A glam apart­ment do-up for a cou­ple of con­firmed city dwellers.

A cou­ple with apart­ments in the same build­ing move in to­gether and a glam ren­o­va­tion makes it just right for two


Damien Hi­quet and Claire Zhou could think of noth­ing worse than spend­ing a week­end weed­ing a gar­den. Own­ing the clas­sic Kiwi dream – a quar­ter-acre sec­tion with a picket fence and a car parked in the garage – has no ap­peal for these apart­ment dwellers.

The Metropo­lis build­ing in Auck­land’s CBD has been Claire’s home for 17 years, Damien’s for 10. “I like that we don’t have to mow the lawns or put out the rub­bish,” says Bel­gium-born Damien. Claire, who grew up in apart­ments in Shang­hai, did once spend four years in a house in the sub­urbs. “I found it so de­press­ing,” she says. “If we weren’t liv­ing here, there’d be a much greater house­work load and we would hardly see any­one.”

Apart­ment life makes so­cial­is­ing easy for the pair, who reg­u­larly pop over to friends’ apart­ments for a drink or meet up with them at the spa pool in the health and fit­ness cen­tre. In fact, it was be­cause of the apart­ment com­plex that Claire and Damien first met – at a body cor­po­rate meet­ing.

When they de­cided to move in to­gether, they chose Damien’s 52sqm apart­ment as their home. Al­though Claire was liv­ing in a big­ger apart­ment, Damien con­vinced her they didn’t need that much space. Be­sides, they wanted to ren­o­vate and that would be cheaper in a smaller apart­ment.

“We didn’t like the stan­dard lay­out and thought we could do bet­ter,” says Claire. “We wanted the spirit of the ar­chi­tec­ture to be main­tained in the de­sign. It’s a good-look­ing build­ing from the out­side, so we didn’t want peo­ple to be dis­ap­pointed about how it looks from the in­side.”

In­te­rior de­signer Su­san Lands of Strat­ford In­te­rior De­sign rec­om­mended they re­design the en­tire floor plan, so they ripped ev­ery­thing out and started from scratch. Orig­i­nally two bed­rooms, one bath­room and a study had been squeezed into the com­pact foot­print but the new lay­out cre­ated a far more gra­cious one-bed­room apart­ment. The cou­ple re­alised they didn’t need a big bath­room, thanks to the build­ing’s spa fa­cil­i­ties. Down­siz­ing the bath­room meant gain­ing a win­dow in the kitchen area and the ex­tra light has made a huge dif­fer­ence. >

To add to the spa­cious feel, they raised the ceil­ing height by a me­tre. The cav­ity between each floor that holds pipes and air­con­di­tion­ing made this a chal­lenge, but the re­sult was a gamechanger. “It’s amaz­ing how much big­ger the place feels with just an ex­tra bit of ceil­ing height,” says Damien.

If ideas were flow­ing fast, the ren­o­va­tion cer­tainly wasn’t. Progress on the build­ing work was hin­dered by the dif­fi­cul­ties of work­ing in a multi-storey block. “In a stan­dard house, the builders could keep all their equip­ment right out­side. Here, they had to store it in the base­ment,” says Damien.

With only one busy ser­vice lift up to their floor, the trades­men would some­times have to wait up to 25 min­utes to use it. The builders later cal­cu­lated that mov­ing equip­ment and ma­te­ri­als took up a third of their time. Cramped spa­ces and the need to be con­sid­er­ate to­wards neigh­bours also slowed things down.

Al­though they’d been look­ing for­ward to be­ing in their new space by Christ­mas 2016, it wasn’t un­til the fol­low­ing April that Damien and Claire fi­nally spent their first night in their fin­ished apart­ment – on a mat­tress on the bed­room floor.

Damian and Claire tried to stay true to the Man­hat­tan vibe of their New York-style build­ing with large win­dows, an open-plan lay­out and a mix of metal and mar­ble.

With in­te­rior de­signer Su­san’s help they added a touch of Parisian chic with a neu­tral colour pal­ette and a mix of tex­tured and re­fined sur­faces, as well as chi­nois­erie ac­cents.

“The decor re­flects both our cul­tures,” says Claire.

If you ask Damien about the best part of the ren­o­va­tion, he’ll say, “The end,” firmly. But for Claire, it was the last month that was ex­cit­ing. “You fi­nally see ev­ery­thing go into the space and the re­lief when, yes, it’s ex­actly how you imag­ined it.”

THESE PAGES Damien Hi­quet and Claire Zhou wanted the kitchen in their Auck­land apart­ment to blend in: “It al­most looks like a piece of fur­ni­ture,” says Claire; the cou­ple do most of their liv­ing in this area, so didn’t want it to feel like they’re al­ways in a kitchen; the cab­i­netry was made by Jor­dan & Brooks in One­hunga; the blue booth seat was de­signer Su­san Lands’ idea and quickly be­came the cou­ple’s favourite spot; a Vene­tian glass chan­de­lier hangs above it.

THIS PAGE (from top) Claire, a fi­nan­cial ad­viser, loves the apart­ment’s cen­tral lo­ca­tion and hav­ing ex­cel­lent restau­rants nearby: “Ev­ery­thing is within walk­ing dis­tance.” Damien, who works for Air New Zealand, sits at the kauri ta­ble made by Karin Ve­na­tor from Kauri Vault.RIGHT The kitchen splash­back is an­tique-look mir­rored glass from Image Glass and the mar­ble sur­round for the kitchen is washed by small LED lights from the floor; The Vi­sion of the Le­vi­tat­ing Lamb (With Tether) is a trip­tych by Alan Ibell.

THIS PAGE By re­mov­ing the bath, the cou­ple were able to create a lux­u­ri­ous bath­room, with an Ital­ian gold-leaf basin and a van­ity with smoked glass doors; the ex­tra large mar­ble-look tiles came from SCE Stone & De­sign. OPPOSITE The cou­ple wanted a peace­ful, re­laxed bed­room: “We don’t re­ally hear the street noise,” says Damien; slid­ing shut­ters create a lighter look, but still of­fer plenty of pri­vacy; the wall­pa­per is by Nina Camp­bell.

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