she does not regret even though it has brought what she smilingly describes as "a growing chaos" to the house.

"Since Jean-Luc and Olive-Rose have come along, I can count the times on the fingers of one hand that we have entertained formally."

Hardly surprising, since the dining room is usually either commandeered for photographic shoots for Real magazine, the bi-monthly title she is editorial director of, or playing host to stylists and assistants during the production of a new cookbook.

The latest, entitled simply Cook, has meant Gofton's beloved dining table, an expanse of pine that comfortably seats 12, is buried beneath a pile of props - plates, jugs, bowls and cutlery that bring essential character to the pages.

"We actually designed the dining room around that table," explains Gofton.

"It was hand-built in Tasmania by a very talented artisan called Mark Bishop and, three years later, it was shipped over."

The table is crafted from ancient pine that is collected from swampland near the Huon River in Tasmania.

"That's in the area that [environmentalist] Dr David Bellamy and Prince Charles came out in the 80s to save because it was going to be dammed," explains Gofton.

"It was where many clipper ships were built by convicts - so a lot of the wood was culled."

Down the centre of the 3.6m table runs a curvaceous "river" of bird's eye Huon pine.

The table is fixed together with bronzed metal and the chairs, again handmade, are 1.5cm shorter at the back than the front.

"That's so you can settle into them nicely," says Gofton. Not that anyone has had the privilege to do that in some time.

"We end up holding impromptu dinners now where we'll pull one of the occasional tables over that I have had painted as backgrounds for the book, set it in the middle of the kitchen and eat casually."

A sideboard in the dining area has suffered a similar fate. Once used as display space for family photographs, this baker's table with a lock in one drawer is cloaked in culinary paraphernalia.

"It's from a time when flour was the only thing you had so you'd lock it away," explains Gofton.

Flanking this, two French linen cupboards have been converted to storage for her beloved dinner set - white with a Middle Eastern-style patterned rim.

"Before that all I had was green Arcoroc," she says, laughing.

Not anymore. An extraordinary array of serving dishes and dinnerware seems to have bred here in pure contentment.

For Cook, Gofton wanted a style that teamed old with new "just like you would at home" so many items were discovered in junk shops or sourced on frequent trips home to Tasmania.

A set of blue-and-white Cornishware was bought when the contents of a Launceston hotel went up for auction, while some 50s drinking glasses, from Paeroa, are a best-buy that match equally well with olde-worlde and modern.

Other treasures include a nostalgia-laced Fiestaware bowl by Crown Lynn she picked up at a Great South Rd antique shop, a pretty yet practical Denby stoneware casserole dish she bought at the St Heliers Hospice shop, and a plate with delicate blue pattern that, she says, would look just perfect with a delicious Cumberland sausage and mash nestled into it.

"I've fallen in love with Susie Cooper ceramics and with that green Depression glass," she explains.

Then there are boxes upon boxes of one-off cutlery - a Walker & Hall carving set, six gilded French icecream spoons and another ornate spoon set that was unearthed from a shipwreck off the Tasmanian coast.

Indeed, so prolific is her scouting that the overflow is now housed in the wine cellar where vintage drops have been replaced by vintage crockery.

The idea of working from home was initially meant to put the brakes on this A-type personality. No chance. For a large part of this year, the table has not surfaced, as Gofton works on a host of publishing projects.

"It's clutter in the extreme," she admits, "but it does spark many a trip down memory lane."

Gofton enjoys it when friends turn up and recognise pieces their Grandma used to have or that once graced their own table.

"It turns into a chat from the soul - way beyond the conversation a modern white dinner plate could inspire."

And, while she at first tried to clear away the confusion each weekend, she no longer bothers. Although she still occasionally longs for the serenity of flowers and candles on a pristine surface, she's learned to stress less.

"Warwick raises his eyebrows but he's relaxed about it. He helped me to realise that I can clean up tomorrow."

There are other ways the pair make a good team. Warwick owns a factory that produces cosmetics and employs a hungry workforce who gets to eat like kings.

"I send everything I can't freeze or use over there," says Gofton.

It's all part of life in this hectic but organised household, and Gofton has now moved on to the next cookbook.

"That involved nine slow cookers all going three days a week for four months," she says.

Nevertheless, by 3.30pm every day, the rule is: photographers and assistants exit stage left, floors washed, and everything put away. It's family time.

That's when Gofton can relax with her dream meal - a glass of pinot and a toasted cheese sandwich.

* Cook by Allyson Gofton (published by Penguin, $45), with photographs by Alan Gillard features more than 130 of Allyson's favourite recipes for entertaining at home.