SIZE: Land approx 658sq m, house approx 267sq m.
PRICE GUIDE: CV $1.3 million. Comparable properties in this location frequently sell above CV.
TENDER CLOSES: 5pm Wednesday, March 23, 2011 (will not be sold prior).
INSPECT: Sat/Sun/Wed 11-11.30am.
SCHOOL ZONES: Freemans Bay Primary, Ponsonby Intermediate, Auckland Girls' Grammar, Western Springs College.
CONTACT: Heather Lanting, ph 376 2186 or 027 439 4124, Marty Hall, ph 027 450 0168, Ray White Ponsonby.
FEATURES: Freemans Bay meets a luxurious resort in this stylishly renovated villa set in subtropical gardens, with spacious formal and informal living, large multi-workstation kitchen and wide covered veranda for year-round outdoor living. Ground floor includes two bedrooms and office, one-and-a-half baths and utility space, while upstairs off a dramatic sky-lit stairwell is the master suite with close-up city views. Open fires, central heating and garaging.

When you see today's gentrified streets of Ponsonby and Freemans Bay, it is hard to recall that not so long ago it was the bohemian refuge of artists, students and new immigrants. Houses were lovingly renovated in 60s or 80s style - lots of stained glass and dark rooms of Victoriana, or "modern" laminated everything - and people stayed put for decades.

Astonishingly, eight years ago when property developer Andy Davies was house-hunting in Freemans Bay, he found a house that hadn't been touched for some 25 years.

"The bathroom was a horror," he recalled. "It had a red stained-glass window between it and the living room - we could watch someone taking a shower. Charming!"

Fortunately, high-energy Andy is always up for a challenge. One of his most notable projects was restoring the old telephone exchange building in Mt Eden that became the delightful Mantell's function centre. With his then-partner, Germany-registered architect Jan Bernau, he set about scraping back the bad additions and restoring one of the largest and most gracious villas in the Bay. There was a tussle between Andy's flamboyant style (he had a container-load of French furniture to house) and Jan's detail-oriented and restrained Germanic instincts.

Jan sweated many a night until 2am over the winning feature of the house - a double-height stairwell to the top-floor master suite that floods the centre of the house with light, the graciously detailed steps and balustrades complementing the proportions of the old villa.

With its 4m studs and large windows - some of which the pair replaced with in-keeping French doors and shutters - the house must have been one of the area's grand old ladies. It certainly has an unexpectedly large plot of land - enough for the inner-city gold of two covered garages and more off-street parking.

The pair restructured the garden, bringing in a dozen truck-loads of soil to create a lawn a couple of steps down from the wide covered veranda, framing it with nikau palms and huge tropical plants. The result is a verdant resort-style garden with views across the lower neighbours to the city. Andy bought the house next door to preserve his views, painting and tidying but leaving it largely unrenovated for family tenants.

Inside, the house is luxuriously restored. Original wood floors were stained deep chocolate, fireplaces were uncovered and restored, and walls painted throughout in the soothing grey-white of Aalto Apartment or, upstairs, a deep, sophisticated grey.

The kauri kitchen was reconfigured to a wall of pantry/oven/double fridge, a welcoming island for the gas cooker and sophisticated stainless-steel hood and two other workstations. Andy and his chef mates can now happily cook up a storm for the frequent dinners (a crowd of 80 is not uncommon, champagne house Moet has used the house for stylish parties too) where people can spill out from the generous dining room to the covered veranda.

Tucked behind the formal living room is a smart office - more views - while on the other side of the hallway is a smart guest toilet, hideaway laundry and en suite for one of the two ground-floor bedrooms. Jan's sustainability training means he's ensured access to a sunny drying yard and that the house is thoroughly insulated to ensure efficient warming from the gas central heating.

The complicated re-configuring of the stairwell and upstairs means that the master suite is now spacious and airy, focusing the eye to the view. The dressing room is worth close inspection, with Jan's meticulously designed cabinets and a window-seat-cum-packing table for frequent-flyer Andy. There is even a hidden loft space for suitcases.

But it is that frequent flying that is the reason behind Andy putting the house, and its neighbour, on the market. On his regular trips to Mexico, he has somehow bought a trio of villas on the beach at Puerto Vallarta which is he now renovating with equal style. He is trading down to a small apartment in the area for the month or two he'll be in Auckland each year.