Key Points:

Five years ago Robyn and Murray Robertson moved out from Mt Eden, Auckland, to what even they remember as a quirky little villa high on the ridge overlooking Coatesville Valley.

Originally a country girl, Robyn had never got over missing the space and neighbourliness of country life even after years of city living.

"We loved it in Mt Eden, but decided we'd give living in the country a try and see if it worked for us, and it's simply been the best move we could ever have made."

Although the house they bought was sound and solid, it definitely had a few odd things about it.

Resisting the urge to get busy they decided to live in the house for a year and learn the way it worked. "That way we worked out what needed to be changed and what worked just fine the way it was.

"Probably most important was tracking how the sun moved around."

At the end of the year they employed Logan Riley of Logan Architects to produce a design that would incorporate both the addition for a new master bedroom suite as well as a general modernisation of the existing house. Robyn admits living in a building site for the best part of four years was not easy but that it was possible because eight-month-old daughter Ellie Rose had not yet arrived.

"I can't imagine doing it with a baby but even so, mainly because we were living here throughout, it had to be done in three stages."

The result is a villa that combines all the charm of the 1905 original with the comfort and sleekness of 21-century design.

Period appropriate features, like the battened ceiling in the family room and proper villa profile skirting boards, were reintroduced where they no longer existed, and the falling-apart joinery replaced with new large paned windows and French doors, which let in lots of light and make access to the north-facing gardens a breeze.

In keeping with the age of the house they are wooden, and apart from the lovely old (but renovated) double hung sash window in Ellie's room that Robyn couldn't bear to do away with, all are completely new.

Full insulation, including Expol underfloor, makes the house so cosy that the Jetmaster fire in the lounge is for show more than necessity.

As with all new builds or major renovations in country areas, the house required a new onsite septic reticulation system, and now the cleaned waste water from this goes to watering the thriving hedges that line the property and give privacy from the road.

Murray acknowledges that when they started removing trees there was a bit of disquiet from family and friends. "People thought we were mad but we'd been living here for that year and we knew they were crowding and shading the house. Removing them means we now have a lovely open garden with lawns big enough for croquet or the odd game of cricket and because there are two driveways, one for us and one for guests, it is completely enclosed."

The property comes with a self-contained two-bedroom cottage, which is tucked almost out of sight behind the hedge, a field big enough for a pony, and wide views that can never be built out.

The Robertsons are moving simply because they enjoyed the process so much they want to do it all again.

"We won't be going far," says Robyn. "Coatesville has everything we could ever need.

"It truly is the best of country and urban living combined."

155 Ridge Rd, Coatesville

* Four bedrooms, two bathrooms. Formal and casual living areas, two-car, garaging plus two carports.
* Separate two-bed cottage.
* 0.6ha land; manicured garden and pony field.
* Price: $1.79 million.Agent: Premium Realty, ph (09) 970 2170, Deborah Wallace 021 565 603 or Mike Wallace 021 565 601.
* Web: View at
On your doorstep

Living in Coatesville, in Robyn and Murray Robertson's opinion, is having the best of two worlds.

"We live where we have views for miles and that wonderful country neighbourhood atmosphere, yet five minutes away there is coffee equal to anything you can find in Ponsonby.

"Our friends who have older children tell us the primary school, Coatesville Primary, is great, although there is Kristen and Pinehurst for those who want to go private."

There is also a monthly farmers' market at the Coatesville Settlers Hall and a shop selling organic produce next to the Fernielea Café five minutes away by car. Retail opportunities and entertainment are at the Albany Megacentre.

- Herald on Sunday Homes