This loft in an old Welling­ton fac­tory is a per­fect empty nest


He­len and stephen revill loved their com­fort­able fam­ily home with its quar­ter-acre gar­den and beau­ti­ful vista. But that was then. Now, they adore their twobed­room, three-storey cen­tral Welling­ton apart­ment. “The Karori house was a mag­i­cal house with the most won­der­ful se­cret gar­den. I gar­dened every inch of it over and over again and I knew where every plant and bulb grew,” says He­len. “I loved that house to bits but the most re­mark­able thing is that, while I re­mem­ber it fondly, I don’t miss it a bit.

“I some­times have to re­mind my­self we live in an apart­ment. It doesn’t feel like an apart­ment up here. It’s quite a sur­pris­ing space to find in the city.”

This sur­pris­ing space i n the old Han­nahs fac­tory has as many sto­ries as it has storeys. He­len’s the first to say the im­pos­ing brick building that bi­sects Leeds Street looks like “a dark, sa­tanic mill” from the out­side. But inside, the mood is light, warm and wel­com­ing.

With its ex­posed brick walls, steel brac­ing and steel win­dow frames, brawny tim­ber beams and tim­ber floors, the building has been up­dated with plenty of its early 20th century in­dus­trial her­itage left in­tact. >

The cou­ple can thank the “two Ians” for that: the late Welling­ton ar­chi­tect Sir Ian Ath­field, and prop­erty de­vel­oper Ian Cas­sels. When the de­vel­op­ment fin­ished in the late 1990s, to­gether they had re­vamped the build­ings into apart­ments, of­fices and shops. That al­lowed hun­dreds more peo­ple to live and work in what’s known as “the Han­nahs Block”, skirted by Eg­mont, Dixon, Cuba and Ghuznee Streets, and turned the page on at least another century of life for the four build­ings as­so­ci­ated with Han­nahs footwear com­pany.

He­len – a pri­mary school teacher at Queen Mar­garet Col­lege – and lawyer Stephen moved in six years ago, 15 years after the project’s com­ple­tion. “The apart­ment needed things do­ing to it after that time but it had been very well main­tained. We put in a new kitchen, painted ev­ery­thing Re­sene ‘Alabaster’ and changed some of the light fit­tings, but aside from that we didn’t need to do any­thing,” says He­len.

“These apart­ments are very, very well de­signed. I don’t think they’d de­velop apart­ments like this today. There are 24 apart­ments in this block and each one is in­di­vid­u­ally con­fig­ured. They’re all dif­fer­ent. I have a sink in my but­ler’s pantry – no one else has that. Now they’d do them all the same. It’s cheaper.”

London-born He­len met Syd­ney-na­tive Stephen in Aus­tralia, and they lived in their Karori fam­ily home from the time they ar­rived in Welling­ton in the early 80s. After the chil­dren flew the nest, they down­sized – but, says He­len, they didn’t want some­where ho­mo­ge­neous that would be too much like liv­ing in a ho­tel. >

The Revills’ apart­ment is noth­ing like a ho­tel. It’s spread over the building’s top three storeys: two bed­rooms on the third floor, an ex­pan­sive open-plan liv­ing area with a 7m-high stud on the fourth floor, and a mez­za­nine office/third bed­room on the fifth. A sunny bal­cony off that of­fers a breath of gar­den.

Now that son Tom (29, a Syd­ney-based vis­ual ef­fects specialist) and daugh­ter Lucy (26, a Welling­ton lawyer) have left home, that’s all they need.

“The funny thing is, at 190sqm, the apart­ment is ex­actly the same size as our house but it feels so dif­fer­ent,” says He­len. “Our things fit in this apart­ment so well but they look very dif­fer­ent here. It’s like they’ve taken on a new life.”

He­len bought a few things for the apart­ment – a 2.1m showstopping mir­ror that max­imises that high stud, for one – but wasn’t about to run out for all-new fur­ni­ture she thought would suit bet­ter. And good job, too: the Revills’ “bits and pieces” col­lected over three decades of mar­ried life work per­fectly in a mod­ernised building ap­proach­ing its cen­ten­nial.

“I think be­cause they are all things we love, some­how they all fit to­gether. I think about my dec­o­rat­ing style as if we’ve thrown ev­ery­thing up in the air – whoosh! – and it’s all sit­ting where it’s landed. For me, what I’ve done in the apart­ment isn’t about in­te­rior dec­o­rat­ing. It’s big­ger than that. It’s about putting a beau­ti­ful space to­gether. >

“Some of that’s to do with me, and some of that’s to do with the space. It is a beau­ti­ful space and that goes back to Sir Ian Ath­field, and even fur­ther back to the building’s fac­tory ori­gins.”

He­len’s in­ter­est in the vis­ual arts is re­flected in the pieces that stud the walls: some se­ri­ously notable New Zealand artists are rep­re­sented. The apart­ment’s high ceil­ings al­low the art to be dis­played and ap­pre­ci­ated gallery style.

“I en­joy think­ing these are lovely things my chil­dren will grow up with and even­tu­ally have. For them, the things will be a con­nec­tion to another time and place. My mother died when I was young, so I think the con­nec­tion from child­hood to adult­hood is a re­ally strong driv­ing force in me. It’s why it’s re­ally im­por­tant for me to cre­ate a warm, wel­com­ing home.”

That’s not to say the Revills won’t move again. “I don’t want to say we’ll go when the wind changes, like Mary Pop­pins, but I don’t think that you need to stay any­where for­ever any more. The won­der­ful thing about this apart­ment is there are so many op­tions. But while we have it, we ab­so­lutely love it.”

THIS PAGE The most sig­nif­i­cant piece in the art-lined liv­ing room is the An­ton Par­sons num­bered sculp­ture (which some visi­tors in­ad­ver­tently hang coats or put drinks on): “It’s all about the 1980s, which was when ev­ery­thing big hap­pened for us: we...

THIS PAGE (clock­wise from top left) The guest bed­room has a blue and white theme with an­tique plates and planters: “I think it looks like a Dutch still life,” says He­len. The bath­room mir­ror is Vic­to­rian cut glass. He­len and Stephen’s bed­room has a...

THIS PAGE (from top) Ac­cess to the apart­ment is via an old, noisy but seem­ingly re­li­able lift. He­len and Timmy take a stroll down the Leeds Street laneway, surely one of Welling­ton’s coolest neigh­bour­hoods to shop, eat and drink, es­pe­cially now it’s...

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