A Napier couple turned a pair of apartments into a sophisticated, loft-style sanctuary

When Leon and Michelle Rieter bought their apartment in 2010, it was a shell, part of a former woolstore that had been converted into dwellings in Napier's port area of Ahuriri. To make the empty space home, they enlisted the help an architect to help them create spaces to suit their brief: "New York loft without the minimalist".

The existing steel posts and beams have been kept and more steelwork added, including under the floating wooden staircase in the apartment's atrium. This staircase leads to the upstairs bedrooms: the main suite, spare room, son Conrad's former room, and a feminine room for daughter Danielle to sleep in when she comes home during university holidays.

Reinforcing that New York feel is the wall-covering under the stairwell. The well-known black and white print Lunch Over Manhattan features construction workers casually enjoying a break while sitting on a steel girder high above the city. Leon found the print and blew it up on canvas to create a feature wall. "That, with the surrounding steel work, is just perfect," says Michelle. "It's got to be my number-one love."

On the steel beam above she's placed vintage mallets, chisels, planes and wood shavers. They sit well with the print and have sentimental value as they belonged to her late stepfather.


The couple's home is in fact two apartments that they have amalgamated to give them 400sq m of living space that includes four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a media room, a storage room, a spacious main living area including a scullery, and a laundry. The latter has two Scandinavian-style drying cupboards because the Rieters didn't want to ruin the look of their home by having a clothesline on the deck.

Their building is across the road from the waterfront and wharves in a port precinct that features small fishermen's cottages, warehouses, cafes and apartments.

As part of the design of their home, the Rieters included a large covered deck they had recessed into their dining room. By using bifold stacking doors they've made the deck an extension of the main living area.

"This has given us a bit more space for outdoor living," explains Leon. "We've also achieved privacy, as we're now not open to view from below. A metre further forward and I would have felt we were in a fish bowl."

The location of the home has also influenced the apartment's decor, which features nautical touches. The lampshade in the main bedroom resembles a lifebuoy, and the glass-fronted deck off this room is suspended to look like a ship's bridge.

"Being up there is like being in an eagle's nest," says Leon. "No one can move without me seeing."

Style Tips
Display space: Showing off mementos or family photos is a great way to add interest to a room. The Rieters have used shadow boxes to highlight some of the treasures they've picked up on their travels.

Fun feature: While the home has mainly light-coloured walls, the Rieters enjoyed "splashing out" on bold wallpaper for feature walls.

Structured look: The couple say the design decision to employ a floating staircase and exposed horizontal and vertical steel beams was spot-on because it fits the building's industrial aesthetic.