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  • The lounge cap­tures the essence of relaxed, com­pact apart­ment living

One of Wellington’s most admired his­tor­ic build­ings, 28 Water­loo Quay, is home to design duo Mat­thew Elling­sen and Emma Saun­ders. The apart­ment life­style suits the busy couple, who run the busi­ness design con­sultancy Empathy. Since mov­ing in at Christ­mas 2011, their morn­ing walk to work along the water­front is any­thing but a chore.

With an interest in her­it­age build­ings and an appre­ci­ation of brick, the couple were instantly attrac­ted to Water­loo Apart­ments. “Its archi­tec­ture is unusu­al for Wel­ling­ton,” says Mat­thew of the refur­bished wool store built in 1911. The build­ing was con­ver­ted in 2002 under the dir­ec­tion of prom­in­ent New Zea­l­and archi­tect Ian Ath­field, whose sig­na­ture stark indus­tri­al design fuses with tra­di­tion­al high ceil­ings, ori­gin­al beams and cen­tury-old brick­work to cre­ate a two-bed­room haven with unique character.

Mat­thew made the move to Wel­ling­ton 11 years ago from the Welsh val­leys: “It was everything I was look­ing for.” The Bee­hive, train sta­tion and West­pac Sta­di­um can all be seen from the apartment’s large grid win­dow, an abso­lute sun­trap on a nice day. The hustle and bustle of life going by res­on­ates well with the idea of easy inner-city living.

There is a strong design influ­ence that runs right through­out the apartment’s decor. The crisp white walls make vari­ous works pop, per­haps the strongest being a Dav­id Le Flem­ing work, one of a series of car bon­nets revital­ised by his vibrant oil illus­tra­tions. Emma knew she had to have it when she saw it hanging in a colleague’s office.

A mezzan­ine floor gives the feel of a New York loft. “It reminds me of the hol­i­day home my par­ents had when I was a child,” says Emma. “I have all these memor­ies of look­ing down from the mezzan­ine want­ing to be down play­ing with the grown-ups.” Pri­vacy options are ample, with slid­ing doors off the bed­rooms that look down into the lounge and a steel blind in line with the front door.

A bare light­bulb hangs down from the high ceil­ing, giv­ing the lounge space a min­im­al­ist feel. This was not inten­tion­al, Mat­thew admits. “We’ve nev­er been able to find a light shade that’s grand enough to fill the room.” There is this per­fect jux­ta­pos­i­tion of old and new — Emma’s mother’s suit­case, which once held her sole pos­ses­sions, and a col­lec­tion of china tea­cups sit among a num­ber of mod­ern design works and an iMac computer.

The sleek kitchen’s steel splash­back means clean­ing is a dream, and although it boasts an induc­tion hot plate, the pair admit they’re suck­ers for Wellington’s vibrant café scene, pre­fer­ring to stop in at their loc­al bis­tro, Charlie Noble, or Ti Kouka on Wil­lis Street.

To live here is truly a priv­ilege. Mat­thew says he’ll often lie on the couch look­ing up at the ceil­ing for a couple of hours on a Sunday and think, “Yeah, we love this house. We should spend more time here.” They’re liv­ing the busy professional’s dream on one of the finest har­bour edges in the world. Bliss!

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