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NZ Mansion's myriad merits

Property Here - Saturday, June 08, 2013

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One longing look at this remarkable property from across the street convinced Catherine Lintott that if it ever came up for sale, she would be first in line to buy it.

She first laid eyes on the historic, two-storey Epsom home nearly two decades ago, when she went to see another house that was for sale in the same street.

She was immediately struck by the peace and privacy of the leafy cul-de-sac, a well-kept secret that sits at the end of Golf Rd and backs on to the side of Cornwall Park.

Number 9 Fern Ave is an impressive, wedge-shaped property that spreads over 2720sq m at the top end of the cul-de-sac and has views out over the Waitakere Ranges and back to the Sky Tower.

When the home - originally known as the Golf House because it was built for the Auckland Golf Club in 1901 - came up for sale in 1996, Catherine and her former husband bought it on the spot after being shown through it only once.

Catherine was attracted by the magnificent bones of the English-style mansion, features of which include an octagonal turret added by maverick entrepreneur Percy Kingswell, who bought the property from the Auckland Golf Club in 1909.

When Catherine and her family moved in, the house had many of its original features, including kauri floors and weatherboards, rimu joinery, pressed-steel ceilings (a rimu ceiling in the formal lounge), large bay windows, elegant tiled fireplaces and deep, welcoming verandas.

But Catherine was less impressed with the handiwork of some of the previous owners, such as lowered ceilings in some rooms, the brown and orange kitchen "that looked like Pizza Hut", and the bathroom with "lovely little pink pillars".

After seeking advice from several architects, Catherine decided to work with architect Graham Pitts because of his strong empathy for older homes. "I wanted to maintain the integrity of the house and to keep it true to its heritage," she explains.

An extensive renovation in 2000 included extending and completely remodelling the kitchen, and pushing out the eastern side of the house to incorporate an open-plan, conservatory-style family living and dining space, with a grand fireplace fit for a ballroom.

This area adjoins the kitchen, which has banks of timeless rimu cupboards and an Aga stove, and opens through high French doors to a large private lawn fringed with mature palms and subtropical shrubs.

At the end of this part of the garden are a pool house with a lap pool and an adjoining three-car garage, all of which were added in 2004.

The ground level of the main house also includes an entrance foyer, a formal lounge and a music room that look out over a tennis court, plus a library, two bathrooms, and a pantry and large laundry off the kitchen.

A three-tiered staircase leads from this level to five large bedrooms, including the main bedroom, one whole wall of which is devoted to cupboards, and an en suite and another large bathroom.

The balcony that runs along the western side of the house connects to two of the bedrooms and looks out beyond Epsom to the Waitakere Ranges.

A stairwell from this level takes you to the turret which, with its 270-degree views from Manukau Harbour, across the city and over to Cornwall Park, is an excellent spot for a late-afternoon drink.

In many ways Catherine is loath to leave this remarkable home, where her daughters Analiese, 19, and Rachael, 17, have grown up.

But now she feels it's time to downsize.