Statement pieces, a touch of whimsy and a tactful approach to colour ensure personality reigns in this two-storey, city-fringe apartment
Crafting a comfortable, stylish home out of an apartment isn’t always easy. Even if you’re the owner, you can be restricted with what you can change in terms of the structure, and space is often limited. While you may endeavour to reduce clutter and unnecessary furniture, favouring easy flow, you don’t want the apartment to look and feel sterile.
But there are ways to reach a happy middle ground, as interior designer Matt South and management consultant Alex McKay discovered after buying an apartment in Auckland’s Freemans Bay, on the edge of the CBD. The couple, who met three years ago and flatted with a friend
in the same complex, quickly worked out how they would revamp one of the dwellings if one came up for sale. One year later an apartment with views of Victoria Park did on the most sought-after side of the complex – and Matt and Alex swiftly swept it up as their first home.
The right fit
What had attracted Alex and Matt to the apartment block was the balance of a central city location and a sweeping vista of the park. The latter offered a sense that they were somewhere much quieter.
“We both liked the situation – being right in the city but not right in the city, we’re on the fringe,” Matt says. “The view was pretty hard to beat; we’re big on greenery. The layout was key, too – two bedrooms, two bathrooms and two carparks, which is hard to come by for less than
$2 million in the city. The layout upstairs is great, with bedrooms on either side of a bathroom and one ensuite. That was the draw.”
For Matt, home is a haven in which to reset as well as a place to entertain. The 110sqm two-level apartment spills out onto a private courtyard where the couple love to sit and relax with guests. “We’re big on entertaining, so the courtyard appealed to me,” Matt says. “I’ve been waiting
my whole life to have a home to entertain in. We’ve got friends with their own homes who have always hosted us, so it’s great to start reciprocating.”
On the street side of the building, where the couple bought, apartments don’t come up very often because many of the original owners stay put because of the view. “The apartment is a bit of a gem. It doesn’t look so pretty from the outside, or in theory, but once you’re inside you fall in love with the view, location and amenities.”
What they did
Entering through the courtyard, you step into the apartment’s entrance, which is also the kitchen. The interior is a modern, sleek display of soft grey, white and plenty of natural light grounded by pot plants and whimsical feature lighting. The kitchen leads to a dining and lounge area, then upstairs are two bedrooms.
While the original owners occupied the apartment for 15 years, they didn’t do any renovating. “But they were gentle on the house, so we didn’t have to redo the kitchen or bathrooms,” Matt says. “We did, however, replace all of the flooring and carpet. The ground floor was broken up into hardwood in the kitchen and carpet at the other end of the ground floor where the lounge is.”
Already knowing how they’d revamp the apartment made the whole process easy. “Having the floorboards continue seamlessly from the front door to the lounge window overlooking the park, was key to getting that light, open sense. It was important to draw people from the entrance to this aspect.”
While it is common to find apartments with balconies covered in pot plants to achieve privacy, Matt and Alex avoided this to accentuate the view to people entering through the front door.” They also repainted and changed the lighting throughout.
A perfect palette
Whitening the interior was crucial for providing a fresh interior. Walls, the ceiling, trims and doors were coated in Dulux Mt Aspiring Quarter. “Being an apartment, you need as much light as possible to keep it nice and fresh,” he says. “This is a crisp white, but it’s got a hint of warmth. I don’t like cold whites, and we’ve got a lot of timber furniture, which wouldn’t have felt right with a cool white, so something with a little warmth is best.”
Being a smaller place, keeping the ceiling, doors, walls and trims the same white opens it up more, he says. “If you have any colour changes it starts to define the transitions to different areas of the room.”
But it wasn’t all white throughout. Upstairs, a wash of olive green in Dulux Gully was painted onto the bedroom walls, providing a break from the white walls. “It was bold for me because I never pictured committing to a colour,” he says. “It was a little scary to lock one in, which I do for other people every day – when it’s your own space it’s nerve-wracking. Now I can’t imagine having a bedroom without colour, it’s a cosy part of home that you don’t constantly see, so it’s nice to have it feel a bit different.”
The dark, original lighting was all replaced with white downlights, and the couple has cleverly brought in feature lighting to provide not just extra mood lighting but a bit of cheekiness. On the lounge wall, a Seletti Monkey Lamp climbs the wall holding a light bulb, and, in the kitchen corner, a Nanoleaf light changes colours to suit your mood or the music. An oversized tripod light also anchors the space with its grand presence.
“Lighting is important to me,” Matt says. “We replaced the downlights with newer ones, but we never really have them on because we always use the feature lights or lamps.”
The kitchen is bright and breezy in grey and white hues, with original bi-fold windows opening out to the courtyard. Between the kitchen and lounge is an original 1950s G-Plan dining table Matt found online. “This table informed a lot of our decor, including the colour of floorboards. We wanted a complete contrast between the table and floor in terms of dark and light tones. We didn’t want to mix its red-based timber with yellow-toned oak flooring. Downstairs, the interior all works back to that table.”
Nearby, a stainless-steel unit provides a coffee and cocktail set up, the silver tones tying in beautifully with the kitchen. “It goes through stages of being covered in alcohol or curated, depending on who’s been fluffing around.”
It may be small, but this apartment is a success story in modern living and clever design ideas. “When renovating an apartment, you are somewhat limited with what changes you can make, especially with things like the location of windows and the internal footprint,” Matt says. So we knew we were fortunate to find ours with great bones and a view that would never be built out.”
Words by: Catherine Steel. Photography by: Anna Briggs