When the home that Dorothy Gardiner had lived in as a teenager came up for sale after her mother died, she didn't hesitate to buy it.
Although modest, the bach-like 1920s weatherboard villa, which runs between Benbow and Kaimata Sts in St Heliers, had a large section with potential to be developed.
Dorothy recalls that 53 years ago -- when she and her late husband Kenneth moved into the house with their two young children, Alex and Elizabeth -- "there was a great big 30ft hole in the backyard".
"My husband said the property would be useless because there was very little usable garden for the children to play in," says Dorothy, who is now 93 years old and moved into a retirement home last year.
But although in 1961 its land sloped steeply away from the back of the house, the 746sq m property had excellent views of North Head, Rangitoto Island and the inner Waitemata Harbour as well as a sunny aspect.
It was also a quick walk to St Heliers, the local village and to the large beachfront reserve, now called Vellenoweth Green, where the children spent hours playing when they were growing up.
St Heliers School and Glendowie College, where Alex and Elizabeth went to school, are also within walking distance.
After the family moved in, Dorothy capitalised on all the building activity in the neighbourhood to gradually top up the "hole" in the backyard with free clean fill and make the section more level and useable.
In the 1960s Kenneth's brother's building company built three one-bedroom flats behind their house.
These all front Kaimata St, have good off-street parking and are currently tenanted.
During World War II, when Dorothy's parents still owned the house, they added a north-facing sunroom to the original two-bedroom home so her sister could live there with her young baby while her husband was fighting overseas.
Dorothy and Kenneth later closed in the front veranda to create a third bedroom; however, the home's structure is otherwise close to the original.
The main level has three bedrooms, including the closed-in verandah, a separate toilet and bathroom off the kitchen, a lounge and the sunroom, which adjoins the kitchen.
The basement includes a kitchenette, shower, toilet and small bedroom as well as a workshop, which Kenneth dug out and reinforced with steel beams.
Dorothy says she has always loved the "holiday" feel of St Heliers, which it retains today even though the area is much more developed and sought-after than when she first lived there.
She always enjoyed the sense of community in her street and has fond memories of being a member of the St Heliers Beautifying Society, which planted several street trees and natives in the area, including Dingle Dell Reserve.
Although she was never a big swimmer, Dorothy has always liked being close to the water and being able to see from her house various beachside activities including the Weetbix Tryathlon and Round the Bays run.
"There are always boats going up and down -- and something interesting happening on the water."
New owners may plan to build a new house on the site, but the existing one is neat, tidy and liveable in the meantime.