Next time Harry Hill says he's just popping over the road to watch an auction, his wife Viv may be wise to join him.
Eleven years ago, the Birkenhead Point couple were building a house on the bush side of sought-after Maritime Terrace, when Harry spotted the auction for a piece of land for sale overlooking Little Shoal Bay, the bridge and the city.
When he hadn't returned home an hour or so later, Viv went looking -- only to be thrust a glass of champagne and congratulated on their new purchase.
Harry admits he's not good at keeping track of time -- a two-year stint away from their beloved Mt Maunganui turned into 15 -- but he also knew that such a piece of dirt, so private, yet close to the city, wouldn't come up again.
The land had been carved off a pohutukawa-edged cliff top property by architect Graham Strez, who had cleverly designed a footprint for the new house that ensured both his old home (a gem of mid-century style) and the new house would get sun, privacy and views.
The three levels of the 310sq m house have a very compact floor plan, ensuring every room opens to the outdoors and with a shared landscaping style (natural, lots of sleepers), the properties seem to blur with each other.
"Even my shower has the best view in Auckland," says Harry.
"I can see the tide, and the bridge, but no one can see me. I call it the best show in town."
Being near the water has clearly paid off for Harry and Viv's two boys.
Teenagers when they moved into the house, the now-grown men have both had marine industry jobs -- one in Germany, one in Western Australia.
Helped no doubt by the best bit of the cool house: a giant man cave in the basement.
Harry had the design of the plywood-lined room worked around a vintage sliding door he found.
The entrance is a workshop big enough for him and the boys to build boats, with a wall of pegboard and racks to store their surfboards and snow gear, while the main room has a funky bar and room for a flat screen TV.
A further potting shed opens back out to the bush paths and patios that the couple slotted around the old trees, with the help of landscape architect Peter Fry.
The couple worked with multi-award winning architect Ray van Wayenburg, who has worked with Geoff Richards and Malcolm Walker, to detail the house within Graham's outline.
A dozen 5m piles stabilised the house into the cliff, with the rooms cantilevered over that.
Exterior fins help moderate sun, but could be retrofitted with louvres.
The underpinnings also include a couple of massive water tanks for car washing and toilets.
Ray slotted the living floor at the entrance level, hovering over the trees and water.
Although the house is nicknamed "The Glass House", for its floor to ceiling glass walls, the north-facing spaces feel remarkably protected by the canopies, spectacular in the summer, full of birds.
Sliding windows open across the front, with walls of sliding doors at either end.
The sitting room end has a glass-walled terrace looking to the city and upper harbour, while at the other end the dining room opens to a deck and smartly landscaped lawn that gets the last of the day's sun.
A kitchen of stained plywood and stainless steel has retained its good looks after over a decade of use, with an integrated Liebherr fridge freezer and Fisher & Paykel cooker.
Tucked between the garage and front door is a roomy laundry and guest loo.
The Hills specified quality American oak flooring for this floor, switching to a cool grey textured rubber for the upper and ground floor bedrooms. Upstairs became the couple's retreat.
The master bedroom has more of the city and water views, with a closet tucked into the roof angle. It is plumbed for a future en suite, but with the shared bathroom on this floor having such a view the couple have never bothered.
There's a guest bedroom at the back, and the third bedroom has a fitted desk as Harry worked from home, watching the tides change and the boats come and go from Little Shoal Bay.
The boys had the ground floor to themselves with two bedrooms, another bathroom and a study/sitting space between, all opening into the garden and bush paths.
They used to cut down through Graham's garden to get to the sea.
"We've always been on the water -- first with the Sea Scouts, which you can see from here, then the Northcote Yacht Club by the ferry, then finally across the harbour to the Royal Yacht Squadron," says Harry.
"You couldn't get a better location. Well, actually, one thing will make it better: when they open the cycle path across the bridge!"
But with boys gone, and Viv's work now back in the Mount, the family are finally making good on their promise to return to the Bay of Plenty.