HORSE PLAY

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.

VOGUE Living Australia - - Apartments - By An­nemarie Kiely Pho­tographed by Sharyn Cairns

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.

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