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!