Natasha Francois and light sculptor Peter Roche live in Pt Chevalier in the distinctive building that used to house the Ambassador Theatre. Natasha tells Peta Stavelli what they love about the area.
I've lived in Pt Chevalier for around seven years now. It's a fantastic suburb, not too fancy or gentrified. It's the sort of place where it's fine to go to the dairy while you're still wearing your slippers. It's a nice community; friendly and safe with lots of characters. Plus it has really good public transport. Buses go right past the door every few minutes.
For my first three years in Pt Chev, I lived in a very 1960s styled bungalow in Kiwi Rd. The landlord had kept the decor authentic with old fireplaces, psychedelic carpet and gold striped wallpaper.
I first met Peter at the Ambassador Bar, which he owns, and it has long been my favourite rock and roll venue in Auckland. I moved in almost four years ago. Peter shares my love of furniture from the 50s and 60s and he has some fantastic pieces upstairs, including space age egg chairs and a chaise lounge reupholstered in 50s-style atomic fabric.
We have separate bedrooms. His occupies the space that was once the men's toilets (and still has the urinals on the wall) while mine is on the second floor looking out towards the sea. The old theatre is reputed to have ghosts, although we haven't heard any and we love living here.
Peter bought the theatre in 1995 when it was in such a derelict state it looked likely to be condemned. The theatre had been variously owned and inhabited by Kerridge-Odeon and The Assembly of God who painted asylum pink all over the lovely Spanish Mission/Art Deco period features. After the AOG, street kids lived here for some time. Windows were smashed and the roof was leaking.
Noel Lane, a fan of Peter's work, drew up the plans for the bar, which doubles as the entranceway to our apartment, and is filled with Peter's smaller-scale work. Much of his work is of such immense proportions that the theatre auditorium provides one of the few workshop spaces it would be possible for him to use.
It's very handy having a bar downstairs and - since it's open mostly for private and corporate functions and the occasional rock 'n' roll gig these days - it's like having our very own private bar. It's certainly our favourite place to have a drink.
Our favourite cafe is Fiesta Coffee Lounge (formerly Icoco). They do a superb soy flat white. I think their coffee is easily the best in Auckland. Peter adores their French toast and the vegetarian big breakfast is perfect.
We generally shop at Countdown. It used to be a bit grungy but it's just had a revamp which has made it much nicer.
We love the local florist, Blossom Flowers & Gifts. Both of us are avid readers so it's fantastic living opposite the library, and, of course, one of the great reasons for living in Pt Chev is the beach, which is just a lovely stroll away.
* Blossom Flowers & Gifts
1220 Great North Rd, ph (09) 849 5244
* Fiesta Coffee Lounge
1212 Great North Rd, open Saturday 8am-3pm, Monday-Friday 8am-4pm.
* The Ambassador Bar
1218 Great North Rd, ph (09) 849 5130.