Design: Bottled creativity

What's in the bottle that holds your water? Ben Crawford finds plenty if it's Antipodes.

An aquifer beneath a small kiwifruit farm in the Bay of Plenty is home to Antipodes. Photo / Ben Crawford
An aquifer beneath a small kiwifruit farm in the Bay of Plenty is home to Antipodes. Photo / Ben Crawford

It's only a bottle. Right? But if you're bottling purity then no, it's not just a bottle. In the case of the Antipodes Water Company, it's the vessel that must eloquently deliver water that hasn't been touched by mankind for more than 300 years to diners around the globe. The bottle's understated form and stripped-back simplicity does a handsome job of such an onerous assignment.

Founded in 2003 on a humble block of land in the Bay of Plenty, the Antipodes Water Company was established by Simon Woolley and three of his friends. Ten years later, the company exports seven out of every 10 bottles it produces, proudly supplying New Zealand's finest water to the finest restaurants in the world.

Woolley, a renowned Auckland restaurateur, began his career in 1974 as a waiter for Tony Astle at Antoine's. He then set up many well-known establishments of his own, which is how he met his eventual Antipodes co-founders, advertising gurus Kim Thorpe, Howard Grieve and Peter Cullinane.

After living in Mexico for many years, Woolley discovered the local dining scene had evolved beautifully when he returned home. But restaurants were still serving imported, European water, which seemed wrong. Patrons would be aghast if they were served British lamb, so why were they happily drinking Continental water when the planet's best could be found right here in New Zealand?

The four friends decided they needed to rectify this.

First they had to find a water source and, after a year of research, testing and tastings, they selected a 327m aquifer beneath a small kiwifruit farm inland from Whakatane. The water's unique make-up ensured Antipodes would have a low minerality and be the only chemical-free bottled water in Australasia.

Seamless flow is key to creating successful interior design, so copy aspects from the living room throughout the house. Photo / Ben Crawford
Seamless flow is key to creating successful interior design, so copy aspects from the living room throughout the house. Photo / Ben Crawford

Then it was on to designing the bottle. It had to disappear on a table but look good enough to be on that table, especially if it was to be served in the world's best restaurants. The bottle's final form is a combination of elements drawn from old beer flagons and a specific German medicine bottle the quartet had discovered. It resembled nothing that was on the market already. Perfect.

That's one of the reasons I have admired the Antipodes bottle for a long time. It's just plain sexy. However it wasn't until I visited the headquarters in the Bay of Plenty that I realised the bottle symbolises everything the company stands for. It's an outward display of the design focus and attention to detail that flows through every aspect of the business.

From the farmhouse we were welcomed into as guests, through the bottling plant and out to the borehouse, the brand is perfectly executed across every surface. The simple yet bold font gracing the bottle can also be found on factory doors and above storage areas.

The crispness of the bottle's shape is echoed in the perfect white walls of the plant and the T&G panelling in the pumphouse, illuminated by a chandelier, nonetheless.

The bottle, a piece of sculpture in its own right, ensures that works of art adorn almost every surface of the business' office and guesthouse. In fact, the bottle is immortalised on numerous canvasses because every year Antipodes commissions a young member of the New Zealand wait staff community to create an artwork, the only condition being that it must include the iconic bottle within it.

A chandelier in the pumphouse. Photo / Ben Crawford
A chandelier in the pumphouse. Photo / Ben Crawford

So what does this story of a bottle of water have to do with home design, you may ask? A lot, I say.

A key to successful interior design is flow. If Antipodes can achieve seamless flow from a table on a Michelin-starred restaurant in London through to its industrial factory in Whakatane, then you can too.

Carefully select a handful of materials then consistently execute them through your home.

Use the same timber for your kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities and bedside tables. Or layer two highlight colours in varying tones over the top of a neutral base colour. Paint your walls white then add a grey sofa with yellow cushions in your living room, golden towels with charcoal tiles in the bathrooms and a mustard-coloured throw over a grey striped duvet in your bedroom.

And quality, while not cheap to begin with, will pay off in the long run. I guarantee it and I'm sure the Antipodes team will too.

- Herald on Sunday

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