Tell us about how you incorporated USM furniture into your apartment.
It started with the bedroom piece. Actually, very early on I knew that I wanted something that matched on both sides and was reflected in both the bedroom and the living space. I was actually going to get something custom made. But I’ve always loved USM.
The local stockist from ECC, Erika Rodriguez was really, really helpful. There’s an online configurator, which we worked through together. I do think you need someone who’s familiar with the product to really get the most out of it. She was able to show examples. The modular sizing give you a range of great scope.
USM has a softness. It’s something about the powder coated steel with the chrome which manages not to look harsh. There’s just the right amount of detailing.
I also really like the fact that it will endure and stand the test of time. I definitely like the idea that USM products should last several generations. We should be designing everything like that—with the future in mind.
I really like the asymmetry of this piece [pointing to the book shelves] with that little quirky drawer in there. The fact that it’s possible to customize the pieces lifts it out of the ordinary. It’s playful but at the same time restrained and understated.
You have some beautiful Aalto pieces. Could you tell us about these?
We have an Aalto stool. It is an original 1950s piece that I bought when I was in Helsinki in 2011 for the Alvar Aalto Symposium. The chair is from the fan leg series (the three leg version is quite rare) and it dates from 1954. It still has its original leather upholstery.
I have also recently bought an Aalto coat rack from a Finnish online site. I got it from a lovely Finnish police officer. It is apparently from the Paimio Sanatorium, which Aalto designed in 1928. It's lovely to have it because I visited the Sanatorium on the Aalto study tour—although I can't help but think it should be in the Sanatorium and not in an apartment in New Zealand!
The Davide Groppi lamp fits so well with the white USM cabinets.
Yes, I fell in love with the simple and ethereal quality of his lighting. It’s appropriately named ‘Less For Less’ and comes with a standard base and a smaller magnetic base. The magnetic base is perfect to attach to the USM steel.
And do you think USM suits the New Zealand lifestyle?
Absolutely. You can take the modular pieces to different environments and they’ll work perfectly. There’s a flexibility that I really like. It can look quite relaxed but also sophisticated depending on the space. I’d happily use USM at the beach house.
You can change re-configure it to work in a new space. It’s fantastic. It really does have a timeless feel and mixes really well with contemporary and mid-century styles.
I recognize quite a few New Zealand artworks on your walls…
Actually, all of our collection is contemporary New Zealand artists. We have many Canterbury artists works because that’s where we lived for so long.
And Michael Parekowhai’s bowler hatted man. Was the piece brought specifically for the apartment?
Yes, I really liked the idea that here we are in the CBD and he’s like Rene Magritte’s man. He’s a sort of ’50s career bureaucrat—on one hand looking straight out at the city and on the other hand looking blankly at the wall. I like the idea that he’s looking out to the city but also to his ‘house’ [referring to Michael Parekowhai’s ‘Lighthouse’ outside the apartment at the end of the pier].