A rich artistic history lives on in Deadly Ponies’ new-old space
Rather than make a modern shopfront out of a building that had been changed relentlessly over the years, the new Deadly Ponies store is more itself than it has been in decades. “The place had been changed so much over the years, just messed around with every time it was touched,” says Deadly Ponies managing director Steve Boyd, of the building in Ponsonby, Auckland.
The building – which started life as a sailors’ boarding house in the mid-19th century, with a predictable level of notoriety – has had various lives. It was most recently home to Sunbeam Glass Studios, owned by glass artist Gary Nash.
In the 1980s, Nash added a vast stables-like building out the back for his workshop, and converted the original building as a gallery for his and others’ work. Deadly Ponies, the luxury leather-goods brand, moved in four years ago, and eventually bought the entire site. “I think Gary had always envisaged that for us,” says creative director Liam Bowden.
“He saw what we did, and the link to art and craft. He wanted it to continue in that vein rather than have a developer turn it into apartments.”
The brand started work on the rear building, turning it into The Glassworks, a space designed for exhibitions and events (HOME held its Design Awards there last year) – with soaring white ceilings and nods to its industrial heritage. “We run it almost like a not-for-profit,” says Bowden, of the wonderfully idiosyncratic space. “We’d like people to come in who want to run an exhibition or theatre shows – things that are much more community driven.”
Earlier this year, they refitted the store to a design by Katie Lockhart. The brief? “Home,” says Boyd simply. Says Bowden: “That’s why we kept the fireplace and have elements that are warm and home-like – timber and curtains and so on.”
The walls are a soft white, the floors are oak and so are the built-in shelves, on which you’ll find art and ceramics along with leather goods and accessories. Lockhart also sourced antique Japanese display cases from Kyoto, which have a handmade, aged quality to them. “Previously, we’d placed a lot of emphasis on colour,” says Bowden. “This time it’s more about natural materials, warmth and a familiarity.”
In between the two buildings is a courtyard designed by Lockhart’s brother Jared – an oasis of natives mixed with annuals, among raw poured-concrete benches. It brings a sense of calm to a rather special corner of Ponsonby. “That’s where we see the value for the brand,” says Bowden. “Adding to the life of the site is really important for us.”
Photography by: David Straight.