No offence to Kiwis, "but being English, I wanted a house that looked like a house," says Londoner Tracey Gotts. She and husband Martin emigrated with their three children 14 years ago seeking something "totally different" from where they had lived. Martin's family came from Takapuna, so the Gotts rented in Browns Bay before moving several months later to a picturesque equestrian lifestyle property in Riverhead.
With its black weatherboard cladding and tall, pitched shingle roof with large dormer windows, the home looks the essence of classic English country living. Extra-large, it sprawls over two levels with a bridge across the entry that separates upstairs bedrooms.
"The day we moved in, I remember coming in and thinking, it's huge. Have I made a mistake? Are we ever going to be cosy? But that changed in a heartbeat."
Tracey and Martin have made it the kind of place where anybody would feel at home. Every space is particularly generous, with high-pitched timber ceilings, five bedrooms, four bathrooms (most have baths) plus a huge loft space above the garaging, ideal as a studio or office.
The home easily accommodated Martin, Tracey, their three children, the dog Max and cat Honey, plus many visitors who came to stay. And it was a natural for pre-ball functions and events.
Tracey's best friend recently came for 14 weeks and her mother spent six months with them, without disruption, as they stayed in the ground-floor guest suite, once the nursery.
From the large, open-plan family/kitchen area with a log fire and TV above a riverstone hearth, you can look out over the hills and see the Sky Tower across the Waitemata Harbour.
A second big lounge opens out to the swimming pool, which clinched the deal for the Gott children. They said they wouldn't come if the property didn't have a pool.
"The oldest, Jodie was 14 and she thought we were ruining her life. But she eventually met her husband just along the road, so it's worked out okay for her."
Jodie and Buster lived in the loft to save money for their own home and it was plenty big enough, says Tracey.
Although the house has a traditional design, one of the things Tracey likes most is the way the ground floor opens up to the outdoors through bifolds.
They're everywhere, including in the master bedroom, which has two sets opening to a terrace. This grand room also has a handy make-up space with basin and cabinets opposite the walk-in wardrobe, on the way to the en suite.
Of course, there's storage for Africa, not just in numerous cupboards and built-ins and large laundry, but in the boat shed adjoining the double garage.
Then there's a third garage next door, great for stashing the ride-on lawn mower and quad bikes. Just around the corner, two stables have never seen a horse in their life.
However, says Tracey, such things always come in handy in the country.
A lot of fun has been had in this well-used house, so handy to the local Coatesville market, says Tracey. But all good things eventually come to an end.
Jodie, who was so furious with her parents for taking her away from her life in England, was so shocked to see the "for sale" up outside the property that she cried.
And for Tracey, "this is not just a home, it's has been my life in New Zealand. But the house has outgrown us." Everyone except the youngest, 20-year-old Liam, has moved on.
161 LLOYD RD, COATESVILLE/RIVERHEAD, RODNEY
• 5 bedrooms, 4 bathroom, 3 parking spaces.
• Land: 20032sq m, house: 329sq m.
• Price: Above $2.7 million.
• Auction: Thur, Sept 13, 1.30pm.
• Inspect: Sat/Sun 2-4pm.
• Schools: Riverhead School.
• Contact: James Bailey, 021 1920 445, Bayleys, oneroof.co.nz/1184853