An old house collecting strangers

This week’s nest-inhabitants Kemi and Niko provide an insight into their little but incredibly ingenious nest. They met as flatmates under the roof of an old house just below the ridge of Rolleston Heights, Mt Cook in Wellington, New Zealand. They fell in love and migrated into the master bedroom which they since have completely renovated into a live-in studio. Their passion for experimenting and their artistic background is evident not only in their work, but also in the many small and subtle details which convert the few square meters of their room into something extraordinary. Thanks to Kemi and Niko for this insight! Could you tell me about the story of moving into your place and its evolving until now?

Kemi moved here in 2008 while he was studying Fine Art at the university at the bottom of the street. Niko moved in a year later. She was studying Graphic Design at the same uni. We both worked at the local cinema part-time. We didn’t know each other, till Niko came to view the room. We were just friends and flatmates for two years until Niko assisted Kemi with his Artist residency. We fell in love, decided to stay in Wellington, moved into the master bedroom and started making art together. There are many downsides to our house (very old, often cold and damp, musty and dark) but we decided to focus of the positives (cheap living, amazing location, renovation opportunities) and transform our flat into a home. We look back to when we first came here and are proud at the progress we’ve made.

What do you like most about living together with other roommates in a living community? Or are there also some things that suck over time?

Even if we wanted to, we could not afford this place without sharing it with others. This house has a personality of its own and seems to attract amazing people. Our flatmates are now a unique family that we love having around. Sometimes the kitchen gets a bit crowded and the sink can get dirty very quickly, but this is just the way life goes. We wouldn’t have it any other way!

Could you give me five good reasons to live in Wellington?

  • Guaranteed good coffee; we order Flat Whites (double shot espresso with not too much milk)
  • It has a huge “greenbelt”, public areas that cannot be built on and are covered in nature
  • Interesting streets, plenty of old ‘character’ villas, secret paths, and windy hill tops.
  • Populated by unique characters and creatives
  • Its the best city in New Zealand. Near the middle of the country, Wellington, has great access to all of NZ.

What do each of you like most about your little nest?

Niko likes that it is easy to keep tidy, everything has its place. She likes that the windows let in a lot of sunlight, making it very peaceful and healthy. Kemi appreciates having the workshop just out the window and having lots of work space. He enjoys that everything in the space has been made by us. This gives extra meaning to the time and effort we put into our creations.

There are so many small, but really clever and crafty features in your living space. Where did the ideas to build such features come from?

Kemi was born an artist and so everything he touches becomes an artwork. We like objects that seem to contain opposing themes, as well as being useful and using space efficiently. All the details in our studio have been created for a specific purpose. Everything must have at least two uses and be visually appealing. For many of the items in the studio the first use is recycling a wasted resource. The Vanity, for example, used to be a cassette duplicator an old flatmate left behind. It had a beautiful structure and history so it felt wrong to chuck it away. We took it apart and turned it into a cabinet that doesn’t take up too much space but holds a lot of stuff. Win/Win.

I kind of like your Jungle Room Extension. What was the most impressive plant you’ve ever grown in there?

We have various Herbs growing, some more exciting than others. Today the first marigold flower bloomed, just in time for Kemi’s birthday. We recently harvested some tomatoes. The Jungle Room also seems to hold the heat of the sun, like a natural heater system.

What is the story behind your Tree Ship?

Kemi loves to climb trees. The native Cabbage Tree that holds the tree ship is directly in front of the upstairs deck and so it was a natural place to built a hut. It has a comfy seat, rain shelter and power-plugs. It is nice to float above the ground, sway with the wind and watch the native birds that visit from the nearby sanctuary. It is made from recycled tin cans; wood and paint found on the street and bright orange construction netting.

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