Cheshire Architects flawlessly redesign a small modernist apartment

Cheshire Architects impeccably redesign a small modernist apartment in Auckland for Paperboy editor Jeremy Hansen and his husband

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Q&A with Nat Cheshire and Ian Scott of Cheshire Architects 

Why was it important to you to take on this project?
Nat Cheshire: Jeremy and Cameron’s apartment is the latest in a string of very small projects we’ve built in the last few years, clients who have all been so brave and are very precious to us. We’re as proud of a strange and beautiful washroom as we are a thriving city block. The tiny scale of this work affords us an opportunity to atmospherically tune space to very fine increments. In little rooms like these, clarity and subtlety of composition, material and detail become enormously powerful tools. They also create a discipline in our practice that echoes into our larger work. It’s a vital part of who we are, and who we want to be: the designers of whole cities… from city blocks to door handles.

What were the particular opportunities this presented to you as designers?
Nat Cheshire: The great opportunities were human: to become a very intimate part of the lives of two brilliant people, and to work in great detail with craftspeople such as the cabinetmaker Cliff Armstrong and his team at Essex Cabinetmakers, and Tim England and Scott Blakelock at Early Bird Construction, our building contractors on this job. They did a very careful job and managed a few curveballs from the existing building. Because there were few things to discuss – whether it be the rituals of one’s domestic life or the difference between two types of hinge – one is afforded the opportunity to dig very deep into those relationships.

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Was there was any aspect of this project that was the hardest to sell to the clients, and if so, what?
Ian Scott: The bathroom was challenging but Jeremy and Cameron were both eager to entertain ideas and were receptive of the direction we sought. Nat had designed a similar room in his own home and being able to take them there helped. We think they understood that there is too often a level of experiential waste in the way we make bathrooms – the sterile nature, chrome fittings, and artificial linings. In this contained, interior space, we took a little liberty to break from the modernist palette of the building and create this contrastingly atmospheric sanctuary with small pools of soft light illuminating warm, natural materials – like a kind of spa, a spatial and psychological retreat.

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