With expanded floor space and a cluster of boutique retailers, Mt Eden's BLOC collective is now a one-stop design destination. The newest tenant is design store Douglas and Bec, which opened a partner outlet to its St Mary's Bay location at BLOC's Normanby Rd building this month.
A mecca for shoppers looking for furniture, tableware and accessories for the home, beauty products and must-have objets of all kinds, the collective is now able to show its wares over three redesigned floors.
Jasmax architect Hamish Boyd, who first worked with owners Al and Margaret Acland on the original development of the building 10 years ago, says the underlying structure is almost of a street. "Both in retail and in the workplace, spaces are changing now and collaborative propositions of more than one business in one space are becoming more common," he says. "It's a high-trust model. People need to care and be protective of each other."
So far the news has been good for those involved.
Recent changes include turning a third-floor warehouse into a showroom for long-term tenant, Danish furniture and accessories brand Bo Concept, and creating a spacious flagship store on the ground floor for design house Citta.
"It's a lovely building and a great space," says Citta retail and marketing manager Katrina Glenday. "Sitting alongside our competitors offers our customers a better shopping experience and there's such a luxury of space, so that we can now show furniture, sofas and beds, as well as our other ranges. This is how our product designers always pitched it: showing collections in specific zones."
The ground floor also includes room for a pop-up shop that will be let according to demand, bringing ongoing change and vitality into the entrance of the building.
Rebecca Snelling of Douglas and Bec says she has been enjoying the new collective. At the Mt Eden store she has added to the brand's locally designed furniture with imported ranges of accessories for you, not the home - scarves, hats and bags made by independent practitioners, a small range of babywear and ceramics made in collaboration with Kate Sylvester.
"Everyone has their own thing to add here, whether it's coffee for shoppers or beauty products from World, and it is bringing us new customers as well as our existing ones."
Alongside Douglas and Bec on the open-plan second floor is Collect-ed, owned by interiors stylist LeeAnn Yare. She is celebrating the huge injection of space. "We are now a real shop!" she says, remembering the PICTURES / LARNIE NICOLSON
recent 36sq m into which she crammed her homewares and gifts. "It's good to be able to style things here so customers can see how to do it for themselves.
"We are helping people be brave with styling, mixing and matching prints and showing how to incorporate colour with neutrals."
Collect-ed also displays and sells the range of hand screen-printed Florence Broadhurst wallpapers.
Across the room, the glass domes of World Beauty beckon. Here you'll find gorgeous collectibles, fragrances for you and your home, and luxurious skincare.
Next door at Pencil, the high-end theme continues with fine stationery.
A corner of this second floor is devoted to cafe Cool Food, and what was an outside deck has been transformed into a glazed indoor terrace with seating for diners.
"We built the terrace over the street boundary," Hamish says.
"It was a bit of a first. Mayor Len Brown said he wanted to make Auckland a more liveable city and we are starting to get more awareness of that. The cantilevered terrace over the street does this. It was supported by the council and it contributes to the street below."
Hamish enjoyed the design process. "Most retailers don't own the building, but here we were working for [Citta owners] Al and Margot, and as a couple they are always interested in getting a good architectural outcome. With the design, we were trying to get the essence of what the retailers wanted to achieve. When you sell lifestyle products, the building should reflect that you are design-aware. The clients were up for making the city a better place."
Hamish says the glazed space, also available for private functions, acknowledges the canopy of trees outside and has views across the road to the dramatic rock wall behind Auckland Grammar.
From here Cool Food customers can lunch or breakfast seven days a week (homemade crumpets are a popular option), or Simon and Amy Hope will cook whatever it is that you fancy from their build-your-own menu to kick start the day.
There's a $15 daily lunch special (recently homemade dumplings and bok choy for Chinese New Year) and, from their catering business, a range of quality frozen meals to come to the rescue of those too frazzled to face preparing dinner.
On on the third floor you'll find Bo Concept's new space, which affords the brand the luxury of creating different zones to show its contemporary furniture and also its growing range of accessibly priced accessories. From clocks to cushions to vases, these now make up 30 per cent of its business.
The 60-year-old company has been in New Zealand for 10 years and this is its first custom-designed space here, created with input from the head office in Denmark.
"It allows us to show more of the ranges," says manager Jeff Davoren. "And there's undercover parking, too.
"Steep Edwin St, to the side of the building helped us there. We were able to plug into different floor levels using the slope of the street for carparking and pedestrian access. It enabled us to turn a tricky bit of land into a positive."