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Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS - In­ter­view/ Britt Mann

We bought this place five years ago. Be­cause they were coun­cil flats, they were the last, sort of, af­ford­able liv­ing. We did a pri­vate sale with this re­ally, re­ally awe­some man who had lived here for some­thing like 25 years. We found him on Trade Me. He said, ‘‘Come over for a cup of tea.’’ We went over, shook hands and an $800 lawyer fee later, we were in. “A young cou­ple like you should be able to af­ford your own home,’’ he said.

The flats are su­per no-frills, but they have ev­ery­thing. They’ve been built to last. You’ve got shared clothes­lines, shared rub­bish bins, com­post, re­cy­cling, stor­age. It’s sort of like a mod­ern com­mune.

The coun­cil flats are still on the bot­tom floor. The sec­ond and third floor, I think, are more owned. When you live in one of these sorts of build­ings, you’re just re­minded to say hello to your neigh­bour and gen­tly close the door be­cause you know the im­pact it has if you slam it. You know if you don’t put your re­cy­cling out or you put it in the wrong bins, some­one’s go­ing to have to go through that and do it for you.

Our build­ing is a great ex­am­ple of in­ner-city liv­ing, where you can have all dif­fer­ent walks of life and cul­tures and pay grades but there’s this real level of equal­ity. And that re­ally does make for quite a beau­ti­ful so­ci­ety.

Who­ever de­signed these flats back in the 1960s, late50s, did it in a way where you’ve got a lit­tle bit of light and a lit­tle bit of shade - ev­ery­thing we need. Be­fore we moved in we lifted the car­pet and sanded and pol­ished it, and put down big rugs. We put a lick of paint in the bath­room. Other than that, it just is what it is. You’ve still got the meat safe in the lit­tle kitchen.

If we’re home, we’re in this room. Ol­lie reads a lot and I do crafts; it’s where life is.

At home, it’s sort of his aes­thetic. His art ranges from any­thing from Vic­to­rian porn hand­ker­chiefs to big pieces he paints. The Mary has got a moko on her, which Ol­lie painted. The big art­works to the right are Ol­lie’s pieces. The Mediter­ranean rugs are both our tastes - we both draw from that sort of, Euro­pean style. There are a lot of rugs in our house.

There’s a mas­sive glass win­dow be­hind me that goes straight on to the street. We for­get peo­ple can ac­tu­ally see in. Free­mans Bay School is nearby, we get hun­dreds of kids walk­ing past, wav­ing ev­ery day. It’s such a nice thing.

Pho­to­graph/ Vic­to­ria Birkin­shaw

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