Two years of searching for a house paid off when an Auckland couple found a 105-year-old villa.

For Auckland couple Sam Ansley and Emily Rust, the plan to buy a villa meant two years of exhaustive searching. Finally, in 2007, they discovered a 105-year-old masonry house that ticked all the boxes.

"The edgier style of masonry villas appealed so when we saw this one, we bought it right away," says Ansley, who designs bars and restaurants.

While the house was not in great condition, it hadn't undergone a major renovation, which meant the original masonry walls and architraves were still in place. "We didn't want a house that had been messed with and had lost its sense of what it was."

Other character features such as the fireplaces and ornate plaster ceilings were still intact.

"It's hard to beat cherubs," Rust says. "Ceilings like these were given as wedding gifts, which we like the sound of."

Renovating a masonry villa, though, is a lot trickier than renovating a wooden one. The internal walls of this home are double brick, while the external walls are triple brick - great for warmth but not good for making structural changes.

"This house didn't offer the same flexibility to change the original footprint as with a wooden villa, so with this in mind we opted to keep the layout of the rooms as they were," says Ansley.

Walls were replastered and skirting boards were replaced, as were windowsills and frames. The bathrooom and toilet were gutted and rebuilt, although the original sink and brass fixtures were recycled, sitting comfortably against a backdrop of butcher's tiles.

The couple chose masculine tones when repainting the interior of the home. "Although the rooms off the hallway are light, the hallway is well proportioned, and I thought dark grey with a bit of sheen would give the house some Victorian depth."

White and beige flow into other rooms, including 7-month-old baby Ryder's nursery, where Rust has injected some colour and introduced items from her own childhood.

"My parents moved out of our old family home when we were renovating so I grabbed some of my childhood belongings," she says. "The Brambly Hedge pictures, cot and chest of drawers were mine as a child, as were the Beatrix Potter figurines that my grandmother gave me. We recycled a lot in this home, especially in Ryder's room. We took what we had already and gave it a new life."

Rust says the home's style has evolved over time. "While we don't like design chaos with everthing just thrown together, we do like a layered, eclectic perspective. You just have to remind yourself to edit stuff out sometimes.

Style tips
Old school: Ansley and Rust are fans of buying second-hand items. "We don't have many new things, apart from beds and electronics. Second-hand is cheaper, more interesting than new and it will last longer if you buy right."

Trial and error: Choosing paint has created problems for Ansley and Rust because they've rushed into decisions. "Get the test pots, trial on walls you are painting on or on wood that you will stain. If you paint and don't like it, don't compound the problem by convincing yourself it will be okay."

Timeless look: Monochromatic colour schemes have an enduring appeal. Ansley says, "Black and white cannot be underestimated as a palette."

Leanne Moore is the editor of Your Home & Garden. For the full story on this house see the latest issue of the magazine.