When it comes to small apartment living, this Auckland couple know how to use space to their advantage
A quick commute, handy location and even a spare bedroom – Marissa Kirkham and fiance Will Parr’s first apartment ticks all the boxes.
The couple, aged 30, had been flatting with friends in Auckland’s Mt Eden when they felt the pull towards buying their own home. Marissa, a public relations consultant, and Will, a property development manager, both work in central Auckland, so a long commute from their future abode wasn’t an option.
“We didn’t want to buy too far out of Auckland and have a long commute to work,” says Marissa. “Or buy a three-bedroom house that would need a lot of work. We wanted to buy our first home in Auckland, which is a tough market. Will has a background in property and is interested in new builds. He found a development in Onehunga by the same company who developed the apartments my parents bought.”
The couple explored the suburb, falling for its charm and character, knowing it would make the perfect home. While an apartment such as theirs doesn’t offer all the facilities a house does, it is an attractive option to couples; they’re low maintenance, secure, close to the urban buzz and have just the right amount of space.
“It’s very accessible, being not too far from central Auckland. Thanks to the train – it’s only a five-minute walk to the station,” says Marissa. “The area has been changing for a while, with gentrification and new cafes and bars popping up.”
The right design
Once they knew they wanted to buy from the apartment development, they explored the plans to find one that worked for them. On visiting the showroom, they discovered a model of the apartment, which made the process easy. “We liked the overall vision of the development,” Marissa says. “The mock-up apartment was useful as it helped us visualise the space, ways to fit in furniture and how it could function. It was a real benefit for us.”
After researching other developments being built at the same time in Auckland’s fringe suburbs, they weighed up the benefits and cons of buying a new development off the plans. Delayed construction and avoiding completion were some possibilities they had heard of. Still, with the developer of their proposed apartment building another scheme simultaneously, they felt secure buying with them. After paying a 10 percent deposit in April 2017, they moved in July 2020.
A layout that works
Ideal for a couple, the apartment features two bedrooms, en suite, main bathroom and an open-plan living area. Marissa originally planned for the second bedroom to be for guests, but this plan evolved. “All of our family live in Auckland, so we thought it’s probably not going to be a functional space as a guest bedroom. We’ve put in a desk and use it as an office.
Furniture that fits
With a large window in the couple’s calendar between placing their deposit and moving in, time was on their side when selecting their furniture. “The key benefit was having the time to slowly accumulate items,” Marissa says. “Fitting a house is expensive. Coming from a flat, we had a few of our own pieces but not the major furniture items. We were essentially starting from scratch. We were able to go to sales and grab things as they came up. By the time we moved in, we had a storage locker full of things, including necessities such as a couch, ottoman, bed frame and coffee table. Once we moved in, we lived in it for a few weeks and measured it up to see how it functioned.”
The couple have since added a dining table and a sideboard. “It was handy slowly accumulating the core decor pieces. We wanted to invest in quality furniture that would last for years.”
When choosing the fit-out, the couple could choose between a light or dark colour palette. An elegant muted scheme was their preferred option, with cabinetry and floors in light shades. “I was concerned dark colours in a small space would make it feel more enclosed,” Marissa says. After choosing the light colourway, the couple bought furniture that continued this theme. With a light wooden dining table, neutral coloured couch, they added colour through cushions, and a few darker pieces by way of a coffee table as well as an armchair to ground the apartment.
It can be tricky getting the balance right between adequate furniture and a feeling of calm. To get this ratio perfect, space-saving techniques are needed. With a discerning eye, it can have a big impact when done well. In Will and Marissa’s apartment, one couch in the living area can squeeze in three people, so other seating options for when friends come over are necessary. The trick with this is seating that has a dual purpose. A large ottoman works as a footstool and an extra seat. A little stool from Indie Home Collective also operates as a side table and a round dining table works much better than a rectangular one in this space.
“I buy furniture that fits the scale of the room,” Marissa says. “The living area doesn’t function for an L-shaped couch as it cuts off the room and restricts foot traffic. Scale is so important in an apartment.” By spending a little extra, they bought a bed with built-in storage in the base. That, combined with plenty of cupboards, offer smart storage options that are so important in a small space.
Apartment living has been a success story for the couple. “We love our little home and how easily we’ve adapted to apartment living. It provides a convenient and low-maintenance lifestyle, while being part of a bustling community neighbourhood,” says Marissa.
Buying off plans worked well for the couple, who made sure they knew the process they were entering and encourage others to do the same. “Do your research when buying off plans, look into the developers and construction company,” says Marissa. “Explore storage options, make sure there are adequate cupboards and space in the bedroom, kitchen and bathrooms. Look for multi-use items as you will end up with a small space, and can’t fit as many things you might like.”
Photography Babiche Martens. Words Catherine Steel