Espousing good style and design have been Paula Ryan's lifeblood and livelihood for so long, it's no surprise that she barely pauses for breath when reeling off the many benefits of living in her luxury Auckland apartment.
Paula, whose eponymous clothing label of quality, classic pieces is sold in more than 100 New Zealand and Australian stores, bought the Customs St apartment off the plans with her husband, Rob Dallimore, two years before they moved into it in 2005.
Being the first to buy one of the eight apartments, in two side-by-side buildings which overlook part of Auckland's Viaduct Basin and share the same body corporate, meant the couple could take their pick of all the spaces. "We also got the biggest lock-up in the basement carpark," says Paula.
The apartments in both blocks, which were developed by the Symphony Group, are all leasehold, so Paula says she and Rob paid about a third less than a similar, freehold apartment would have cost.
"New Zealanders tend to have a mental block about buying leasehold property. But it has worked well for us because we've been able to put the money we saved to good use instead of having it tied up in the one property."
Paula has lived in apartments for the past 25 years, and says they perfectly suit her style of living, but she has high expectations of what a good apartment should deliver.
This one appealed because of its solid concrete construction and high specifications, including top quality fittings and joinery as well as two spacious terraces that together cover more than 100sq m.
Paula and Rob chose to be on the first floor of Building A, which has a ground-level entrance lobby off Customs St West, with three levels of living above that.
The large basement carpark for buildings A and B, which also services several other surrounding apartment blocks, has entrances off Pakenham and Market Sts. Above the carpark is a beautifully landscaped communal park full of mature trees including a citrus grove next to the apartment's back terraces. The two apartment blocks also share use of an outdoor swimming pool, spa and gym.
"As well as giving us the biggest terraces, being on this level means we are closer to the trees and foliage so our outdoor spaces really feel like outdoor rooms."
Foregoing the apartment layout on the plans, Paula worked with architect and friend Andre Hodgskin on a new internal design that reconfigured all the internal walls and added plenty of extra storage.
"Andre did a complete number on it. Initially, we went for a modern look with the furniture but I have gradually gone back to more classic, timeless pieces which are more my style."
Andre's interior design embraced Paula's love of black and white with tints and tones of these, as well as touches of gold and silver.
All of the apartment's walls have been painted with the chalky tones of Resene's Alabaster, which Paula says is easier to live with than optical white.
The apartment's layout maximises all available space, starting with its oriental themed lobby, which you walk straight into from the lift.
The lobby leads through to a spacious open plan kitchen, dining room and living room where a clever mirrored wall creates an illusion of even more space by reflecting the garden room that Paula has created on the front terraces.
Aluminum bifolds open to this elegant outdoor entertaining space which includes a restful water feature and several large pots of topiaried evergreen shrubs and trees. A central hallway off the lounge leads to one of the three bedrooms, used as a home office, and the rear terraces.
On either side of the hallway are two generous double bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. The laundry room is also tucked away in this area.
Until now, Paula and Rob's second home has been at Matarangi in the Coromandel Peninsula where they are building a much larger "bach" where they plan to live permanently.