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.