An Artist’s Teeny Australia Studio Hides Clever Storage Hacks

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light wood rounded edge rectangular dining table with matching modern chairs on layered natural area rugs. Giant full-wall window behind. Table is set with white place settings, glassware. Vases of flowers
Credit: Hazel Dooney
When friends come over for lunch I clear the drawing table and unstack the chairs, positioned so everyone can see the view.

Hazel Dooney is a contemporary artist in inner Sydney, Australia, and has been renting this small apartment for four years: This small studio apartment is mostly used as my art studio. Here I draw, paint, read, write, daydream, imagine new ideas, cook, invent recipes, and host tiny lunches or dinner parties. I’m precise, so when I paint I only need to use canvas drop sheets — although I re-paint the walls white every couple of years.

Credit: Hazel Dooney
I use a small dining table as a drawing desk.

The apartment was designed by Harry Seidler, considered “the father of modern architecture in Australia,” and built in the 1960s. It has low ceilings but faces northeast with windows that take up a whole wall, which overlook a park and Rushcutters Bay. The design utilizes sunlight and natural ventilation. It doesn’t need lights during the day, heating during winter, or cooling during summer. It is almost like being half outdoors.

Credit: Hazel Dooney
The strongest feature of the apartment is the view. I get a lot of pleasure from watching the sky change. This blue is typical of the Australian sky.

I had the idea of using a small apartment as a studio when I slept in a “nap room” at Narita airport, Tokyo. I realized I didn’t need much space — I just needed something self-contained with natural light. When I am creating I lose track of what’s around me so I like a private and secure space where I can relax, be uninhibited, and let my imagination take over.

Credit: Hazel Dooney
This wall of shelves holds all of my art-making materials and equipment. It's made of wire shelving and clear stackable plastic drawers from a hardware store. I painted the fronts white to decrease the visual clutter.

The kitchen area is like a short hall or boat galley. It is small with a bar fridge but has a full stove and oven. I bought an inexpensive kitchen island on wheels and chopping board to use as extra bench space.

Credit: Hazel Dooney
My latest painting, a portrait of writer and art critic Neha Kale.

Aside from art materials, almost everything I buy is on sale or thrifted. We call it “an artist’s budget.” I don’t enjoy shopping, so I prefer to buy well-made things once and keep them for many years. I bought all of the dinnerware and kitchen appliances during mid- or end-of-year sales, mostly online. My favorite thrift find is the set of four moulded ply chairs for $10 each that are stackable to save space when I’m working. And I just like their shape. I rub the ply with beeswax to help it last longer. I painted the wall of drawers white to minimize their impact. I also painted the sides of the mirror and day bed gold (with a red undercoat) to match the honey tones throughout the space.

Credit: Hazel Dooney
The whole room!

I’m a professional artist and everything I do is to maximize creativity. I like to meditate; it helps me to get “in the zone.” It also makes me feel happier because it helps me stay in the present. So the space is uncluttered and peaceful with bamboo or natural fibers where possible. Color is a strong theme in my art so I prefer a neutral space — similar to a blank canvas. I also love nature. So the decor of the apartment is focused on looking outside — observing birds, the weather, and the sky. I prefer gum leaves to flowers because it feels like it brings the trees inside. It also makes the apartment smell like being in the Australian bush, which I love.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or fewer: Sunlit minimalist “hygge” artist’s studio.

Credit: Hazel Dooney
The kitchen is small and narrow so I utilise vertical space for storage. There's a thin bench and small cupboard on the other side.

What is your favorite room and why? The kitchen is my favorite room. It’s a place of relaxation where I can experiment creatively in a way that is less intellectually complicated than art. Cooking is sensual and soothing and made to share. There is very little room for food storage so when I bake I leave some at my neighbors’ doors. When I cook I invite people over and send them home with a container of food. Making art can involve a lot of time alone, so the kitchen gives me a way to connect with others while still making something!

Credit: Hazel Dooney
The daybed is where I read, imagine and sometimes nap. It's thrifted and I made the covers myself using calico. I also stuffed the cushions, it's less expensive than buying them ready-made. The mirror is positioned to reflect the view.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The last item I bought was a jute rug from IKEA. I had two already, to cover the office-grey carpet. But they were fraying from wear and everyone was tripping over them. So I bought a third and placed it over the top, in the area that gets the most foot traffic. It’s a different shade but I like it when things don’t match exactly.

Any advice for creating a home you love? Instead of imagining a finished space, write a list of the basic things you need and love. Some people need privacy and security, while some people need vibrant colors and the company of a shared space. So it will be different for everyone. Then start creating your space based on those needs. When you add new pieces, ask yourself if they fulfill any of the needs on your list and how they make you feel.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

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