Friends of Paula and Peter Carruthers were surprised when they learned the couple, originally from London's W1 postcode area, were buying a place in the New Zealand countryside. Paula says her London friends used to call her a "Mayfair Floozy".
"People were surprised when they saw me out here playing Farmer George in my wellies."
Sixteen years ago the couple bought the property at 44 Hardens Lane, Paremoremo, on the northern fringe of Auckland. They had made the decision to move to New Zealand so Peter, an expat banker with Citicorp in Japan and then Singapore, could spend more time with their children, then aged 7 and 9.
The family were on holiday in New Zealand, staying with friends in Devonport, when they saw this property advertised with the headline "Gateway to heaven".
"We thought it was tongue-in-cheek at the time, but it really is a gateway to heaven," says Paula. Photos showed the poplar-lined driveway leading up to the house.
"We asked our friends how far away Paremoremo was and they said about 20 minutes. It is the first bit of proper countryside from Auckland city.
"We bought the children for a second viewing. We all thought it was fabulous."
The main home was built in 1995 and its living areas and three of the bedrooms open to the private walled courtyard with heated 12m x 6m pool and spa. Separate guest accommodation is on the other side of the home's attached garage.
Parklike grounds surround the home and they also have a barn, stables for two horses and rural essentials such as the rabbit warren, a hen house and a little playhouse. For leisure activities they have a tennis court, a petanque court and places for riding trail and quad bikes.
"I think the main thing that was special about it is the land is very private. You hardly see another house," says Paula.
Their children enjoyed carefree childhoods here, inviting friends around to swim or ride the bikes. The family hosted tennis parties, too. "It has been great fun."
A gardener would come for a half day each fortnight to keep the grounds tidy, doing everything except the lawns as the Carruthers enjoy taking turns on the ride-on.
"A lot of our neighbours just put sheep on their land but we like it as parklands," says Paula.
Another reason this property appealed was that they could use the guest flat to run a food import business from home. The children went to Kristin School and then boarded at Kings.
As well as adding the tennis court, Paul and Peter installed a new fireplace in the living area. The pool has been relined. Bathrooms have been updated and the kitchen, too, with elegant waterfall-edge Corian benchtops. The flat has been re-painted, re-carpeted and has a new bathroom.
Now their children are adults, Paula says their family home feels too big for her and Peter. They are in the throes of moving to a lock-and-leave property that will allow them to spend part of the year travelling in Europe.
She says this property is loaded with potential. The self-contained flat could give teenage family members semi-independence, house staff members or extended family. And she says the Unitary Plan allows for the upper storey of the barn to be turned into accommodation — as some neighbours have done — plus there is provision for another secondary dwelling to be built.
They enjoy views over their property — either out to the pool and courtyard, or to the expanse of lawns, a lake, gardens, native trees and palms.
"And we get a multitude of birds here. We have a pair of kookaburra who come and visit, lots of tui and pukeko."
Their agent, Nicky White at Precision Real Estate says the Carruthers are motivated vendors who are downsizing from their family's dream home. She expects buyer interest from $3 million upwards.
44 HARDENS LANE, PAREMOREMO
• 6+2 bedrooms, 2+1 bathroom, 2* parking spaces.
• Sale: By negotiation
• Contact: Nicky White, Precision Real Estate, 021 754 667
*Plus 10+ off-street parks