HOME Magazine NZ - - Contents - Text Margo White Pho­tog­ra­phy Sam Hart­nett Styling Cather­ine Wilkin­son

Cheshire’s mod­ernist apart­ment re­fit for Jeremy Hansen

“We liked the thought­ful plan­ning of the block and the Park as a whole – and the fact that it still con­tains so­cial hous­ing units...”

There was some­thing about the 72-square-me­tre apart­ment that, when he moved in two years ago, was mak­ing Jeremy Hansen claus­tro­pho­bic. The for­mer ed­i­tor of this mag­a­zine and cur­rent ed­i­tor of the Auck­land weekly, Paper­boy, had bought an apart­ment in one of Free­mans Bay’s ‘Star Flats’ – so named for the build­ings’ star-shaped plans – with his hus­band, lawyer Cameron Law. The cou­ple was used to apart­ment liv­ing, hav­ing spent the pre­vi­ous 10 years rent­ing in Courtville, a Euro­pean-style apart­ment block built in 1915 in cen­tral Auck­land. They were also used to small spa­ces, hav­ing lived in a 50-square-me­tre apart­ment be­fore up­siz­ing to 65 square me­tres. They liked Free­mans Park, which is of­ten cited as one of the most in­no­va­tive ex­am­ples of ur­ban de­vel­op­ment in New Zealand, a col­lec­tion of apart­ment blocks, maisonettes and court­yard houses set in park-like grounds on the fringes of Auck­land CBD. Built for the Auck­land City Coun­cil in the 1960s and now largely pri­va­tised, they are highly sought af­ter for their smart, com­pact plan­ning and prox­im­ity to the city. And yet... Hansen’s re­sponse could be de­scribed as an ex­is­ten­tial cri­sis. (Well, that’s how Law de­scribes it.) “I wanted to be a mod­ernist, but wor­ried I might have ac­ci­den­tally be­come a Vic­to­rian,” says Hansen, half jok­ingly. “We liked the thought­ful plan­ning of the block and the Park as a whole – and the fact that it still con­tains so­cial hous­ing units – but some un­sym­pa­thetic ren­o­va­tions had made the apart­ment harder to adore.” The prob­lem was that you walked through the front door and could see into every room – the hall­way had been re­moved, as well as the walls and door that sep­a­rated the kitchen from the liv­ing area. “I think this

had the in­ad­ver­tent re­sult of mak­ing a small space feel smaller rather than larger,” says Hansen. To cut a long story short, ac­cord­ing to Law: “Jeremy was hav­ing so much dif­fi­culty with the place that I sug­gested he get a book­shelf de­signed. Which ended up with the en­tire apart­ment be­ing ren­o­vated through some pretty spec­tac­u­lar mis­sion creep on his part.” The cou­ple ap­proached Nat Cheshire of Cheshire Ar­chi­tects, who won Home of the Year in 2014 for two cab­ins built in the Kaipara Har­bour, each of which has a foot­print of only 28 square me­tres. The ini­tial brief was... brief. “I said we needed a place to keep books,” says Hansen. “But some­thing to re-es­tab­lish a sense of en­try and some lay­er­ing, so that we didn’t feel as if we were liv­ing in one space all the time.” It was a small job, at least ini­tially. For Cheshire, that was part of the ap­peal. “We love small, brave projects – they are the vi­tal coun­ter­bal­ance to our big ur­ban work, and at least as im­por­tant,” he says. He brought in col­league Ian Scott, who has led most of the stu­dio’s re­cent apart­ment work, cre­at­ing un­usual and care­fully de­tailed spa­ces. Cheshire and Scott took a cue from the cou­ple’s fur­ni­ture: the ta­ble and chairs that had be­longed to Hansen’s grand­par­ents, the ra­dio­gram that had be­longed to Law’s grand­par­ents, the vin­tage cab­i­net Hansen had bought when he was liv­ing in Hong Kong. “We’re wanna-be min­i­mal­ists but we hadn’t quite achieved it,” says Hansen. “Part of our brief was that we wanted a very still, calm space, but it was fairly ob­vi­ous that we were go­ing to keep th­ese pieces of fur­ni­ture, that they were a part of our lives – they were an un­con­scious part of the brief, I sup­pose. So Nat sug­gested cre­at­ing a sense of place with a set of three

cab­i­netry units that would re­sem­ble mid-cen­tury cre­den­zas. We wanted an idea that felt like there was a ra­tio­nale be­hind it, and one that was con­sis­tent with the mod­ernist ori­gins of the build­ing.” “For us that meant an in­her­ited palette of rich tim­ber ve­neers,” says Cheshire, “a re­duc­tive ap­proach to de­tail, and the idea that a kitchen might be a col­lec­tion of fur­ni­ture rather than a ho­mogenised bit of con­struc­tion.” The u-shaped kitchen – a “not very cheer­ful early-2000s ad­di­tion”, says Hansen – has been re­placed with a gal­ley-shaped kitchen, al­low­ing Law and Hansen to be in the kitchen at the same time with­out crash­ing into each other. Ev­ery­thing – range­hood, dish­washer, fridge, ap­pli­ances – is now tucked be­neath and be­hind wal­nut benches and cab­i­netry. The cab­i­netry and shelv­ing in the kitchen is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the book­case and cre­denza in the liv­ing room, cre­at­ing a sense of con­nec­tion through the liv­ing spa­ces. “We rein­tro­duced a frag­ment of the lost hall­way wall,” says Cheshire, “off­set slightly from its orig­i­nal po­si­tion and an­chor­ing the din­ing ta­ble along­side. This al­lowed us to ‘thread’ the shelves be­tween liv­ing room and front door, of­fer­ing the li­brary on one side and a civilised sense of ar­rival on the other.” The bath­room, in a ne­glected state when the cou­ple moved in, is now a world of its own. They thought Cheshire might find a way to bring light into the in­ter­nal space, but he sug­gested they shut it out al­to­gether, and use roasted-oak pan­el­ing on the walls and ceil­ing. The dark wood is com­ple­mented by mar­ble tiles and brass fit­tings, in­clud­ing a cus­tom-de­signed

brass sink. “Nat pitched the idea of sanc­tu­ary that was com­pletely dif­fer­ent to the rest of the apart­ment, so you come in and close the door, and it’s like this lovely re­treat,” says Hansen. Law took some per­sua­sion. “Yes, I was the last per­son over the line on that one. Now I think of it as this hid­den jewel. You en­ter this aus­tere mod­ernist build­ing, then you’re sur­prised that there’s an el­e­gant apart­ment with its calm and beau­ti­ful liv­ing area in­side, but then there’s this crazy sur­prise of one more layer, with a to­tally un­ex­pected charred oak and brass bath­room.” Af­ter 11 years edit­ing HOME mag­a­zine, this was the first time Hansen has ex­pe­ri­enced ar­chi­tec­ture as “a client rather than a voyeur,” he says. “Many peo­ple said to me ‘you must know ex­actly what you want’ but, no, I didn’t. There are so many things that would never have oc­curred to us, that are joy­ful on a daily ba­sis. It did re­mind me that there’s enor­mous value in find­ing a de­signer, or stu­dio, who un­der­stands where you’re com­ing from and takes you to a place you didn’t en­vi­sion.” Law, a more re­cent con­vert, agrees: “Nat and Ian have com­pletely trans­formed how this place feels. I love liv­ing in a small space – large houses of­ten feel flabby to me now – but it does re­ally help to have a well-thought-out space. For a small space you need to have one good big idea, one that or­gan­ises the en­vi­ron­ment in a way that feels calm. I think that it’s prob­a­bly more im­por­tant to get ar­chi­tec­tural in­put in a small space, be­cause you can’t af­ford mis­takes or waste.”

Bot­tom The bath­room walls and ceil­ing are lined in roasted-oak boards from B&O Casa. The mar­ble floor and shower tiles are from Arte­do­mus.

Right Cheshire Ar­chi­tects cus­tomde­signed the brass sink in the bath­room. The tap­ware is by Arne Ja­cob­sen for Vola from Metrix. Be­low New wardrobes in both bed­rooms fea­ture white lac­quer doors with a wal­nut trim, fab­ri­cated by Es­sex Cab­i­net­mak­ers. The...

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