It is hard to imagine how life must have changed for Andrew and Renee Bruce. Eight years ago they were living in typical inner-city London style -- a terraced house, urban views, cramped commuting. Then Kiwi Renee convinced her Australian-born husband to settle back in New Zealand.
"We dreamed of coming back to a place by the water, with a jetty and a boat parked at the end," says Andrew. "We discovered that very few places like that exist close to Auckland, but we found the next best thing."
He points across from his living room terrace to the view of Shoal Bay below. "We can see our boat moored across there at Bayswater Marina. And watch the start of yacht races from Westhaven Marina over there. But it only takes me 15 minutes at rush hour to get on to the bridge and across to work."
The couple found their dream home at the top of Sylvan Ave cliffs. The original 1940s house had been sympathetically renovated in the 1990s, so the Bruces' work on it needed only focus on the interiors. It's a little-known neighbourhood to city-siders, but the Bruces talk of neighbours who have lived there since the 1950s. One once had a wee path down to their jetty in the bay.
The street joins Onewa Rd's entry to the bridge, giving it one of the easiest commuter accesses on the North Shore, but also has the charms of Onepoto Domain and walking path links to the extensive pockets of kauri bush dotted through this peninsula.
The Bruces can point out the original footprint of the house -- the front bedrooms, a street-side garage -- but it is the later additions that have really made the most of the site. Former owners pushed out a living room and dining room, along with terrific terraces for entertaining, south towards the view and went upstairs for a second sitting area and the master suite.
The couple just had to modernise the interiors, a job they were still finishing when Renee came home from hospital with baby Amelie, now 6.
They found the house works brilliantly for children (they also have an adventurous 3-year-old boy). Once the front security gate is closed off children can play safely on the property.
The lawn was levelled, with fencing and hedges added to create a flat, sunny outdoor space. They juggled with the floor plan, eventually deciding to knock the kitchen, dining and living room into one airy space.
However, they played with ceiling levels and floor finishes to create distinctive zones: the sitting area with its sweeping cathedral ceiling, complete with a vintage chandelier (one of three in the house, the other two are in the master bedroom), fireplace and carpet is the more formal part of the room. The dining area has a dropped ceiling for more intimate dining, while there is still room for a casual sitting area close to the kitchen action.
In the kitchen, the couple made the most of the luxury of space -- a novelty after London -- with room for a double fridge, masses of storage and a generous sink bench in the sunny bay window.
Andrew is particularly proud of his bar corner. He worked with the window joinery people to create a novel servery: the picture window lifts up on specially designed gas struts to create a glass awning over the barbecue area.
Inside, there's a bar fridge, second sink and plenty of storage for glasses and serving platters -- the ideal set-up for a party.
The couple specified high-end Caesarstone counter-tops, with cabinets in a mix of stained oak and white. The thermo-wrapped finish has worn well -- no signs of nicks or scratches after six years of rambunctious children.
The solid engineered bamboo flooring has similarly kept its as-new finish.
Behind the kitchen, the Bruces rearranged the ground floor wet rooms to create a glamorous bathroom, as well as a laundry and plenty of storage. Amelie has a pretty single room on this floor, plus there are two more double bedrooms. The biggest has French doors on to a north-facing terrace, enticing for the many guests who have stayed there.
There is a generous double garage inside the gates, plus internal access to a third garage. This 1950s original has been put to good use as storage and another man dream -- a workshop.
The upstairs rooms are possibly more Renee's territory. The sitting room here has breathtaking views across Auckland from the Waitakeres all around the harbour to Rangitoto. Bayswater is the close-up view, but the distant views spread past Mount Wellington and all the way to the Coromandels. The family love to cosy up here for movies or reading.
The master bedroom, wall of closets and smartly tiled en suite bathroom are indulgences for the busy working couple. There are other hidden indulgences too, including new insulation. Even the door furniture is new.
But Andrew has persuaded Renee that it's Australia's turn now, so the couple are selling up to move to Brisbane for Andrew's work.
No doubt the brief there needs to include more waterside living.