Before and after: an inner-city warehouse apartment

By gutting and starting again, this clever architect owner has squeezed an extra 10 percent of floor space out of her glorious top-storey abode


Who lives here?

Kate Beilby (architect and owner of Milieu: Architecture + Design) and a friend who went in on the purchase.

Where is the home?

Mt Eden, Auckland.

Lived here for…

Just over a year.

The project

I was looking for an apartment with a bit of character and, being an architect, somewhere I could make my mark on. I loved the high ceilings, wood floors, steel windows and painted brick and concrete walls. It’s on the top floor of the old Farmers furniture warehouse, which was built in the ’40s and converted into apartments in the ’90s.

Describe the project and how long it took

It involved gutting the interior, building a new, lower mezzanine level and relocating the stairs and kitchen, plus total redecoration and fit-out. The design and consent process took about four months and the construction two months.



What style did you go for?

I chose a material palette to work in with the existing industrial aesthetic of the apartment: white cabinetry, stainless steel, and the black-stained plywood stair as a feature.

Do you tend to buy high-end or bargain?

I tend to look out for a bargain; there are no items in the apartment that are overly expensive.


The total spend of $90K includes fees, consents, cabinetry, appliances, carpet, light fittings and all the building work. Being an architect meant I could do the design and documentation myself, which saved on professional fees. I did spend money on getting the right professionals in to do some of the really important jobs like the building work, cabinetry fitting and installing the tension-wire balustrade.


DIY details

What did you want to achieve out of your reno?

The apartment was sold as a two-bedroom property, but the second bedroom was really just the size of a walk-in wardrobe, so the main aim was to turn it into a proper two-bedroom apartment.

The existing apartment had the kitchen, living and bathroom on the lower level with the sleeping areas in the mezzanine. The layout was very awkward and space was used inefficiently – for example, there were no wardrobes and very limited storage which you really need for apartment living. After working on various options for the design, it became clear that the only way to get two bedrooms in upstairs would be to lower the mezzanine floor and relocate the stair and kitchen – this added 10 percent extra floor area to the apartment.

What were the biggest hurdles?

As with all renovations, there were some surprises during demolition. For instance, there was a steel truss running through one of the walls, meaning the mezzanine couldn’t be lowered as originally designed. Luckily, this was resolved by having a step down into the bedrooms. I think this is actually an improvement on the original design, particularly in the new bedroom, as it divides the L-shaped room into two areas – the desk and wardrobe are on the higher level, which then steps down to the cosy snug for the bed.

Renovating on the top floor of an old building with no lift also had its challenges, which I’m sure the builders can attest to. They did countless runs up and down the stairs and I’m still amazed that they managed to carry up the heavy plywood staircase in one piece.


Worst makeover moment?

“I spent four long days painting the exposed floor joists on the underside of the mezzanine. It was back-breaking but worth it as the texture of the floor joists works so well with the industrial aesthetic of the apartment.”

It’s amazing what you can learn

from YouTube videos!

Best lesson learned?

“I enjoyed doing some DIY where I could – painting, staining, installing hardware and shelves. It’s amazing what you can learn from YouTube videos!”

How to get the look

Renovations were done by HGM Builders; architecture design and implementation by; plasterboard walls all painted in Resene ‘White’; downstairs timber flooring existing; upstairs carpet from Cavalier Bremworth; bar stools from Freedom; bar and TV shelf made from recycled blackwood timber and brackets from Bunnings; sofa from Target; cushion covers made with fabric from Bolt of Cloth in Newmarket, others are from Spotlight; coffee table from Nood; side table is upcycled from Trade Me; ceiling fans from Lighting Plus; stairs in black-stained plywood with Cavalier Bremworth ‘Jermyn St’ wool carpet runner; components for stainless-steel tension-wire balustrade from Anzor, installed by Structural Rigging Solutions; louvres from Breezway; Ikea desk from My Flatpack; stool from Freedom; bedroom fan from Kmart; shelves made with materials from Bunnings; throw and fox cushion from Bed Bath ’n’ Table; bedside table and bed from Natural Beds and Furniture; bedroom shutters, kitchen cabinetry, under-stair storage and wardrobes all custom made by Fluid Interiors.

Words by: Kristina Rapley. Photography by: Wendy Fenwick.