Homestyle NZ

Classic with a twist
Interior designer Neil McLachlan has turned an apartment in Auckland's business heart into a showcase of pattern and texture.

words and styling: LeeAnn Yare
photography: Larnie Nicolson

When an interior designer turns his talents to his own home, magic happens. Neil McLachlan works in interiors for clients in both New Zealand and Australia, but he finds that creating gorgeous interiors for other people is simply not enough.

He's become a bit of a serial renovator, he says. "I'm always on the look-out for interesting property and projects; I just can't help myself."

This apartment is a city home for Neil and his partner Greg Mayor. The pair built what they describe as their "dream" home on Waiheke Island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf five years ago, giving them a lifestyle that takes advantage of both country and urban living.

"I've always loved either being right in town or right in the country. For us, our lifestyle is all about getting the right balance," says Neil.

Greg says he has little interest in renovating, but he's happy for Neil to regularly indulge his passion for do-ups and decorating.

The rooftop penthouse apartment is perched on top of a building adjacent to Aotea Square and the Town Hall, so from the lounge they have a clear view of Auckland's Sky Tower among the CBD buildings rising all around.

"Friends of ours live in the building and had mentioned this huge apartment on the roof which was more or less abandoned by its overseas owners," recalls Neil. "We managed to view it even though it wasn't officially on the market. It was immediately screaming 'potential, make me fabulous, I deserve it'!"

Ugly downlights, rotting drapes and depressing net curtains couldn't hide the fabulous features, including elegantly high ceilings, says Neil."But it was a fright. None of the three bathrooms had been touched since they were built."

The bones were good, but there were lots of odd angles and nooks meaning there was nothing for it but to gut the entire place, taking it right back to the concrete.

The main living area was oversized and a difficult shape to work with, but by projecting a new wall through from the kitchen which houses the fireplace, the space has been given a focus.

"We went mad with cornices and ceiling beams to add some real character and maximise the effect of the three-metre stud height.

"This was a huge job, but it really has transformed the apartment," says Neil.

A big fan of using timeless materials in sometimes unexpected combinations, Neil loves the contrast of stone and wool, mirror, leaf and rattan. Here marble floor tiles add to the classic panelling and ceilings, and bevelled mirror inserts have taken the flat, uninteresting walls to a whole new level.

Travel and experiencing global cultures and arts have the largest influence on Neil and Greg's style.

"I always have my receptors open and I'm constantly absorbing and observing details that are easily overlooked by others, particularly when I'm overseas.

"The effects might be indirect, but they are present nonetheless," he says.

Neil says he was inspired by grander period homes for their sense of scale and proportion, and their relationship to the outdoors. "I think this apartment reflects the rigorous approach I take to detailing. It is sophisticated, but warm and inviting, and people feel very comfortable in the environment we have created.

"I guess the overriding style is quite masculine, which is why we chose details like floral wallpaper to soften the feel. The shutters give the whole place a slightly colonial feel, and being crisp white they stand out against the deep walls. It is a strong, smart aesthetic, which is one I particularly like."

The elements in this home that exemplify Neil's personal style are the simple, graphic patterns and design features that enhance the architectural detailing.

"Because of its smaller scale, people don't think they need an interior designer to help design an apartment, but in fact you have to work a lot harder to achieve a grounded, homely feel in an elevated position. You're much less able to rely on the relationship to the exterior."


A Life Saving Houses
Suite Spot
Global Influences
Neil's Design Philosophy
Kahu i Rangi