Jane Lawrence visits a contemporary apartment with a hint of heritage that’s every bit as creative as the people who live there. Photography by Mark Tantrum

Heritage Heaven

The lounge captures the essence of relaxed, compact apartment living

Copyright Mark Tantrum

My Home October 2014 Waterloo Apartments: Saturday 23 August 2014. Photo by Mark Tantrum | www.marktantrum.com

My Home October 2014 Waterloo Apartments: Saturday 23 August 2014. Photo by Mark Tantrum | www.marktantrum.com

The perfect kitchen for two, tucked away under the mezzanine

Emma Saunders and Matthew Ellingsen

My Home October 2014 Waterloo Apartments: Saturday 23 August 2014. Photo by Mark Tantrum | www.marktantrum.com

A beautiful seasonal bouquet from Flowers Rediscovered

A workspace with no lack of design inspiration

Exterior of the Waterloo Quay apartments

Sliding doors off the bedrooms provide privacy and warmth

(C)Mark Tantrum, All rights reserved

A complete snapshot of Wellington can be seen from one window alone

"The piano was a an extravagant birthday gift to Matthew, having only been dating for two months" laughs Emma

  • 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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