A grand apartment in central Wellington is furnished with current, and up-and-coming, collectable classics
Wellington apartment has nailed future-proof decorating
There’s nothing like moving house for putting your priorities in order. Do you really need all those cushions you’ve accumulated, and is it worth carting the couch to a new location? Will your beloved bedspreads suit the new colour scheme and should you bring that bone china dinner set you never unpacked after you last moved homes?
For the couple who boxed up their belongings from a large family home in the hills of Wellington and moved into this two-storey apartment in the centre of the city (while their architect drew up plans for a more permanent residence in Queenstown), the deliberation was over how long their furniture would last in two distinctly different properties, and beyond.
They decided to call on their longtime interior designer, Fiona Wilson of Fibonacci Interior Design, to help determine which special pieces to keep and what new classics to start collecting. “In essence, the brief required me to design a furniture and decor scheme that embodied longevity and flexibility, rather than one dictated by the aesthetic of the temporary apartment,” says Fiona. “The apartment contains a number of pieces of furniture that are ultimately destined for the Queenstown house, which will be a relaxed, restful retreat, so I think this has softened the city look.”
The residents are a busy couple with a close family of adult children who no longer live at home. They are superb cooks with a wide circle of business associates, clients and friends whom they frequently entertain at the apartment. “They like their guests to feel relaxed so we have deliberately tried to avoid becoming too precious or pretentious with the interior,” Fiona explains.
The first floor is set up for visitors with the kitchen, dining and media rooms, a large living area split into two zones, two guest bedrooms and the necessary amenities. A glass balcony off the dining space allows unobstructed views over the city and harbour.
The top storey contains the master bedroom, complete with walk-in wardrobe, ensuite and a rooftop garden – a perfectly private place to watch the ever-changing moods of sea and sky. “We love all the living spaces but we find it very special to sit on the rooftop terrace in the sun with a good book, or as the sun goes down, with a drink in hand,” say the couple.
As it is a rental there are elements of the decor that cannot change. The challenge was to create an interior scheme around the existing kitchen, bathrooms, flooring and lighting, although Fiona was lucky to have some help. “The owners of the apartment were incredibly accommodating and gave us permission to change a pair of feature pendant lights [to Graypants, found at ECC] in the main living space to suit our proposed furniture scheme, and invited our input into the colours of the fresh paint job prior to moving in.”
The resulting warm white ‘Inherent’ from Aalto Paint, and the slightly darker ‘Pause’ by the fireplace, meant the apartment was a clean, but inviting, slate when it came to decorating. Restful, earthy tones were chosen for all the large-format seating pieces and brighter colour accents were judiciously introduced to selected areas through artwork, cushions and other decor accessories.
“My clients are interested in good design and have a great eye – they didn’t want anything trendy or cookie-cutter,” says the interior designer. “It was important to them that I retained the essence of their personality and history when injecting some stunning new international furniture pieces into the interior.”
Hero furniture pieces include timelessly chic Scandinavian items as well as contemporary European designs, requiring Fiona to marry two different looks. An original Fritz Hansen Egg chair and stool in dark blue wool – cleverly spotted on Trade Me some years ago – found a home at one end of the large living area, in a cosy fireplace nook. They sit beside a teal Beetle lounge chair from Gubi and a pair of glass Bell tables by German designer Sebastian Herkner for ClassiCon that reflect the fire most sumptuously. “I think we’ve managed to incorporate something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue into the scheme!” says Fiona.
At the opposite end of the sprawling room, a modular Tufty-Time sofa by Patricia Urquiola for B&B Italia captures year-round sun and has a lighter, more summery feel – ideal for pre-show drinks with the city lights behind. The carpet, in dark grey with a hint of violet base, is given personality through new accent colours of pink, cranberry, salmon and amber, including the botanical digital-print cushions from Moroso, ordered through Matisse – “Artworks in their own right, they add so much more to the scheme than the average cushion,” says Fiona.
Fine artworks from the clients’ previous home were instrumental in creating the colour palettes for each room, including a hot pink, orange, black and copper Max Gimblett piece in the dining room, and a black and bright blue painting by friend and Arrowtown artist Jenny Mehrtens in the media room.
In a former industrial building, the architecturally converted apartment retains character from its previous life in the form of the timber ceiling detail and generous footprint. “A vaulted ceiling magnifies the sense of spaciousness, and wood always adds warmth and personality to a space,” Fiona explains.
However, its lofty position was not all positive. “Speaking from both personal and professional experience, when you’re living up high in an inner-city apartment, there’s not the same intimate connection with nature that you have in a single- or two-storey house, even if you can see it from afar,” says Fiona. She brought greenery into the interior with flowers, plants, botanical prints and the use of the colour green where possible.
In a space with such a high stud, ambience and intimacy are created at eye level with the use of decorative lamps, such as the Japanese-inspired table lamp from the Rituals series by Foscarini in the living room and Dinosaur Designs vases and dishes throughout. Both the clients and their interior designer pick up items on their travels, so the apartment also contains pieces by Alessi, Skultuna and Iittala, which have been purchased in Italy, Sweden and Finland respectively.
For storage, Swiss company USM, found at ECC, is often Fiona’s solution. The modular storage units can be customised in a wide range of panel sizes. Here they are completed with a chrome framework finish. The pieces from the original home, credenzas, media units and bedside tables, were broken down and reconstructed to suit the new spatial layout.
Being able to reconfigure instrumental pieces has been key to successfully transporting, and transforming, the clients’ homeware for this new stage of their lives – and the next. But for now, they say they are happy to stay put. “We love living here and are delighted with the end result that has absolutely made the most of a wonderful apartment.”
Words by: Jessica-Belle Greer. Photography by: Helen Bankers.