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A life story, told in one apartment

A life story, told in one apartment

Living in an apartment is a new concept for many New Zealanders. While some are embracing the simplicity it brings, others are still hesitant to let go of the classic quarter-acre dream that has been part of Kiwi life for generations. We caught up with some of the residents of Outlook Mission Bay to find out what apartment living means to them.

Like many who’ve recently moved into Outlook, Ian and Delia Macandrew have lived a unique life. At the age of 22, Ian was sent to India by ‘the company’ (a large insurance firm). After 4 years there, he moved on to Singapore and then Hong Kong. In amongst these trips, Ian was introduced to a stunning young woman from Ashburton. In 1972, he returned to New Zealand to marry Delia and they then ventured together to live in Malaysia and Singapore.

With 20 odd years living overseas and abundant amounts of travel since then, they’ve collected more than a few bits and pieces along the way.

Coming from a 4 bedroom home in St Heliers, complete with a large tree covered garden (and all the work that that entails), they needed to make some decisions about what ‘stuff’ would and wouldn’t make the cut for their new home. Yet, everything important has stayed and it’s a treat to see how they’ve brought their life with them into their new apartment. They really have made this home.

In this case, a collection of furniture, art and collectibles from their years living overseas, not to mention the countless trips they’ve taken since moving home, puts their stamp on things.

How many letters have been written? What stories could it tell?

Far from a minimalist, Delia prides herself on knowing the date, time and place they purchased every piece and when you delve a little deeper it becomes obvious that their apartment tells the story of their lives. While the elements were never designed to go together, they all fit because of the journey Ian and Delia have shared.

As you walk into the apartment, you’re taken on your own journey. Paintings from both east and west tell a story of a life spent in and out of different cultures. A teak armoire, beautifully decorated in yellow and black, sits pride of place at the end of a hall. It holds an ornamental Chinese bucket and a pair of Rajistani slippers. The slippers gifted to Ian at the wedding of the heir to the throne of Patiala, in the north of India. As you continue down the hall you're treated to the exquisite detail of an Azerbaijani raw silk embroidery before coming to the space where the living really happens.

Above their recycled Javanese teak dining suite (and Ian’s preferred workspace) a nomadic Turkiman saddlebag from the early 1800s hangs from a piece of a wooden loom used in Mumbai during the same period. Across the lounge, a Malaysian railway clock dutifully counts the seconds. A collection of 17th century Ming dynasty porcelain is mounted next to it, directly above bowls and jars from similar eras. In amongst them sit a few small porcelain opium pipes and a tiny painted glass bottle, purchased by Delia from an artist on the Yangtze River. On closer inspection, you can see the bottle is painted from inside. The intricate detail of this artwork boggles your mind when you realise the skill, control and immense talent the artist must have wielded to create such a piece.

A nomadic Turkiman saddlebag from the early 1800s hangs from a piece of a wooden loom used in Mumbai during the same period.

On the coffee table, also Javanese teak, the collection continues. Two ornately carved opium pipes take pride of place next to several small statues collected in Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand. The small elephant harks from Egypt, an artefact Delia’s mother collected on a trip to Alexandria. Delia’s father is not forgotten either. His rolltop writing desk, brought up from the family home in Ashburton, commands its own space in the second bedroom.

The final word

Ian and Delia have undoubtedly made this apartment their own. Delia no longer has to deal with the labour of their extensive garden, but her skills she garnered there keep their new home alive with perfectly placed pot plants. This apartment is their home. It tells a story of a life well lived and one that will be lived well for many years to come.