Minimalist Design In Apartment Living

Minimalist Design In Apartment Living

Minimalist Design In Apartment Living

Charles Upham Retirement Village resident, Di, is a former fashion designer, artist and self-confessed shoe hoarder who travels, still paints and has stamped her eclectic minimalist bent on her independent apartment. She gives us her 3 TOP DESIGN tips on how she’s turned her space into a beautiful home.


When it comes to gardening, her sister Rosemary – who also lives at Charles Upham Village in Rangiora – got all the talents according to Di. That’s not to say she doesn’t love the texture, hues and appeal of bringing nature into her home. ‘I also wanted plants in here to accentuate the height,” she says. Unfortunately, if Di had the real thing in pots around her two bedroom apartment, they would likely die, she jokes.

Bold Fake Plants

To offset the monotone clear lines of chrome, leather and wood strongly featured in her apartment, Di chose to add soft, layered yet bold, plants but without the maintenance. That’s a job for the gardeners in the manicured grounds outside her windows. Besides, Di wants to freely embark on all her adventures both in New Zealand and overseas without the worry of watering – so all her plants are fake. Zero maintenance but with plenty of appeal as they appear very real to visitors.


When Di set about creating a vision for her independent apartment, she had the advantage of starting with a blank canvas. She moved into Charles Upham Retirement Village in 2016 and bought off the plans but decided the best way to downsize would be to sell all her old furniture to the new owners of her Canterbury home. It was a renaissance for her, a chance to pick pieces that truly brought her joy. The only thing is; ‘You never find what you want when you go looking for it,’ she says. But slowly her design aesthetic began to take shape.

Taking centre stage, and the first artwork which draws you inside Di’s independent apartment, is a hanging shag. It’s a work she fell in love with from Canterbury artist and sculptor Bing Dawe. She’d always loved his pieces and when she saw the cormorant on the semi-circle wood box design, she had to have it. But it isn’t just new design inside the apartment – some pieces come from her past life. This includes an old dinner chime which dates back to the turn of the 20th century. She muses it sounds like an old public service announcement and matches her quirky sense of humour. However, it also holds a special sentimental value to Di because it was an heirloom in her late husband’s family.

Hanging shad

New, designer, or pricey isn’t the theme here. Some of the matching furniture, Di has purchased cheaply from big brand homeware stores and lovingly altered it to suit.

Minimalism has always been at the centre of Di’s design atheistic. She doesn’t like clutter or lots of knick-knacks gathering dust on shelves. Memories are cleverly peppered throughout her apartment in places only she sees every day. There are some family photos inside her kitchen that get updated regularly but are hidden away from view. A framed letter from King George VI awarding her father an MBE in the early part of the 20th century could almost be missed in her hallway, but is clearly cherished, while the bizarre canvas of a lady quaffing wine hangs above her toilet and makes Di smile every time she sees it.  You won’t find piles of photographs or albums in her place though. “Most of them remain in my head,” she says.

Old Dial-up Phone

Even when Di travels, she continues this ethos, carrying only a small backpack with the mindset as long as you have money and deodorant, then you’ll be fine.  Travel is something she has indulged in extensively since moving into the village. With no maintenance to worry about, she simply locks the door and tells her sister she’s flying the coup.


You get the feeling perfecting simple storage solutions is a mild obsession for Di. She was pleasantly surprised when it came to moving into Charles Upham Retirement Village. “I have more kitchen storage in this apartment than I had in my four bedroom house,” she says. Functional furniture also found its way into Di’s apartment from her last home because it seamlessly fit into the look she was going for. Her generous comfy black leather couch pairs nicely with two chrome and black leather aviator chairs she purchased for the move. A couch by day, and occasionally a temporary bed by night for Di when her nearly 2m tall grandson comes to visit and needs to sleep in a bed.

Di loves the clean lines of her apartment, created through the installation of blinds instead of bulky curtains for privacy. “Curtains and drapes can also take away a lot of light and I like the cleaner look.” However, in amongst all this beautiful, structured simplicity, lurks the weakness Di has for shoes. It jarringly butts the trend she has for a slimmed down, simple lifestyle. More than 40 pairs, she’s recently counted, have been cleverly hidden from view in bespoke storage solutions on the back of her bedroom door and in the wardrobe.

Fingers are firmly crossed for Di’s upcoming trip to Italy when her fascination for footwear might just get put to the ultimate test.