Designer David Flack is given free rein to renovate a home on a thoroughbred breeding property in rural Victoria, and the result is beyond the client’s wildest dreams.
When Melbourne designer David Flack had finished “Flacking” his most recent project — the renovation of a 19th-century homestead at the heart of a northern Victorian nursery for thoroughbred horses — he received an email from the client eulogising its outcome. It was a declaration of love for a scheme first gleaned “as a big mess of materials” in Flack’s Fitzroy office. And it was a radical departure from the usual diatribes about building defects, “of which there were none”, says the designer, remonstrating against the use of “that awful word”. The praise starts with a macro-to-micro regard for the framing of the picturesque and the impact of a perfect cutlery drawer insert — a must at double the $$$ — before streaming into random thought. The colour of everything and the way it flows. Brilliant! Inspired! wrote the client, who Flack characterises as an art-savvy mother of two with a talent for turning out future champions of the turf. All the surfaces — stone, brass, steel — are very user-friendly and forgiving… Kitchen, the mood and finishes, so special, and the bench — we live there, every meal so far… hallway now has light and life, and bedrooms — a joy to wake up in... Let’s do it all again sometime! Her intent to recommission one day is forwarded on a Flack Studio template that terminates with the apt phrase ‘Flackery will get you everywhere’. It’s a wordplay that semaphores both the studio’s game with design language (a moreish pick-and-mix of periods) and the sharp trajectory of its graphic style out to the global polarities. Flack has just signed off on a second iteration of Caravan cafe in South Korea — a Memphis-inflected love letter to 1970s Melbourne — and is “hot to trot” in wider world markets. He laughs at the horsey idiom for his unbridled enthusiasm while mapping out his colour concept for this homestead on a plan that, over the course of a century, had grown four times the size of its original footprint. “I call what I do crafting inner space, rather than designing interiors,” he says, identifying the 1880s building stock as the existing family room (kitchen inclusive) from which his scheme seeded and spread. “The client wanted big splashes of bold colour, but how do you maintain a sophistication of palette without resorting to candy pops?” Key to his contrivance of a “journey” that flowed with tonal logic and lyricism was a collection of blue-chip contemporary art that the client had thematically curated around horses and the local region — a landscape seared by extremes of winter cold and summer sun. Its fierceness suggests figuratively in Mary Tonkin’s Kalorama painting, an immersive eight-panel work colouring the ashen-walled family zone that Flack decided to flip in plan. His upturning of this west wing’s existing order incurred the removal of a red Aga stove from a fireplace cavity, for repainting in stealth-bomber black and repositioning in a new kitchen ‘monolith’ made from flamed granite and mild steel (waxed to wear the patina of use). From this brooding zone, where an Apparatus Studio Cloud light imparts the atmosphere of an impending storm and new French doors frame a verandah laced in wisteria, Flack flowed the colours of Tonkin’s painting, isolating its scrubby shades for decorative artist James Quadara to affect similar boundless immersion in bush. “He picks you, not the other way around,” says Flack, crediting both Quadara and builder Gaelan Walker as a dying breed of craftsmen. “I was totally vibing off them, trusting when James would tell me that the entry needed a deeper yellow.” Referencing the Dulux Topelo Honey that transforms the foyer walls into glistening nectar, Flack controlled its seep into the formal dining room, restricting it to a ceiling plane in a putty-coloured space that is set with a ping-pong table. “It’s just a bit of fun,” he says, adding that the table comfortably seats 12. “It plays to the client’s competitive spirit and her backhand spin.” Interplaying light and depth with the same landscape intensity as Tonkin, Flack coloured the east side’s private quarters in saturated shades that sequenced from dirt brown in the north-corner sitting room to squally blue in the boys’ bedroom, gum-bark pink in the main suite and eucalypt green in its retreat. The bathrooms have been rendered with brass-edged nostalgia, not to mention house-wide fixtures and furnishings specified for a deep comfort and dry comedy. Jaws, a fibreglass effigy of a shark’s head from The Sheep Bloke gallery at Trentham in central Victoria, adds bite to a billiard room bordered with artist D’Arcy Doyle’s 1960s tributes to sporting greats. Its quirk continues in the laundry, where an Atelier Biagetti ‘No Sex’ mirror makes a joke of the property’s breeding interests. “She is awesome,” says Flack in praise of his client’s licence to let him run his own race. “She just let the reins go.” Which understates an intuition and experience that knows talent is born and bred but brilliance trains hard. Her gamble has paid off in a home that resonates with personality and firms Flack into ‘favourites’ contention.
this page: in the LIBRARY, customised American oak shelves in Dulux Flinder’s Green; (top shelf, from left) Life was a Riot for Joanna (2009) porcelain sculpture by Penny Byrne; gold Ettore Sottsass vintage object for Memphis Milano; (middle shelf, from left) white ceramic structure by Bruce Rowe from Hub Furniture; The Price of Eggs in China (2017) green ceramic sculpture by Joe Whybin; artworks by artists unknown. opposite page: in the KITCHEN, Neowall sofa and Starsky side table, both for Living Divani from Space Furniture; Mater High Stool by Space Copenhagen from Cult; Cloud XL 73 pendant by Apparatus Studio from Criteria Collection; Parabola Ora Rosa copper lamp by Atelier Biagetti; glassware installation (on rear pantry wall) by Nicholas Folland.