HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY
The Vault design store was founded by current owners Sarah and Philip Solaris with the vision of showcasing the best of New Zealand creativity alongside quirky international design products. We travel the world to search out exciting products and work closely with the creative community in New Zealand. We specialise in unique gifts, kiwiana, beautiful home wares and contemporary jewellery. Fair trade and sustainable products and packaging are very high on our agenda. See our Sustainability Page for more info.
Since we began in 1991 we have witnessed (and been a part of) a phenomenal growth in the quantity and quality of what New Zealand designers and craftspeople are producing. We feel that New Zealand creativity is unique on the world stage. As a mirror of our multicultural society, it is an inspiring demonstration of how we draw on a vast array of local and international elements to forge a unique identity as a dynamic design culture in our own right.
The Vault is an environmentally conscious organisation. 75% of our goods are made in New Zealand so the carbon miles that have gone into their transport is minimal compared with imported goods. We work with our artists and suppliers to encourage them to use biodegradable packaging and we use paper bags for your gifts in store and paper courier track packs when we can. We seek out products that have good eco credentials like jewellery made from recycled glass, ceramics (made from the earth!) and up-cycled products such as toys made from blankets, and bags made from truck tyres. We feel that we as business people need to help lead the drive for a pollution-free, sustainable world. See our Sustainability Page for more info.
INTERNATIONAL RETAIL INNOVATION AWARD
2006 The Vault Christchurch won the Global Innovator Award for New
Zealand. Following this honour we were flown to Chicago to compete in
the international finals against such retail giants as Selfridges! (we
didn't win but were chuffed to be there!)
In order to do justice to the designers, craftspeople and jewellers we represent, we have always sought to create retail spaces with equally unique atmospheres. These environments have been carefully considered and personally designed by the creators of The Vault, Philip and Sarah Solaris.
FIRST AUCKLAND STORE - 1991
The first Vault was established in the centre of Auckland's fashion district in 1991. This subterranean space is located on the corner of High Street and Vulcan Lane in what was the derelict basement vault of the first ANZ bank in New Zealand. We were fortunate enough to hold in our hands the original water colour drawings made by the architect of this building before they were destroyed by flood waters at the local council. The mysterious interior atmosphere of blue was complimented by a huge tropical fish tank and eerie soundscapes. The original bank vault was used for one -off exhibition pieces. It become apparent that people of all ages found this new concept of retail both intriguing and desirable. The Auckland Vault was the first store in the world to exhibit New Zealand works alongside international design products. The Vault did not push its commerciality before its philosophy for "design consciousness" and we held one-off exhibitions of furniture and applied art. The joy of no stress, no pressure retail became a bench mark for this new form of boutique retailing and the Auckland Vault quietly become an international talking point for New Zealanders abroad.
Looking further back into the history of the area we were later to discover that Vulcan Lane had also been the location of a haberdashery store owned and run by one of Philip Solaris's great great great grandmothers who came out from England by herself as a young woman in the very early colonial pioneer years. At that time Vulcan Lane was the actual waterfront of Auckland city before the shoreline was reclaimed to allow ships to dock on huge new wharves built at the bottom of Queen Street.
FIRST WELLINGTON STORE - 1992
The second store was created in 1992 in an amazing space above the corner of Willis Street and Lambton Quay. Outside the door is a plaque that marks the location of the original waterfront before the massive earth quake of 1848. In that year it was lifted out of the sea and became included in the CBD, a few hundred metres inland from the new shoreline.
This building was remarkable for several reasons. It was the first in New Zealand to have an internal light well and was designed by a New Zealand architect (reasonably rare in itself in the colonial days) and hence a historical pilgrimage for many New Zealand architects. The large light well of brilliant white tiles was opened up to provide a central space for the Vault's most exciting exhibitions of local sculpture and design work. Around one side of this space was the new Vault cafe which became extremely popular with Wellingtonians. Snuggled around the original open fire place one could find well known figures from government conversing with top international bankers, beside which you would see leading characters in the New Zealand art world tossing logs onto the fire and reading poetry. What most people would not have seen was the incredible structure of this historic building. On the top storey of the three level building was an extraordinary ceiling. Made of huge planks from native Rimu, these massive planks formed a high pitched "vaulted" ceiling. In fact the whole structure was constructed of wonderful New Zealand timbers. In an earthquake-prone region, this wonderful "ship- like" structure had weathered countless waves of the earth's movement and was in remarkable condition for its age.
Tragically this building was sold and its interior stripped and "modernised". The Vault was forced to relocate.
CHRISTCHURCH - 1993
The third child in The Vault family was established in a derelict first floor space above the historic Cashel Mall in central Christchurch. A Vault cafe was created in the front part of this space with a view overlooking the serene river Avon and the memorial for fallen soldiers, the Bridge of Remembrance. This space originally contained poorly built small office cubicles which had been abandoned years ago. With the best wishes of the family trust which owns the building The Vault completely stripped the interior. Only the original floor, external walls and roof were retained. The original New Zealand wood floor, from the Matai tree, was painstakingly lifted, removed and then re-laid once the building was completely restructured for earthquake considerations. The redevelopment was the first chance that the interior design of The Vault could be stylised without constraining factors of an existing internal structure. As such , the new Christchurch Vault was the ultimate flagship for the Vault "style" of interior and display systems. The distinctive organic shapes of the free-standing cabinetry and shelving, inter-cut with the angular severity of vertical cabinets was pioneered here.
WELLINGTON REVISITED - 1996
The original location of our Wellington store was left with a heavy heart and a wealth of wonderful memories. After months of searching for a space of comparable character we miraculously discovered another historic building just 100 metres up Willis St. that met our every need. The McKenzie building's entrance foyer was in the grand style of buildings of its day. It was still in reasonable condition with the original black and white floor tiles and lead-light windows. However the first floor where we planned to locate the store, was a rabbit warren of small dark rooms... 50 Willis St. was our most ambitious renovation project to date. Many concrete walls were removed and the interior was transformed into large , open spaces. Here was an opportunity to take the design style of the Christchurch Vault to a new scale, as the building had all the space we needed to completely realise our vision. With the amazing ongoing loyalty and support of Wellingtonians this store became a Wellington icon. Sadly that building was also to fall under the knife of "progress" and once again The Vault sought a new home.
WELLINGTON MOVES AGAIN - 2008
The stars must have been smiling on us as we found a new location just around the corner that was second to none. Located at the bottom of the famous Plimmer Steps, entering from Plimmer Lane, we now look out over vibrant Lampton Quay. In the Prudential Building, finally we have found a wonderful 1930s historical building that is protected by law. We couldn't be happier. We are very proud of our new store.... the design and fit out is the culmination of all our years of experience. Come and take a look for yourself.
THE VAULT - LONDON
In 2007 we established a relationship with a London based ex-pat and The Vault opened in London. It was a fabulous store in West Hampstead that the locals adored.... unfortunately the big bad recession came along soon after the opening and in 2009 it closed its doors. Sadly missed ...
THE CHRISTCHURCH EARTHQUAKE 2011
Thankfully our old brick building held up very well during the February 2011 earthquake. Our staff and customers all got out physically unscathed thanks to the foresight of earthquake strengthening when we first occupied the building back in 1994. However it didn't pass engineer's reports and our landlord decided to demolish it in July 2011. After much deliberation Vault owners
Sarah and Philip Solaris decided not to re-open in Christchurch. We
treasure all the memories of our beautiful store and amazing staff,
particularly Maureen Taane and Nadia Perry who were with us for many
many years. Thank you to all our loyal Cantabrian customers - we miss
THE AUCKLAND VAULT MOVES TO PONSONBY - JUNE 2016
After 25 years in the CBD in our original "bank vault" we have made the move to Ponsonby. The lease was expiring and the rent going up big time... The new store is at 95 Ponsonby Road. It's smaller but beautiful! Great to be on street level and you must check out or big video display screen - showing our artisans at work.