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A whirlwind of wondrous things

By Erica 21 Jan 2016

One of my favourite things to do on a sunny weekend in Wellington is to take a leisurely drive around the bays. So when I was asked to pay a visit to Whirlwind Designs at Shelly Bay, it didn’t take much to twist my arm. Anything for a ride out along the Pohutakawa-fringed, turquoise-water bays, to marvel at how beautiful Wellington Harbour can be.

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The creativity of some Wellingtonians never ceases to amaze me, and this was precisely my thought as I wandered around Whirlwind Designs, a little store and workshop just along from the Chocolate Fish café. Owned by Michelle and Nick, two Wellingtonians with a little shop and big imaginations, they have worked undeniably hard to create an array of original objects. Nick, an actor (most recently playing Percy in The Hobbit Trilogy) and Michelle, an artist and designer, have combined their creative strengths and a bonanza of beautiful things have been born.

They are both friendly and relaxed and enjoy talking to the array of interesting people who pass through their doors. "Every item has a story" says Michelle, "our travels in the world, along with our love of the natural environment here in New Zealand stir us to make objects that fit in the contemporary home while giving a nod to the past". Michelle tells me that they were both very much inspired on trips to France and Japan, where many of their pieces have come from, but that, mostly, their inspiration comes from Shelly Bay itself. 

As I lost myself in amongst all the inspiring bits and bobs, I started to imagine that the moment Michelle and Nick head home after a hard day’s artistic graft, their shop comes to life. The robots jump down and start having a little boogy with the headless mannequins, the eclectic lamps flicker on and off with excitement and the wind sculptures spin with gusto. Michelle even let me peek into the treasure trove which is their robot-part storage room, whereby I marvelled at the shelves and boxes full of unwanted bits and pieces which will one day be reincarnated into a little robot being with its own unique personality. Lucky junk, I say.

Old rustic French desks sit alongside the galvanised steel whirligigs and just across from the rusted Morepork shapes, who are seemingly keeping a wise beady eye on things (and who presumably tell the rambunctious robots to pipe down when the late-night shenanigans get out of hand!)

Among my favourite pieces are the light sabre-style lamp that comes complete with an old rustic candlestick (very literally fusing the old with the new), a beautiful French antique child’s desk and the brighter-than-bright retro French information posters. Bountiful baskets of buttons, ribbons and fabrics await you at the back of the shop, ready to inspire your next crafty project.  

If you’re stuck for a truly unique gift idea, Whirlwind should be your 'go to' place. From personalised robots, to cufflinks and pendants that can be customised to include a geographical location of your choice. Their pillow covers are adorned with antique maps of New Zealand or prints of Wellington seascapes, painted by Nick himself. There is a nod to the local in much of what they do and they are, quite understandably, heavily inspired by their beautiful location. Their handmade range of candles and room sprays pay homage to the sights and smells of Shelley Bay, with scents such as ‘Beach Bonfire’ and ‘Sunshiny Days'.

And if Shelley Bay is a bit of a trek for you city-dwellers, fret not. For Michelle and Nick bring a ‘capsule collection’ of their beautiful things to Frank Kitts market each Saturday, solely for your pleasure and perusal.

And, of course, it would have been a travesty to not have indulged in a post-shopping iced chocolate on the sun-drenched beanbags at the Chocolate Fish. Sun, sea and inspiring shopping …. Sundays don’t get much better. 

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Whirlwind is a unique store in a unique location

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