An Australian Artist’s Colorful House Is Filled With Light, Sofas, Books, Plants, and TONS of Art
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Name: Julia Gorman and family
Location: Clifton Hill — Victoria, Australia
Size: 3444 square feet
Years lived in: 13 years, owned
Artist Julia Gorman‘s art pieces attempt to capture something intangible. “I try to catch that moment when you feel you are just about to understand something, like you almost get it and then it’s gone,” she explains. “Because things are always moving, and you can never solidly grasp something and hold on to it. In my paintings, things may seem to be just holding together into a coherent whole, by a thread, but you sense that it’s transitory, like clouds moving across the sky. My work is improvisational and provisional, and I never want it to look labored. I want it to be buoyant and bursting with life and movement.” Her home—while not an actual canvas—has the same affect as her artwork. There’s an eclectic mix of her own colorful, energetic paintings and sculptures, as well as a roving collection of others artists’ pieces. Vintage and secondhand treasures add to the quirky, colorful mix.
Julia and her husband Sam moved into their home 13 years ago with two young children in tow (both are now young adults at home studying.) Two-stories, the home is a former corner shop, which was built in the early 1900s. When they first moved in, they renovated what is now the large kitchen and dining area, opening up smaller rooms and installing a large glass door that opens onto their courtyard. The large room at the front of the house is the former shopfront, and it’s filled with natural light, sofas, books, plants, and artwork. Upstairs are the three bedrooms and Julia’s studio.
Just like Julia’s artwork, her home isn’t too tidy, organized, or structured. “I let materials be what they are. As my work has ‘progressed,’ I really leave the materials more and more alone, I don’t try to shape them too far away from how they come out of the tube or the packet, just the bare minimum,” she explains. “The energy is created by putting different shapes, lines and colors together to create this feeling of vitality and richness of color and materiality.”
Apartment Therapy Survey:
My Style: Our house is a two-story red brick corner shop built in about 1901. When we first moved in 13 years ago, we renovated the kitchen, removing a few walls and adding the tilting glass window out to the back garden. Believe it or not, the vision I had in my head was a sleek low slung ’70s look inspired by fashion designer Halston’s apartment. However, before long my nonstop introduction of color and pattern through op shop and market finds, plus the fact that my studio is in the house, and also that I constantly acquire other artists’ work, means the house leans much more towards the cluttered boho side of the seventies, and I have to actively try to tone down.
Basically, I Iove anything with intense color or pattern, I like all historical styles, and I like to chuck them all in next to each other without any careful placement. Besides that, I allow lots of things in which I would not necessarily choose for myself… they might be gifts, or the kids might have chosen them, when they were little. I like that because it makes an interesting visual disruption, and stops things looking too tasteful and boring. Most places in the house and garden get used as overflow work spaces for me so every surface needs to double as a work surface. There’s a patina of paint, scratches, and clay from all my various art projects. Things get pushed out of the way, and just kind of stay where they were pushed to!
Inspiration: Swedish illustrator Carl Larsson’s paintings of his own house in Sweden are my base line idea of what a family house should be like: painted furniture, coloured rugs, kids, plants, and art. Halston’s 1970s Upper East Side apartment. The Tivoli Hotel in Upstate New York owned by painters Brice and Helen Marden. Visconti movies, especially “Conversation Piece” from 1974. Silvana Mangano’s character moves into this baroque apartment in Rome (upstairs from Burt Lancaster) and completely renovates it in contemporary ’70s style—there’s something about the brutality of the juxtaposition, which really appeals to me.
Favorite Element: The big front room, which used to be the shop. There’s space for the whole family to be in there together, but doing their own thing. Also the natural light in there is fantastic.
Biggest Challenge: The house being right on the street as an old corner shop in a heritage area means our local council is very strict about any changes we might want to make, even when those changes would make the house more sustainable! We weren’t allowed to install solar panels, for example, because they would be visible from the street.
What Friends Say: It’s a great party house.
Biggest Embarrassment: How messy we are. I just didn’t get the tidy gene like other people seem to have.
Proudest DIY: When we moved in Sam painted the entire house himself!
Biggest Indulgence: The glass tilting door in the kitchen, which opens up completely to the garden.
Best Advice: Original artwork makes such a difference by making a place very individual.
Dream Sources: The Svenskt Tenn store in Stockholm.
- Basically everything is from IKEA or eBay or Gumtree or the op shop, or the side of the road, except the art, which is by me or by other Melbourne artists I know.
- The wiggly hand made planter pots — Julia Gorman.
- Sofas and jigsaw table — Freedom
- White sofa — ’80s designed by Australian Architect, Loftus Overend,
- Other paintings by: Rob McHaffie “Machine not working”; Alice Wormald to the left of “Machine not working”; Starlie Geikie blue/brown collage work framed in black; Emily Floyd – “All that false instruction”; Ricky Swallow – small skull; James Morrison tiny orange oval painting in bookcase; David Noonan black painting above bookcase; Turkish Rose painting above heater –Julia Gorman; Other large painting – Julia Gorman;
- Framed digital prints above orange tables — Julia Gorman
- Ceramic planters — Julia Gorman
- Painted papier mache sculptures in the window — Julia Gorman
- SPQR shield — Op shop
- Roman Centurion helmet — Bought at a souvenir shop in Rome
- Blue and white cushion covers — Marimekko
- IKEA shelving
- Rugs — all from Ebay
- Red club chairs — Inherited from Sam’s Grandma
- Red and white gingham vase above bookcase — Lucy Tolan
- Zinc topped French cheese-making table — eBay
- Lamps — Camberwell Market
- Folding side tables — Op shop
- Bedhead — Liberty fabric from Ebay
- Artworks —Nadine Christensen; Andrew McQualter (self portrait); Jess Lucas (eye)
- All paintings — by Julia Gorman
- Trestle table — I got on eBay from a guy that made them out of old floorboards
- “Little Sunshine” Sculpture — Julia Gorman
- The pink cut out silhouette of a Greek sculpture is a prototype for a public sculpture by me which is in St Kilda “Over and Over” at the Esplanade Apartments
- Yellow Acapulco style chairs — Amart Furniture
- White chairs — Kmart