Auckland's art scene became the big winner when artist Tony Fomison helped two Belgian immigrants buy his Grey Lynn villa 32 years ago. He worked with them on several prints that were sold to raise their deposit.
Frans Baetens and Magda Van Gils first lived in Glendene with daughters Saskia and Dominiek after moving to New Zealand in 1983, partly to get away from three nuclear power plants and three military bases that were near their lifestyle block in Antwerp.
"We did not know anything about where to live when we moved here. Glendene was cheap, so we bought a house there," says Magda. "But we immediately knew we were in the wrong place."
The two teachers, who are passionate about art, were keen to collaborate with New Zealand artists by making prints with them on two small stone lithography presses they had brought with them from Belgium.
They soon became good friends with several artists including the late Tony Fomison, who offered to sell them his Chamberlain St house when he moved to Wellington in 1985 to take up a Rita Angus Residency.
The same year Magda and Frans set up their Muka art gallery at Chamberlain St with a vision that still includes encouraging children to appreciate art by letting them choose small prints that are for sale at reasonable prices.
Over the years Frans and Magda made prints with scores of artists including Ralph Hotere, Pat Hanly, Allen Maddox, Robyn Kahukiwa and Selwyn Muru.
"On one day we had Tony Fomison, Toss Woollaston and Colin McCahon all in the house at the same time - that was really exciting," says Frans.
Chamberlain St has also been a home away from home over the years for many international artists the couple has invited to visit and exhibit in New Zealand.
Whimsical collections of paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures grace the rooms of their beautifully maintained 1902 villa, which includes a spacious, purpose-built art gallery, office, storage rooms, wine cellar and artist's studio flat on its lower level.
Their extensive renovation of this basement space, which included digging out 18 cubic metres of clay, was necessary to accommodate a larger, 1875 Parisien-made, nine tonne lithography press they shipped to New Zealand in 1986.
In two renovations - their daughter Saskia was the architect for the latest one in 2012 - Magda and Frans have transformed what was essentially a single level house with one bathroom and three bedrooms into a 254sq m, two-level home with four bedrooms, three bathrooms and several flexible living and working spaces.
Their home maintains its original character with features including kauri floors, high studs and carved wooden ceiling roses, while having a modern, functional aesthetic.
Its traditional villa configuration on the main level includes a central hallway with two bedrooms off the main entrance way. One of these, the master, includes an oversized dressing room and spacious en suite with a wide shower and bath.
The bedroom to the left of the hallway, which could double as a second upstairs lounge, has stairs leading down to the lower level.
The top level also includes the living room and an airy, open plan kitchen and dining room with skylights and large windows that let light in from both sides of the house.
From the dining room you step out to a large deck that catches the afternoon sun, is great for outdoor dining and entertaining and has views across to West Auckland.
Stairs from this deck, which overlooks a neatly landscaped, fully-fenced lower garden with a level lawn, mature native trees, a glass house and garden shed, lead down to a lower deck off the studio flat.
As well as having five heat pumps, two alarm systems and separate access for the studio flat, the house has been fully re-wired and insulated.
Magda and Frans plan to move closer to their daughter Saskia in Ponsonby and two of their four grandchildren.