At first glance, the two apartments that interior designer Dawn Judge owns in Auckland's historic 1930s Westminster Court complex look like perfectly preserved microcosms of days-gone-by — but there is much more to this story.

"I bought the lower ground floor one first and you should have seen it," says Dawn.

"Someone had done an awful renovation in the 1980s and it had been let to students for years, so it was falling apart and I had to absolutely gut it — right back to the concrete walls."



Dawn, who grew up in a state house in Morningside, believes she inherited her creative mind and her practical skills from her mother, a tailoress, and her father, a self-taught engineer.

"I wanted to pay homage to the 1930s, with an authentic French art deco flavour, and every single inch of the place has been carefully planned."

She thinks this apartment may have been used as an office in the early days, as its layout differs from other units in the building.

Starting with a new floor, her vision for it was gradually realised.

5 Parliament Street, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst
5 Parliament Street, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst

"It's a real mix of old and new. For example, the light fittings are genuine antiques while the radiator's modern but looks the part."

Dawn installed an elegant, yet practical kitchen, with white subway tiles and high-gloss wooden cabinetry. Her attention to detail is so absolute — what appears to be a meat safe actually hides the microwave.

A washing machine and dryer are discreetly tucked away in the bathroom, which has underfloor heating and perfect period-style tapware.

There is built-in furniture throughout the apartment, which is configured as a one-bed and office, but could be two bedrooms.

She says her interiors tend to be quite masculine in style, with muted colours, dark wood and subtle lighting.

"From the start, I imagined the original owner as a city lawyer or professor with a pipe and smoking jacket," says Dawn, "and I continued that approach after buying another apartment on the second floor, although the feel of that one is more New York deco."

Her second apartment, a one-bed with separate dining, is slightly larger than the ground floor unit.

Once again the attention Dawn's paid to every tiny aspect is impressive and the quality of the materials is consistently top-notch.

In a bigger bathroom, there's a spacious shower by the window and the toilet even has the traditional chain for flushing.

5 Parliament Street, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst
5 Parliament Street, Auckland. Photo / Ted Baghurst

The kitchen is also sunny and appliances are seamlessly integrated.

The little table by the window can be folded down to create extra space.

The dining room wallpaper is a Fornasetti pattern by Coles & Son. Dawn thinks she might have driven the builder mad by insisting the wall stands out a little by the window to give a 3D impression of real bookshelves.

Throughout both properties is the art deco furniture Dawn has tracked down across the country.

"I know every little antique and op shop there is, and I've found a lot online too," she says.

"When I got to 100 feedbacks, my husband Graham asked if I thought I had enough stuff for the apartments — but you can never have enough!"

As an added bonus for buyers, Dawn is prepared to sell the furniture separately , so a new owner can walk right into each of these remarkable homes and enjoy them in all their glory.

She says the building is well-run and has great amenities including a pool and outdoor barbecue area.

Needless to say, it's convenient for the city, with shops, supermarket and public transport on the doorstep.

• 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 1 parking spaces.
• Inspect: By appointment
• Contact: Liz Derbyshire, Barfoot & Thompson, 021 661 978.
• Also for sale: 2A Westminster Court, 5 Parliament St.