Although they lived between Fiji and Singapore, Joanna and Neil Palmer often visited their friends who had moved to New Zealand and owned a lifestyle property in Coatesville.
Neil has been in the hotel business since he left school in Kerikeri, at the age of 18, and now owns a boutique resort in Fiji. Working around the world, mostly in Asian countries, he had always been on the move. And because the couple transferred to different places
so often, they tended to rent rather than own.
Therefore, when they stayed with their Auckland friends Sarah and Andrew, it felt just like coming home.
"They were always the best of times, with great dinners and parties," says Neil.
Their young son Alex especially loved it when the two families got together and he spent time in the country, playing with his best mate Findlay, Sarah and Andrew's son. For him, the Coatesville property was a kid's paradise with vast open lawns embraced by native bush, a playground with climbing structures, slides and swings, a heated pool and the icing on the cake, a soccer field right at the bottom.
It seemed the stars aligned last year when their friends needed to go back to the UK just as Neil decided he should return to New Zealand to be nearer to his elderly mum in Kerikeri.
There was never any question they would not buy the property. Everything about it was right. It was a deal made in heaven for it had just been refurbished from top to bottom in 2013. And it still feels like new.
The elegant French manor design of the five-bedroom home could not be more in tune with the couple's love of entertaining providing large, well-connected living and dining spaces on the northern aspect. All doors open to sunny terraces overlooking an expansive lawn and orchard.
Joanna says: "As much as I like open plan, it's nice to have separate areas that you can shut off when friends come around."
Their favourite is the generous outdoor room off the kitchen and family sitting area with its electronic louvred ceiling and log fire. Most of their summers are spent here, enjoying barbecues with friends while watching the cricket on the outdoor TV.
It's just a few steps down to the horizon pool and spa. One of Neil's best memories is sipping champagne in the spa on New Year's eve, watching the fireworks over the Sky Tower.
Alex still has the same bedroom he used to stay in, and he's kept Findlay's name above the bed in another room, so he too feels "at home" when he stays.
Their friend Sarah was an interior designer and her deft decorating touches are evident everywhere. Luxuriously dramatic on the rich red jarrah floors, an impressive black marble kitchen anchors the living area with a butler's pantry for extra work space.
Another classic "Sarah" room is the guest bedroom where two walls are lined, floor to ceiling with beautifully lit, built-in shelves for displaying, books, treasures and art.
The office, between the living spaces and the guest area, now doubles as Alex's playroom. Copious storage handles kids' toy clutter with aplomb. In fact, storage throughout the home is unbelievably generous.
Then again, everything about this home is large and luxurious. It's like a resort, which is possibly why the Palmers, with their hotel background, feel so at home. Like a peaceful holiday retreat with all the recreational delights, it's a slice of Kiwi country heaven just eight minutes from Albany and handy to Kristin where Alex goes to school.
But sadly, this is the end of an era for the Palmers as they're moving to Kerikeri, closer to Neil's mum.
197 RIDGE RD, COATESVILLE
• 5 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 3 parking spaces.
• Land 2.2ha, house 512sq m.
• Sale price: $3,585,000.
• Inspect: Sun, noon-12.45pm.
• Schools: Coatesville Primary, Albany Primary, Albany Junior High. Albany Senior High, Kristin, Pinehurst.
• Contact: James Bailey, Bayleys, 0211 920 445; Val Gardner, 021 415912, oneroof.co.nz/197-ridge-road-coatesville-rodney-auckland-1093278
*OSP for six vehicles