VICKI HOLDER finds rural paradise in Coatesville.

Like many rural areas on the outskirts of Auckland, Coatsville is luring a swathe of former die-hard city folk to the delights of a laid-back lifestyle.

Bigger properties hold the promise of swimming pools, tennis courts, rambling gardens and plenty of leftover land for grazing horses - privileges that cost considerably less in the country than in most parts of suburbia.

When people move for the drawcards of a lifestyle property two minutes from Coatsville village, they don't have to forgo the convenience of proximity to schools, shops, restaurants and other amenities.

Propped high on a hill overlooking Coatsville Riding Club and Riverhead Forest on the distant hills, the property includes a pool and a big garden with land already levelled for a tennis court.

An expanse of lawn surrounds the house, which is terraced from a vast parking area down to gently sloping paddocks. It makes the ideal compromise between town and country. Everything including the local primary school is virtually on the doorstep.

The house is unusual for the area. As farms were divided into smaller land pockets, more and more new homes have sprung up all around. Shifted to this location 20 years ago, the old villa originally stood in Mt Roskill. It was built at the turn of the century for the Stevenson family, of concrete paving fame.

Around six years ago, it was extensively renovated and enlarged. The roof was popped up to make way for a large master bedroom suite with an en suite, double dressing rooms and a balcony from which to survey the magnificent view.

Halfway up the stairs, an office/gym lets the owners escape from the hubbub to work or work-out.

Downstairs, a two-level extension incorporates a self-contained apartment on two levels, providing the owner's mother with her own living space.

Changes sympathetic to the original character of the home have been energised by a lively colour scheme and contemporary curtain treatments.

Practical enhancements include a double garage underneath the house. Giving internal access, a passage off the garage lined with storage cupboards saves having to cart the groceries upstairs to the kitchen in one go.

Bifold doors to a large playroom downstairs give easy access for big pieces of furniture, such as a billiard table.

Visitors entering through the front door, between two large bay windows, would be oblivious to the changes. The character of the kauri floors, deep skirtings, lofty battened ceilings, ceiling roses and tall sash windows reinforces a traditional ambience.

The original layout remains undisturbed. Spacious formal rooms sit to one side of a wide hallway and a cosy family living area and kitchen to the other. The formal dining room looks out to the swimming pool behind a low wall covered with foliage.

Next door, a huge formal lounge is enriched with walls painted fuchsia and blue. A broad, open fire in the middle of the room makes it a warm winter space, while french doors on either side of an extension keep it cool in summer.

On the opposite side of the hall, a sunny family sitting room - painted a buttery yellow - opens to a deck through bifold doors. Stretching the length of the living area, the deck is a great place for barbecues in summer.

Heated by a modern, plastered fireplace, the family room is cosy in winter and summer. It peeps through a servery to a traditional style of timber kitchen, which is stained olive green. Panels on the fridge-freezer complement the look.

Used as a splashback, yellow tiles inject a burst of colour above the black granite benchtop. And although the style of kitchen befits the era of the house, the stainless-steel appliances - including a Bosch dishwasher, Meridien 900ml oven and a garbage compactor - cater for today's easy living.

Past the guest toilet, a large laundry and the family bathroom lie three bedrooms, which are hidden in another hallway behind the main stairs. The hallway leads to the self-contained apartment with kitchen and living area above and a bedroom and bathroom below.

Balancing the best of the new and the old, this big home is guaranteed to make even the largest city family feel at home in the country.

Vital statistics:

ADDRESS: 11 Donaldson Dr (off Glenmore Rd), Coatesville.

FEATURES: Three-level villa with four living areas; high ceilings; two-car garaging; sealed drive; three water tanks; two kitchens; wide hallways; five bathrooms; in-ground swimming pool; landscaped gardens; large, sunny decks; six bedrooms; implement shed; grazing with dam; Coatesville School zone.

SIZE: Land area 3ha.

PRICE: $1 million.

AGENT: Lynn Honnor, The Professionals, Albany Real Estate. Ph 415 9206 bus; 415 9137 ah; 021 931 058 mob.