When ex-pats Mary and Nelson Wall came to live in New Zealand in 1998 they had never owned their own home, so friends advised them to rent for a while and get the lay of the land.

But the well-meant advice was unnecessary — the couple "ploughed right in" and found themselves a splendid Paris Magdalinos-designed masterpiece on a large, private site above Havelock North.

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Romanian-born Magdalinos was one of New Zealand's leading architects, colourful and flamboyant on both a professional and personal level. In 1990 he became one of only a handful of architects to receive the New Zealand Institute of Architects Award of Honour for his outstanding contribution and dedicated service to his profession.

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The house the Walls had found was built in the 80s, an elaborate three-level design with a rendered exterior and tiled roof. They thought it a beautiful home but they wanted an extension that would enable them to move some of the interior spaces around and give them an additional lounge and a bar.

They asked Magdalinos to design the extension and the end result is 609sq m of elegant rooms. A herringbone-bricked driveway leads from the private lane up to the grand entrance, which opens to a bespoke bar and a large office.

On the main level is a variety of living spaces, including a formal lounge, formal dining room, TV den, two conservatories and a galley kitchen.

There are three bedrooms on this level, all of which open to decks, while the top level accommodates the master suite with its separate day room, large bathroom and walk-in wardrobe. Well-thought out storage space throughout the house includes a wine cellar.

Magdalinos demonstrated his aptitude with colour in many of the rooms, and it was an element the owners liked.

The kitchen and formal dining rooms are painted a deep teal, offset with vibrant blue tiles, and each bedroom has a feature wall.

The master suite combines a warm clay shade with Resene's brick-toned Kenyan Gold.

Deep teal features again in one bedroom and a soft red in another.

A dark red has been used in the traditional buttoned leather front of the bar, offset by cone-shaped timber pillars, and shelving behind.

The formal lounge with its timber bookcases flanking the fireplace is painted in neutral tones, and it's one of Mary's favourites spaces.

She had help from an interior designer in furnishing the house and because the proportions were so large, much of the furniture was custom-made to fit the spaces.

"I don't think I had a plan from the outset — it just evolved," said Mary.

"It's so quiet and it's lovely to go into the lounge and read. I also like to sit on the deck and watch the world go by."

The wraparound decks on the second level have views across the Heretaunga Plains. A few years ago the vista also included Napier, but the trees have grown since then.

Mary and her late husband were not keen gardeners so the 8748sq m property is low maintenance, with a deep circle of mature trees and bush surrounding the house.

It has provided both privacy and outstanding birdsong. Now, though, the agenda is to downsize to a home where it's easy to lock up and enjoy some travel.

4 SANDERSON PLACE, HAWKE'S BAY
• 4 bedrooms, 4 bathroom, 4 parking spaces.
• Land 8748sq m, home 609sq m.
• Inspect: Viewing by appointment.
• Schools: Woodford House, Te Mata School, Havelock North Intermediate.
• Contact: Fiona Horne, Sothebys, 021 377 195.