Project Sheet: Home is Where the Art Is

In Mornington Peninsula’s exquisite hinterland stands a home with a gallery-worthy collection. Pilar Mitchell takes us inside. Photography by Sean Fennessey.

A Hugh Ramage work hangs above a Jardan sofe. In the far room hangs a work by Michael Parker.

When Eliza McCarthy and Scotty Bemelen dreamed of home, the word “sanctuary” came to mind.

“We both have busy lives, so that was really important to us,” Eliza says.

Sanctuary requires moments of softness and quiet. But it also requires personality, something only a skilled hand can add to a contemporary new build.

After admiring an existing project by Tom Robertson Architects in tandem with Simone Haag, Eliza and Scotty quickly employed the design duo for their own build in Red Hill, a town in the Mornington Peninsula hinterland. They had long respected designer Simone’s work, so were comfortable to approach her recommendations for their interior with open minds.

“We were dealing with a clean canvas. It needed interest to soften the spaces,” Simone tells. “This is one of the purest projects we have done, where complete trust was extended. We lost count of the number of times they said, ‘We trust you. Go for it’.”

To imbue the house with the couple’s essence, Simone combined artworks with sculptural furniture to add depth and texture to clean white walls crowned with rows of timber slats extending across the ceilings.

The collection began at the heart of the home, which in this case wasn’t the kitchen, but the dining room. Presiding over a monochromatic palette hangs The apple of my eye, an abstract painting commissioned for the house from Michael Parker.

“Michael took significant objects and memories in the couple’s life, created white translucent representations of them overlaid in a rich tapestry of colour and emotion,” says Simone. “The painting captures the beautiful story of their life together.”

Artworks add colour as one room flows into the next. The curious, sculptural 1980s Ekstrem chair by Terje Ekström draws the eye to a bright corner of the living room, past hanging floor-to-ceiling shelves decorated with sculptures, books and plants, and anchored by Convince me, a geometric painting rich with movement by Diana Miller.

In the kitchen, Massimo Colonna’s photograph Pool Series 3 serves to visually extend the line of the marble countertop, and brings colour and light to the room.

The couple’s taste in art is diverse and occasionally moody, adding layers of emotion to each room. The Hurt, an abstract portrait by Nunzio Miano, is made up of rough brushstrokes in aqua, royal blue, black and dusty pinks. In spite of the uplifting palette, the subject appears brooding.

Although the versatile art collection lends the house a gallery feel, Red Hill is homey, owing to the couple’s genuine love for art. “We thought it needed a bit of crazy in the mix,” tells Simone. “Our clients are young, warm and welcoming, and we think the home struck a nice balance with the architectural elements and the design. As you peel away from the architecture, it gets more and more bold.”

Although the aim was a completed home, the journey was equally important. “It was as though they were already confident in the outcome; they just wanted to have fun getting there.”

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