A con­verted his­toric build­ing in Auck­land’s cen­tral city houses a mag­i­cal home filled with an ar­ray of lush trop­i­cal plants – as well as one very stylish cou­ple

Your Home and Garden - - Front Page - Text and styling by Tina Stephen. Pho­tog­ra­phy by He­len Bankers.

Be­hind an over­sized oak door flanked by gar­goyles and lion stat­ues lies an un­ex­pected sanc­tu­ary. A short climb up the stairs to Ron Goh and Matthew O’Brien’s apart­ment re­veals high ceil­ings, glow­ing floor­boards and up-close views of a city sky­line rem­i­nis­cent of a New York loft apart­ment.

How­ever, it’s Auck­land’s tower blocks, of­fices and cranes that crowd the hori­zon, rather than the Lower East Side’s. The apart­ment is lo­cated in the CBD’s Vic­to­ria Precinct, a far cry from the cou­ple’s previous home in the Auck­land re­gion’s south­ern­most town­ship.

“We were liv­ing in Pukekohe for three years while work­ing full-time in the city,” re­mem­bers Ron. “The long com­mute was ex­haust­ing so we de­cided to search for a house closer to the city cen­tre, but were blown away by the prices com­pared to what we had fur­ther out. Af­ter turn­ing up to a few auc­tions, we de­cided to fo­cus on a search for an apart­ment in­stead, which led us to this beau­ti­ful gem.”

Back blocks to in­ner city

Ron and Matthew’s new neigh­bour­hood en­ables this cou­ple to en­joy an easy-to-love life­style that keeps them close to work with­out com­pro­mis­ing on style. Un­like many cook­iecut­ter apart­ments in the city, their new home pro­vides an ideal back­drop to their lives.

“It’s the per­fect lo­ca­tion, be­ing so close to the city, but it’s still so quiet most of the time,” says Ron. “We are near lots of nice eater­ies, restau­rants, cafes and gyms. We’re within walk­ing dis­tance of any­where we’d like to go. We en­joy tak­ing the dogs for walks to Pon­sonby Road, Vic­to­ria Park or even the wa­ter­front and Silo Park. They are all just a stroll away, which is like liv­ing the dream com­pared to where we were be­fore. This is the best lo­ca­tion we could ever ask for.”

Outer space

The her­itage-listed apart­ment fea­tures an orig­i­nal brick fa­cade that is in stark con­trast with nearby of­fice build­ings and newly com­pleted apart­ment blocks. A can­tilevered deck on the north side of Ron and Matthew’s liv­ing space is ac­cessed via dou­ble French doors, cre­at­ing a per­fect out­door space for tak­ing in the view or en­ter­tain­ing friends.

“The first year we lived here we hosted a cosy New Year’s Eve party for some of our clos­est friends,” says Ron. “We’ve got these great views of the Sky Tower, and it was fan­tas­tic to spend the evening with peo­ple who in previous years might not have been able to make it be­cause we used to live so far from the city. This time, be­ing right in the mid­dle of it meant we could have peo­ple over with no wor­ries. It was a very cool evening.”

Ron’s plant tips

> Know the light and dark spots of your place. Is it fil­tered or di­rect light? For how many hours a day? Dif­fer­ent plants do bet­ter with dif­fer­ent types and lengths of sun­light ex­po­sure. Read the lit­tle cards that come with the plants – they are ac­tu­ally re­ally im­por­tant!

> Un­less you know your plants like it, keep them out of di­rect sun­light. Most in­door plants only like fil­tered sun. Strong light can burn the leaves, es­pe­cially new growth.

> When the air is dry dur­ing win­ter, mist­ing is im­por­tant. Hu­mid­ity is an­other vari­able which changes through­out the year, and can ei­ther help or harm your plants. Make sure you take note of what con­di­tions your plant en­joys. If it needs a more hu­mid en­vi­ron­ment, fill the saucer un­der­neath the pot with peb­bles, top it up with wa­ter and then place the pot back on top. Rinse and change the wa­ter of­ten.

> Don’t over­wa­ter your plants. I only wa­ter my plants once a week un­less it’s hot and dry. Keep the pot­ting mix moist but not wet. Again, dif­fer­ent plants like dif­fer­ent amounts of wa­ter – read up! Some plants en­joy fre­quent wa­ter­ing but hate wet roots. En­sure wa­ter can drain out of the pots. > Dust your plants ev­ery one or two months, or when you no­tice the leaves aren’t glossy. Dust will block the sun­light and slow down pho­to­syn­the­sis. Plants also don’t look healthy or cared for if they’re grubby. Leaf shine spray is a good in­vest­ment if you want them look­ing great.

> Try to keep your plants out of reach of kids. This lim­its dam­age, of course, but the most im­por­tant thing to be aware of is that many house plants are poi­sonous. Look it up if you’re un­sure.

Ur­ban jun­gle

Even with all the es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ents for a breath­tak­ing space – huge win­dows, white­washed walls and vis­tas of the Sky Tower and Waitem­ata Har­bour – this home has been taken to the next level thanks to Ron and Matthew’s im­pec­ca­ble taste in fur­ni­ture and home­ware.

How­ever, it’s the cou­ple’s beau­ti­ful fo­liage plants that are the star of the show and lush green growth has all but taken over the liv­ing space. Clus­tered in var­i­ous pots on ev­ery avail­able table­top, ledge and inch of floor space, these spec­i­mens seem so at home that it would be easy to be­lieve they’ve al­ways been here. Ron has cre­ated a lush, con­ser­va­tory-style space en­hanced by soft, fil­tered light from the north­ern win­dows.

“I wasn’t re­ally a plant lover be­fore we started liv­ing in this house two years ago,” he says. “Over time, and af­ter many vis­its to var­i­ous plant stores, watch­ing trends (some quite ad­ven­tur­ous) build and grow on­line re­ally ig­nited a pas­sion in me.”

Potty for plants

Now a self-con­fessed “crazy plant per­son”, Ron has amassed a strong fol­low­ing on so­cial me­dia thanks to his bur­geon­ing plant col­lec­tion and pen­chant for styling. It is a love af­fair that started with the pur­chase of a sin­gle plant, which in­ter­est­ingly is of­ten the first one guests com­ment on.

“I don’t think I’d im­pulse-buy a mas­sive plant from Trade Me again, think­ing I could get it into my car when in re­al­ity it was way too big and messy to move on my own!” Ron laughs. “Once I got it home, I had to spend hours in the garage hack­ing it to pieces to get it up the stairs.”

This spec­tac­u­lar, and now big­ger than ever, bird of par­adise plant takes pride of place be­tween the two sets of French doors.

Branch­ing out

Ron now prop­a­gates his own plants and has even be­gun sell­ing smaller ones via his In­sta­gram store, Mr Home­body. He also has a pen­chant for vin­tage cane fur­ni­ture and chairs, so these items also make an ap­pear­ance in the store as the apart­ment be­comes over­crowded with finds.

Be­ing re­source­ful comes nat­u­rally to Ron and Matthew – the cou­ple also wel­come Airbnb guests to stay in their spare bed­room on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. And they love shar­ing their lit­tle ur­ban jun­gle with oth­ers.

“Look­ing out at the cityscape sur­rounded by lots of plants is very spe­cial,” says Ron. “It’s a sat­is­fy­ing con­trast: liv­ing in the city but in a home filled with lots of green­ery. I feel re­laxed and ‘homey’ ev­ery time I’m sit­ting on our couch drink­ing cof­fee or wine. I feel so grate­ful for it.”

A home to love

The apart­ment was ren­o­vated prior to Ron and Matthew’s pur­chase, so there is lit­tle left for them to do, apart from a plan to make the out­door ter­race a more func­tional space in the sum­mer. But it al­ready feels so com­plete and it’s easy to fall in love with this home’s ef­fort­less style and his­toric char­ac­ter.

“There are so many things to love about our place,” says Ron. “At nearly 100 years old, our build­ing still re­tains a lot of its orig­i­nal charm. I love the high ceil­ings and all the de­tails from its fac­tory her­itage – ex­posed bricks and beams and the oil-stained floor­boards re­ally give it unique char­ac­ter. The fil­tered light comes from all direc­tions, and the glass lets in sun from dawn to dusk.”


LIV­ING A large flokati-style rug helps to de­fine the space in Ron and Matthew’s liv­ing area, and pat­terned cush­ions add colour and in­ter­est.

Hang over­sized rice-pa­per light­shades as a sculp­tural el­e­ment, and ar­range fairy lights in the cen­tre to cre­ate a soft glow.yhg

Anja chair,$1499, from A&CHome­store.GET THE LOOK Manzil cush­ion cover,$44.99, from Trade Aid. Roger stool, $399.99, from A&C Home­store.

> Find the things you love from this home on page 160.

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