My favourite space: Tiny Auckland living room channels style and maximises space

Barbara loves horizontal and vertical lines, as seen in the venetian blinds in the living area and the metal cage stools ...
JANE USSHER

Barbara loves horizontal and vertical lines, as seen in the venetian blinds in the living area and the metal cage stools from Freedom Furniture.

Barbara Drake happily describes herself as a magpie, drawn to collecting things shiny and metallic.

But how on earth can you be a collector when you live in a 40sqm apartment? Barbara explains that she's not a hoarder (although she has a marvellous assemblage of hats).

She trawls thrift stores and demolition yards with intent; the things she brought home to her tiny apartment in New Lynn's Merchant Quarter had to fulfil a purpose.

The Northumbrian-born production designer, who also works in interior and landscape design, has had an appreciation for recycling since she was a child going to "jumblies" - English village jumble sales.

READ MORE:
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*My favourite space: A Kiwi's California living room
*My favourite space: Small Auckland living room just the right size 

 
The dining table is made from an iron frame Barbara found in New Orleans and used on a film set.
JANE USSHER

The dining table is made from an iron frame Barbara found in New Orleans and used on a film set.

She moved on to flea markets in Europe and the US and now charity and secondhand shops in New Zealand, where she's lived for the past few years.

Concerned by the growth of sprawling suburbs connected by motorways - first in Los Angeles ad then in Auckland - she wanted to live in an urban centre with good public transport, apartments, shops and cafes and a real communal focus.

She finally found all that in New Lynn, on the cusp of Auckland's west. When she discovered a 10-storey apartment complex was going up, only a minute's walk from the bus and train station, she wanted to be a part of it.

The magenta chair was a $20 thrift shop bargain that Barbara re-covered.
JANE USSHER

The magenta chair was a $20 thrift shop bargain that Barbara re-covered.

As soon as she moved into the brand new apartment, Barbara set about making her mark. Her vibrant, eclectic living area - encompassing the kitchen, dining and living room - is a testament to what can be created out of a small space.

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What were the main changes you made to the living area? I replaced sliding doors between the living area and the bedroom with a solid wall and ripped up vinyl and carpet and laid down sustainable bamboo flooring. The building's external struts and dotted window decals are a sunshine yellow, which I echoed indoors with cushions and perfectly matched paint.

What are the key features of this space? The dining table is made from an iron frame I found in New Orleans and used on a film set; the pressed tin mirror frame and metal side table were found in California desert thrift shops. I had the leather chaise longue, which doubles as a sofa bed, made in Los Angeles based on a 1920s design. The magenta armchair was a $20 thrift-shop bargain that I re-covered.

Barbara loves the lines on the vintage soda bottle, glass bottle and Moroccan black and white vase.
JANE USSHER

Barbara loves the lines on the vintage soda bottle, glass bottle and Moroccan black and white vase.

How would you describe your decorating style? I don't think I have one, but people recognise my work. Each space has its own soul and energy and I try to draw that out. But I often work with simple geometric patterns - diamonds and triangles, black and white, horizontal and vertical lines - seen in the venetian blinds and and metal cage stools.

How did you incorporate a workspace into your living area? I spotted an old school desk in an Auckland second-hand shop and had to have it. I removed the legs, painted the desk with black lacquer and screwed it to the wall in the living room to create a compact but completely functional working space.

How did you create a sense of light and space in a small area? Even in such a small space with only a window at one end, albeit a large one, I felt I needed to create distinctive areas - kitchen, living and dining. You have to figure out how to get light to travel right through - I used furniture that you can see through and reflective surfaces so light bounces off them.

Cerise geraniums in an old metal vase; the black and white optical illusion on the wall was bought at a New York art gallery.
JANE USSHER

Cerise geraniums in an old metal vase; the black and white optical illusion on the wall was bought at a New York art gallery.

 

 - Stuff

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