X-Class: HOME and away.
First published in 1936, HOME magazine has showcased some of New Zealand’s finest residential architecture - from beach houses to inner-city renovations. For the HOME magazine Tour 2019, then editor, Simon Farrell-Green got behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz X-Class to visit some of the country’s most amazing houses.
We spoke with Simon about his work, and the similarities between the X-Class and an award-winning, architecturally-designed home.
Simon, tell us a bit about yourself…
I was the editor of HOME from 2016, but I’ve worked in magazines my whole adult life. My first ever freelance commission was for HOME all the way back in 2002.
Essentially, during my time at HOME I was the keeper of the brand, so I oversaw the magazine, as well as its digital, social and real-world iterations. A big part of my job was working out what we value, what we’re going to feature and what we think is important. The world is changing rapidly, so magazines need to too.
Tell me about the sort of person that reads HOME, and why they should know about the X-Class?
People who read HOME are professionals and aged somewhere between 30 and 60 – the average age of our readers is about 42.
About half of them are currently involved in a project – whether that’s planning a dream home, or designing, building or furnishing one. They’ve probably renovated a house before, and they’ve learned a few things about what not to do – which is likely why they’re using architects, rather than doing it all themselves.
They’re looking for inspiration and they want us to answer questions about everything from materials to solar panels. They want to be excited by what they’re reading – so they don’t want us to show them something familiar or pedestrian.
None of that means they want something showy or grandiose. They’re value conscious in the sense that they appreciate things that are well made, and that will make their lives better.
All of these values speak directly to the X-Class - which is why we were delighted to partner with Mercedes-Benz for HOME Tour.
What puts a property in contention for the HOME of the Year awards?
It comes down to two simple questions: What did they set out to do and how well did they achieve that? It’s really the only way you can compare, say, a small house in the city with a multi-million-dollar beach house. It allows you to look at the clarity of the idea, and the quality of the execution.
You walk into a house and it’s just immediately obvious. It’s all about doing a few things incredibly well, and focusing on what has to be done, and never veering from those core concerns. Generally, that ends up creating something completely novel and category-defining.
And that metric applies to anything. The X-Class is similar in that it refuses to compromise on either practicality or luxury, plus it’s really good looking.
You’re someone who knows good design when he sees it. Why is design important when choosing a vehicle?
I think good design is important when you’re buying anything, to be honest, but most particularly when it’s something you’ll most likely have in your life for years. You want it to last, to do its job with grace and elegance, to make your life better and more enjoyable.
And how would you describe the X-Class?
It’s beautifully understated, elegant and does what it was designed to do so naturally that you wonder why it wasn’t done this way before. Good design does that – it seems so obvious.
At its core, it’s a really well-made, tough contender with a beautiful skin. Why wouldn’t you want a ute that can tow anything, go anywhere and do all the things you’d expect something rugged to do – and do it all in comfort and style?
One of the last issues “Tree Change”, was all about the relationship between the city and the country. Does the X-Class seem at home both?
Technology and lifestyle changes mean we can work from anywhere now, which is quite exciting. Although the houses in that issue weren’t all full-time homes, they were probably emotional centres for most of their owners. They weren’t merely for casual summer occupation.
People increasingly need vehicles that cope in both contexts – that’s where vehicles like the X-Class really come into their own. We drove the X-Class in downtown Wellington, and we drove it around Central Otago. It was remarkably easy to park on small back streets, and very much at home in the mountains too.
Finally, you took the X-Class on a road trip for work, but where would you take it on a getaway?
I’d take it to Coromandel where my family has a beach house, and give it a good run over the Black Jack Road. I reckon it’s well up to the task.