House of the week: Easy-care Ponsonby apartment with views that wow gallery

JANE USSHER JANE USSHER JANE USSHER JANE USSHER JANE USSHER JANE USSHER Jane Ussher JANE USSHER JANE USSHER JANE USSHER JANE USSHER JANE USSHER JANE USSHER JANE USSHER JANE USSHER JANE USSHER JANE USSHER JANE USSHER

Looking east from Lindy and Colin Leuschke’s Ponsonby apartment towards Auckland’s Sky Tower.

In the living area is a Simon James couch, which has been with the couple in several homes, and a coffee table from Matisse; the Nick Radford rug is relatively new for them – about four years old.

Lindy enjoys cooking casual meals for family and friends in the new kitchen.

The acrylic and oil painting by New Zealand artist Jimmy James Kouratoras features pohutukawa and puriri moths; the Coconut chair is from Matisse and the Ann Robinson vase was a Mother’s Day gift from Lindy’s three sons about 30 years ago – so probably bought by Colin, she says, as the boys would have been very small then.

The Ligne Roset couch is from Domo and the side table is by Eero Saarinen

The kitchen is perfectly positioned to have light and sunshine most of the day and into the evening; the stools and Tom Dixon pendant are from ECC; the pottery vase on the bench was bought from New Vision Gallery 30 years ago.

The Leuschkes acquired the two paintings by Canadian artist Clemence Westcoupe when they lived in Canada, and they have hung in all of their homes since.

Five Len Castle pottery vessels stand out on white tiled walls in the master bathroom.

The two paintings in the guest bedroom are by Lindy and Colin’s middle son Tom; the stool at the end of the bed, with Polynesian motifs cut into the steel, was recently purchased from a pop-up store in Grey Lynn.

The master suite opens off the eastern end of the living area, the couple’s favourite morning corner.

The simple white colour scheme extends into the master bedroom, where a Flos lamp from ECC casts a welcoming pool of light.

Powder-coated aluminium screens were carefully designed for privacy from Ponsonby Road, but don’t block too much light.

The couple’s youngest son Luke was responsible for the three paintings of Mt Ruapehu in the study.

Guests can easily be accommodated on a fold-down sofa bed in the study, which has a lovely outlook to the west and collects the late afternoon sun.

A church spire intersects the view; the made-to-order round Corten steel pot is filled with herbs, flowers and other sun-loving plants.

The FHE gallery has recently moved into one of the shops at ground level next to the travel agency; bifold screens across the apartment windows on the upper levels can slide open if required.

Colin, Lindy and faithful companion Panda love the vibrancy of Ponsonby Road and start most days with a walk and a coffee at one of the many eateries along their route.

The huge, asymmetrical Corten steel pots on the terrace were designed by Colin and Lindy and made by Stainless Steel Welding; Lindy made origami models to work out the shape of the pots, which are developing a rusty appearance as they weather.

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Auckland architects Lindy and Colin Leuschke were looking to simplify their lives. Little did they know that "simple" would involve picking up someone else's abandoned project.

They'd been house hunting for a while, and when they saw a vacant corner site on Ponsonby Road, Auckland, they immediately liked its outlook and position. 

It turned out that the vendor already had a resource consent for retail and two levels of apartments but had been worn down by the consent process.

Lindy enjoys  cooking casual meals for family and friends in the new kitchen.
JANE USSHER

Lindy enjoys cooking casual meals for family and friends in the new kitchen.

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"We bought the empty site complete with plans that we could amend," says Lindy, "and these included space for a new apartment on the third floor." 

The kitchen is perfectly positioned to have light and sunshine most of the day and into the evening.
JANE USSHER

The kitchen is perfectly positioned to have light and sunshine most of the day and into the evening.

Having progressed through various family homes, both old and new, including a warehouse they renovated, the couple decided that with the children gone and a beach house beckoning most weekends, a lock-up-and-leave city apartment would be perfect.

"I love the vibrancy of Ponsonby Road. We had been in Parnell, but this area is much more quirky. When we are here, we try to walk everywhere. There are lots of restaurants and cafes, and it's lovely to go out in the evening, somewhere we can take Panda [their six-year-old Jack Russell], enjoy a glass of wine in the setting sun and walk home," says Lindy. 

"Because we had moved house several times, we'd already pared back. A lot had been given away to our kids and their friends – it's good to see things recirculating," she says.  

Guests can easily be accommodated on a fold-down sofa bed in the study, which has a lovely outlook to the west and ...
JANE USSHER

Guests can easily be accommodated on a fold-down sofa bed in the study, which has a lovely outlook to the west and collects the late afternoon sun.

"Since moving in a year ago, we have really discovered how happy we are with a smaller space and fewer possessions. Life is simpler and this apartment feels like a celebration of a simpler life," says Lindy.

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The apartment has a large kitchen, dining and living area, two bedrooms and a flexible space at one end of the living area that can be transformed into a third bedroom or study by pulling sliding doors across the extra-large opening. Two of Colin and Lindy's sons live in Auckland, and the third is in Vanuatu, so this arrangement means there's space if they want to stay. 

"We tend to go up north most weekends, and I love the contrast between weekend living and my city fix. In town, we get up most mornings at 6.30am to walk Panda. We step out onto the street door to cars, noise and asphalt. We have no lawns, garden or hedges. Instead, we have a huge view and we're really enjoying the connection with the city, the lights and the harbour. But we still get our garden therapy at our beach house."

The Ligne Roset couch is from Domo and the side table is by Eero Saarinen
JANE USSHER

The Ligne Roset couch is from Domo and the side table is by Eero Saarinen

You'd think that as architects Lindy and Colin would have preferred to start their new project from scratch, but they're happy with the end result.  

"The notified consent process had taken the previous owners a year and they were exhausted from it. We knew we needed to compromise and work with what was already approved externally or we would face the same problems they had experienced," says Lindy. "So we met with council planners and made a few amendments to the resource consent to reflect our personalities and preferences. We couldn't alter the footprint of the building or its shape so we worked within these parameters. We completely redesigned the interior planning." 

The resulting apartment is very long and fairly narrow – 22 x 4.8m – which was a challenge architecturally, so Lindy decided the best way to deal with the length was to embrace it. "We have played on the dimensions, exaggerating them. We made the living area, which runs the full length of the apartment, completely open plan. Floor boards run lengthways, recessed pelmets run along the full length of each side of the ceiling, and we designed an extra-long steel lighting channel over the kitchen island and dining table as well." 

Colin, Lindy and faithful companion Panda love the vibrancy of Ponsonby Road and start most days with a walk and a ...
JANE USSHER

Colin, Lindy and faithful companion Panda love the vibrancy of Ponsonby Road and start most days with a walk and a coffee at one of the many eateries along their route.

With floor to ceiling windows along one long wall of the apartment, they have fantastic views from the Sky Tower to the east, right around past the Chelsea Sugar Refinery in Birkenhead to the Waitakere Ranges, and, on a good day, as far as the Awhitu Peninsula – and sun pours in from morning to night. Because of the amazing outlook, Lindy says, they ended up dialling down the interior colours to let the view dominate. 

The apartment provides great people-watching opportunities, she says, but to protect their privacy, large bifolding screens cover the windows facing Ponsonby Road. "These are adjustable and easy to move and open, and because of their cut-out design, people on the street can't see in but from the apartment we can see out," she says.

"We made cut-out paper models and lived with them to make sure we got the right mix of open and solid elements in the pattern. Because they are made from aluminium, you only get one chance to get them right."

In the living area is a Simon James couch, which has been with the couple in several homes, and a coffee table from Matisse.
JANE USSHER

In the living area is a Simon James couch, which has been with the couple in several homes, and a coffee table from Matisse.

A large terrace opens off the living area, but as they are on the third floor on a windy ridge, they chose a solid concrete balustrade, with glass at one end, for protection from the elements. "We wanted a softer, greener look for the terrace than you might find in a classic apartment, so we covered it with artificial grass, and planted trees and shrubs in huge steel pots," says Lindy. 

So how do two architects manage the design process for their own home? Lindy says it's an art form they have developed over the years. "I mostly do residential architecture and Colin does commercial work, and a building like this is a mix of both. We are aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses and take them into account, and you have to be mature and professional and treat each other like another client."

Q&A:

The simple white colour scheme extends into the master bedroom, where a Flos lamp from ECC casts a welcoming pool of light.
JANE USSHER

The simple white colour scheme extends into the master bedroom, where a Flos lamp from ECC casts a welcoming pool of light.

The look we were after: Organic, rather than slick.

High point of the build: We knew the view would be pretty good, so when the floor was in place and we could actually see it for the first time, it was very exciting to realise just how fantastic it was.

Best money we spent: The timber floor from Brasell + Ojala, which has boards in different widths. Because the floor area is really big, using one material throughout makes the apartment feel even more spacious. The timber has texture and is a beautiful, soft honey colour and it looks old and scratched.

Most debated decision: The en suite was a really tricky shape because it sort of wraps around the lift and stairwell. Getting it to work and the logistics of fitting everything in took a huge amount of discussion.

Best design tip: Go to an architect. We don't get caught up in the detail until you get to the detail stage. We look at the broad picture, consider constraints, the exterior, council requirements, the sun, and then get into the interior planning. Often by then you realise you don't really need so much detail. There are always options.  

Lindy Leuschke 

 - NZ House & Garden

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