Michael Zavros & Alison Kubler

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 24th October 2012

The Brisbane home of Michael Zavros, Alison Kubler and family. Artwork above fireplace – Donna Marcus, Southport (detail).  Vintage Rene Grau Dior poster behind couch.  Photo – Jared Fowler, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Loungeroom – above couch, a feathered Juju hat from Cameroon. Springbok skin and African hand dyed hessian cushions.  Photo – Jared Fowler, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Artwork above fireplace – Susan Norrie, Wish you were here, Be seeing you, 2005.  Taxidermied Musk Ox and Peacock.  Photo – Jared Fowler, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Uncovering fabulous homes in a new city is always tricky, and my recent trip to Brisbane would have been rather fruitless had it not been for the generous assistance of a few very helpful people! Melbourne gallerist Sophie Gannon was particularly amazing – she pulled out some serious detective skills, uncovering a number of unique homes and open-minded homeowners(!!) for me to approach.  The one which seemed most fitting for this special week of Brisbane highlights is the incredible home of celebrated artist Michael Zavros, art curator Alison Kubler, and their kids, Phoebe (7), Olympia (5) and Leonidas (18 months).

The phrase ‘power couple’ is perhaps a little dramatic, but it certainly springs to mind when trying to describe Michael and Alison!  I get the impression they’re basically like the prom king and queen of Brisbane’s fine art scene.  Michael is one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, he has been the recipient of many awards for his AMAZING photorealistic drawings and paintings, including the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize in 2010, and the inaugural Bulgari Art Award this year – an $80,000 award which results in a painting acquisition for the Art Gallery of NSW.  Alongside his incredible drawings and paintings, Michael also creates intricately detailed bronze sculptures.  Alison has equally impressive art world credentials – she is is Associate Curator at the University of Queensland Art Museum, and runs her own art consulting business. (Let’s not forget these people also have three young children!)

The Zavros family live and work in this sprawling four bedroom property, where they’ve been based for just over five years.  The home is actually in Chandler, around 30 minutes out of central Brisbane, on a generous 8 acre block which also incorporates a purpose built studio for Michael, swimming pool, tennis court and chicken house.  Whilst the Zavros’ home itself is still waiting for the ‘big’ renovation, extensive work has been done to two large industrial sheds on the grounds, to create Michael’s studio and a self contained guest house.

It’s clear Michael and Alison are avid collectors of many special things – despite the presence of three very energetic young kids, their home certainly feels museum-like, full of valuable treasures!  ‘It’s an unusual mix of antiques and artworks’ says Michael.  ‘We have a Bill Henson work that we love, we seem to have a penchant for chairs – more chairs than people to sit in them. We also love our many Chesterfields, probably because they are all about sitting and relaxing, drinking wine and watching good telly. They are our sitting happy places!’

Not surprisingly, given their backgrounds, many of Michael and Alison’s dearest friends are artists, and most of the artworks you see here are swaps or gifts, and hold great sentimental value.  ‘Curiously, when gathered together, they all seem to be about portraiture’ says Michael of the collection.  Highlights include works by Shaun Gladwell, Bill Henson and Susan Norrie.

Michael and Alison love the serenity of living outside of the city on a generous block – ‘It’s good to not hear your neighbours sneeze’ says Michael. ‘We love that the kids can throw on their boots and just be outdoors all day.  At night wallabies bound about outside the bedroom and we have seen several koalas up close. Nature abounds!’

Massive thanks to Michael and Alison for sharing their eclectic home with us today, and to Alison for lots of amazing introductions and other Brisbane tip offs!

Michael Zavros is represented by Sophie Gannon Gallery in Victoria, Grant Pirrie in New South Wales and Phillip Bacon Galleries in Queensland.

Dining room.  Large artwork – Cherry Hood, Serenity 2, 2004.  Smaller works – Michael Zavros, Man in a wool suit, 1999. Michael Zavros, Big Step, 2000.  Photo – Jared Fowler, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Artwork in loungeroom – Donna Marcus Southport (detail). Photo – Jared Fowler, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Indian Spotted deer full mount, and behind, incredible portraits in charcoal by Michael Zavros of his children. Photo – Jared Fowler, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Artwork above fireplace – Susan Norrie, Wish you were here, Be seeing you, 2005.  Photo – Jared Fowler, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Sculpture on sideboard – Michael Zavros, Swell,bronze 2007.  Adorning the walls – an Elk shoulder mount, a Blue Peacock full mount, a Warthog Skull, A lioness skull, a horse skull, 3 feathered Juju hats from Cameroon, A Greater Kudu shoulder mount.  Artwork on far wall – Shaun Gladwell Apology to Roadkill: Barrier Highway 2.  Photo – Jared Fowler, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Hallway details – an Elk shoulder mount hangs above the hallway dresser.  Sculpture far left – Michael Zavros, Swell, 2007.  Painted Ostrich egg by Neil Duncan, Lionel Bawden pencil sculptures, Tim Johnston and Karma Phunstock, untitled, Michael Zavros watercolour portrait and silhouettes.  Photo – Jared Fowler, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Hallway through to bedrooms.  Artwork left – Shaun Gladwell, Apology to Roadkill: barrier Highway 2, Artwork behind chaise – Cherry Hood , Quentin, 2004.  Photo – Jared Fowler, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Hallway.  Artwork – Michael Zavros, LV L’Ennui, 2006.  Shoe sculpture – Cash Brown, Fuck Me Boots: A tale of great personal loss (Lightly Worn) 2008, Nickel plated Prada boots.  Photo – Jared Fowler, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Michael’s studio.  Artwork just nudging in on left – Michael Zavros, Immaculate down to the last detail (detail) 1998.  In foreground – a Hyena skin.  Photo – Jared Fowler, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Michael’s studio. Sculpture on table – Michael Zavros,Trophy, 2010.  Photo – Jared Fowler, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.


by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 24th October 2012


  • Brismod 4 years ago

    Amazing. What a gem. And wonderful to see a home that is on Brisbane’s south being featured!!

  • Gaz 4 years ago

    Wunderkammer wonderland! Such an interesting space and can see where he gets much of his inspiration from. Thanks for sharing!

  • carly 4 years ago

    Love the house BUT what is it with the numerous dead animals? Who wants to sleep with the giant head of a dead animal above you? I just don’t get it.

  • Lee 4 years ago

    Such a treasure trove of beautiful objects and artwork.

  • feyza 4 years ago

    Swoon, this is one of my favourite house tours!

  • Maxine French 4 years ago

    Agree w/carly (comment 3). Lovely home but utterly spoilt by the dead animal. This will become a social issue in the future such as smoking, puppy farming, etc. Pleez peeps …..

  • sandra 4 years ago

    I agree with Maxine and Carly. Nice house but what’s with the dead animals!

  • Jane 4 years ago

    Yes, and the Springbok fur cushions….

  • Kimmy 4 years ago

    OMG Michael’s portraiture is just stunning, so worthy of his awards. Artwork heaven! Grandiose and amazing styling…who’d have thunk this would be tucked away in sleepy Chandler? Really enjoyed this one, especially that teal Chesterfield :-) …thanks for sharing.

  • Helen 4 years ago

    Some fun details but I also feel the same about the animal trophies… not cool.

  • Emma 4 years ago

    Bravo! Fabulous to see Brissie homes featured on TDF!… lots of hidden gems up there! Stunning home

  • Barbara Fisher 4 years ago

    Waking up with that ox head above me would totally freak me out!

  • emma @ emmy & mouse 4 years ago

    Amazing home – how much fun would it be to live here! Unpretencious space, yet so beautifully designed and ‘curated’ – thanks for sharing this great home

  • Clare 4 years ago

    I, ah, think the animals are cool *ducks for cover* I’d happily live with them. I’m curious as to how/ where they acquired them all. Is one or the other from South Africa? Or spent time there?

  • This house just oozes masculine charm and innate style. But all the dead things are just SPOOKY! I much prefer my live cat.

  • Kate 4 years ago

    Lovely, except for all the dead animals! Sorry, can’t take pleasure from something unethical.

  • Kath W 4 years ago

    People’s reactions are perhaps understandable, but it seems contradictory that hidden forms of taxidermy, like leather boots, are acceptable (and plenty of TDF homes have featured stuffed owls, horns, and cowskins etc). But when when it comes to real, expressive preserved creatures, people find that creepy. I suppose they represent hunting, an objectionable past-time if done only for sport and not food, but personally, I find an ad for a cosmetics/fashion multinational Dior more problematic than beautiful preserved animals.

  • Ros 4 years ago

    I think the animals are amazing and the decoration beautiful and eclectic! Whilst it may not be to everyone’s taste, we should be respectful of people’s right to decorate their own space however they like! Life would be pretty boring if all our houses looked the same :)

  • Lucy 4 years ago

    Hey guys thanks for your comments – Kath W thanks for presenting a more balanced view!

    IN general please let me remind everyone that those who generously allow me to photograph their homes for TDF are not reimbursed for their time or trouble, and there would be no Australian Homes features without these people! It’s a very big ask to have someone share their home so openly – please lets be respectful of how others choose to decorate their homes!

    Thanks all xx

  • jimmy 4 years ago

    i wish the homeowners had spoken about their grand appreciation for dead animals. i find it repulsive but maybe that feeling could be lessened with some kind of context.

  • Katie 4 years ago

    Interesting though that the taxidermy wasn’t mentioned at all in the article? especially when there are numerous things in the house and it is a contentious issue.

  • betsie 4 years ago

    I’m completely up for respecting everyone’s opinion and choices! Just disappointed that TDF chose to support and put forward choices that feel unethical. These animals aren’t road kills – they look like wild African animals! Bit shocking in this day and age?

  • jimmy 4 years ago

    @betsie: on the issue of roadkill, the homeiowners have on display an artwork by Shaun Gladwell titled “Apology to Roadkill: Barrier Highway 2”. confusing!

  • Kate 4 years ago

    The display of dead animals in this house is offensive and I am shocked TDF have endorsed this horrific practice by publishing this post.

  • EH 4 years ago

    I see at least two endangered species in these photos (Musk Ox and Cheetah). Horrifying!

  • Dean 4 years ago

    I love taxidermy!

  • Emily 4 years ago

    While I hope that these animals died of natural causes and have been stuffed in an honourable way… I can imagine that they would be fantastic models for drawing studies. I am sure that the Zavros family are a lovely and well respected family in Brisbane. I feel just a bit sorry for them being scrutinised in such a public way. Good on you guys for sharing your home – it is very interesting and different and I’m glad that I was able to view it. I hope Lucy continues to share Brisbane homes! I’m not sure that TDF are endorsing, but rather sharing a range of different homes with unique design styles.

  • Lizzie 4 years ago

    Looking at these photos actually made me feel ill . Could not even bring myself to read the article . Who could live in a house with dead animals on every surface ?. With illegal poaching being such a huge problem in Africa I really feel strongly against these displays of animals portrayed as art . This house should not be given praise in TDF . It’s wrong .

  • Annie 4 years ago

    …sick-making. and what’s with the ‘apology to roadkill’ artwork? then lamb shanks for good measure – what a combo! unfortunately couldn’t even stomach the recipe after viewing the house :(

  • Emma 4 years ago

    These animals have been killed purely as trophies, and I am appalled TDF has featured this home without an explanation from the owners about them. Not a fan AT all. I have no problem with taxidermy as long as the animals have died naturally or accidentally (ie roadkill) but not intentionally with a shotgun to be an ornament on someone’s wall.

  • K W 4 years ago

    It’s important that the ethics of interior decorating are being discussed here (it’s made me consider more deeply the current fashion of taxidermy and trophies) but I still think it odd that we don’t scrutinise leather sofas and non-plantation timber products to the degree that this home’s decor is being scrutinised.

  • Christine 4 years ago

    I am lucky enough to call Ali and Michael friends and have been to/stayed at the house many times. It is a stunning house and one that I always feel at home in. I never feel that I can’t touch something, or sit on a particular seat – it’s certainly not a museum. It is a home where the kids are free to play without fear of potentially breaking something. It’s a very easy going, relaxed house.
    Whilst I can understand that taxidermy is not everyone’s cups of tea – Ali is originally from South Africa, so it may go some way to helping people understand a little of the interest. And for those worried about waking up with an animal above you….I can’t say I’ve ever had an issue. In fact in a weird way it is comforting. But each of us are different and aren’t we all grateful for that!

  • Cass 4 years ago

    Hi, it’s an impressive impressive and bold collection of artworks and taxidermy.. We don’t know the context for these stuffed animals – their history ( are they antiques?) or how they came into being in this house – so I’m not jumping to any conclusions. Endangered species issues aside, how is having the lovely leather chesterfield sofas any different? Thanks for showing your home.

  • betsie 4 years ago

    @EH – thanks for sharing these facts… Does TDF support this? Green, ethical, sustainable – I think not…

  • Bexie 4 years ago

    Absolutely stunning! Such a wonderfully curated collection of old, new, organic and man-made.
    I think the taxidermy is an amazing artform…and likely that these pieces were not commissioned, rather they existed in the marketplace for an age. Why not give all forms of art a beautiful home? This is just amazing – and what a great home for children to be in, so many things to explore and learn more about.

  • Bianca 4 years ago

    Beautiful home. I don’t like to judge but I do want to say that whilst taxidermy isn’t for everyone.. this to me does not resemble the home of a hunter/trophy collector but rather to a family who loves animals. Getting these animals into their home would have been a lengthy and expensive process, I believe that they value what’s in their home, even though it’s not something I’d like to hang on the wall, I have no problem with this. I hope people will think before they judge. Thank you for sharing this lovely house Lucy.

  • Amanda Falson 4 years ago

    I also think its horrifying to condone the number of dead animals in this house without providing some kind of context. I just hope they’ve been acquired ethically and that the children of the house are educated not to use animals as trophies. The house would be quite lovely sans dead animals everywhere.

  • ponygirl sumers 4 years ago

    If your idea of demonstrating your love for animals is to artfully drape their corpses around your house, then no doubt you will also enjoy that delightful romantic comedy, Silence of the Lambs. After seeing this house, however, I can tell you – my lambs are still screaming.

  • Mary 4 years ago

    I think something is getting missed here. Taxidermy has been around for a very long time and will unfortunately continue (however unpopular). But I think the issue is that this home filled to the brim with bold taxidermy is being featured on The DESIGN files, keyword ‘design.’ Is taxidermy an artform? Is it design? I’m sure the animals who lived their lives in the wild and now have their heads on manmade walls and skins on the floor for people to walk all over would think otherwise.
    Lastly, how is having dead animals in your home the way these are presented (in a trophy sort of way) going to teach any child that wild animals are precious? As an avid long time reader of TDF, I’m really disappointed.

  • Deb 4 years ago

    Lucy, I support you 150% You bring my family so much joy with your blog. The kind people whose homes you offer us an opportunity to see are so generous. The photography and interviews are so insightful. A house is a home where people should have the right to express themselves and be true to themselves and this home is just as good as all the other beautiful homes you have shared and showcased. Thank you again Lucy for working tirelessly to make The Design Files what it is today; a must read and see blog.

  • carrie 4 years ago

    It looks to me that someone has posted this URL on another blog and asked people to blanket the comments with negative comments. I wonder how many of you actually even read the design files on a regular basis, or are even from Australia.

    What I find most interesting is the comments that this isn’t eco, or green. The fact that two of the animals shown are now endangered hints that these taxidermy objects are most likely very old – and very vintage. Buying these items second hand after they’ve been cooped up in an old shop and giving them a chance to be on display and have some sort of second existence, if anything, gives a little more value to the life that these creatures no longer have. Also a lot of taxidermist only have access to animals that have died of natural causes, as opposed to ones that are hunted.

    Lucy, thanks for sharing this post. Michael and Alison have a lovely home and should ignore the internet bullies.

  • lisa 4 years ago

    what an amazing house. I thoroughly enjoyed looking through this home. Whilst I personally want the animals on my wall, I think it is a fantastic house with so much flair. remember – they are artists!

  • Suzie 4 years ago

    I think that the home is amazing and although it may not be my “thing” I feel privileged to get to take a look inside. However, considering the number of unusual taxidermy animals in the house it does seem very strange that there is no mention of the them in the article. *pun alert* Ignoring the elephant in the room?

  • Lisa 4 years ago

    That was supposed to read *don’t* want the animals on my wall! Feeling very sorry for the owners of this home…chesterfields look amazing by the way!

  • Roberta 4 years ago

    Thanks to Michael and Alison for sharing their very interesting home.

    And thanks to people like Kath W and Carrie who presented a more balanced view of taxidermy and the use of animals or animal testing in the products we buy.

    Consider the leather belt and shoes you wear as well as the cosmetics you buy before you criticise a couple for displaying taxidermied animals that are very likely from another era in their home.

    Additionally, there are people out there who have had their beloved pets taxidermied, so not all taxidermy can be considered immortalising a trophy killing. We don’t know where or how Michael and Alison came to own the animals on their wall and shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

  • jacqui 4 years ago

    I want to echo Deb’s remarks thanking Lucy for all her work on TDF, a blog I really enjoy. Lucy, you seem a little worried about the controversy that this house has provoked, but I would encourage you to take a deep breath and don’t fear it. As the owners of this house well know, if you put yourself out there, then you’ve got to weather the compliments along with the complaints. Complaints or negative responses are the flip side to praise: both of which come as part and parcel of being “out there”, and getting attention for actually doing something well. So expect controversy sometimes and learn how to manage it well, even invite it. Look at another great design site like Dezeen. They make great jokes when readers post angry comments about something provocative, they often even play up that controversy in a way that helps us all to think through the issues at hand better than had everyone merely praised it. I might add, I don’t see that people here are being outrageously rude or trolling, merely expressing a contrary perspective which has its rightful place in the world. Lucy, I look forward to all of your future endeavours.

  • Laura B 4 years ago

    I love this home, everything so artfully displayed and so true to the home owners taste. I’m so grateful that we get to have a lovely sneak peaks into some of the most beautiful homes in Australia every Wednesday morning! Thanks Lucy – you do an amazing job bringing a bit of spice and variety in interiors to us.
    How boring it would be if all of these homes were the same!
    I wish I could articulate how I feel about some of the negative comments as well as some of the people above have, but instead I’ll just say ‘YEAH, What she said” ^^ Thanks Kath W, Emily, Cass and Carrie and a few others.
    Thank you also to the Zavros family for sharing your amazing home with us.

  • simone 4 years ago

    Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. TS Eliot.

    You do a great job Lucy, keep showing us the best houses you can find.

  • Sarah B 4 years ago

    Now, no offence to ANYONE who reads this blog, but since when was TDF held up as a pinnacle of what’s ethical, sustainable etc? To its absolute credit, it takes us on a non-political aesthetic adventure every day and whilst it’s important that we each recognise the hypocrisy inherent to how we decide what’s ethical and what’s not, I don’t think jumping on one’s high horse is doing anyone any favors. It is unkind to both the people who opened up their home and to those who present us with such splendidly vouyeristic and aspirational images every week. I for one was initially taken aback by the sheer number (a slight overkill…?) of animals, which made me stop and question WHY I had this reaction, when I usually love all things leather in fashion and textiles. It made me take stock of what an enormous hypocrite I can be – which is something we should all examine sometimes. Whilst poaching is abhorrent, so too are many of the practices in dairy farming. Yet, no one gets all uppity about a Stephanie Alexander recipe.
    Lucy – I think if you’d run a giveaway with this piece, then you’d get nothing but “Oh – Love! So exotic…” ;)

  • Bridie 4 years ago

    I don’t normally comment on homes (unless there’s a competition!) but I felt the need to here to counteract all the negative comments.

    This home is just beautiful. Its warm, loving and inviting and all of that is achieved through the artwork, the taxidermy, and the general styling. The mix of the old, the really old, and the new is perfectly balanced (and the cabinet in the dining area is especially gorgeous!) and I would LOVE a home like this (even though its not completely MY style). Michael’s charcoal sketches of his children are amazing as is all the artwork in their home – shows how much art can make a difference to the ‘homeliness’ of a home.

    I hope Lucy, and the owners of this home, are not put off but the negative comments/attitudes of the few. People’s homes are an expression of who they are and I feel privileged to look through the photos and read about the homes not only of Micheal and Alison, but all the other homes you feature on this blog. People should respect the way people style their homes and what they put in them, not judge or comment without knowing the people that live in them. And Lucy, since stumbling upon your blog years ago, you have open up a new world for me of home and product design and I LOVE learning from others and I hope that you don’t get put off featuring other dramatic homes in the future!

  • Emma 4 years ago

    Not that Michael and Alison have to explain themselves, but I think maybe a lot of the negative comments might not have been posted if we had some sort of insight into how the Zavros’ came across these animals and their feelings about them….I think everyone is interested to know!

  • Veronica 4 years ago

    I look at Design Files every day (and will continue to do so!). And while I don’t wish to mindlessly attack the family whose home is on display here today, because I do believe in freedom of choice, I have to say that I am happy that displaying dead animals is causing contoversy in this context, and that readers are piping up and saying it that makes them really uncomfortable, as it does me. Design-wise, it is a lovely house.

  • Anne-Maree Sargeant 4 years ago

    Firstly – I feel extremely disheartened that the freedom of speech on the internet is misused in this comment stream! The negative responses take the focus away from the point of the post – which sharing creative talents of one of Australia’s most recognised artistic talents, and – what is obviously a very beautiful home. As a design and arts writer (both in Australia & internationally) – during my career I am yet to receive a single complaint when reporting on Michael’s work, or for that matter, that of Australian artist / jeweller Julia de Ville (who’s work centres on taxidermy). I feel those who have negative comments or are critical of the interior should realise the internet is a very big place & there are many other places you can head to. Ganging up in a comment stream is not constructive. Congratulations Lucy – this is a great home & it is not for your readers to judge other people or their homes. AMS

  • Amanda 4 years ago

    What an interesting thread! I believe both sides have very valid points… I don’t think the ‘negative’ comments have been written to ‘bully’ anyone or criticise to criticise. They seem to be from genuine TDF readers and design lovers who have found some of the content offensive because they are supporters of animal rights (maybe some of them don’t have double standards and are veggos!). Given the amount of wildlife portrayed in the images, it was to be expected? (Or naïve to think noone would be taken aback…). I think what shocks some people isn’t the taxidermy, it’s the scared wildlife side of things. I feel uncomfortable reading all the comments that condemn TDF readers who have chosen to to express their surprise…I’m sure Michael and Alison have strong views and ethics and opinions on a lot of things. They seem like educated people and probably aren’t surprised or offended by the controversy of the comments…

  • Amanda 4 years ago

    Not scared, I meant ‘sacred’ wildlife side of things!

  • Amy 4 years ago

    I saw this earlier and was pretty grossed out by the house of death but just assumed it was because I’m vegan then clicked away and thought little of it. I thought about commenting but who likes a preachy vegan!? Exactly.

    Came back to see how comments were going and find it all pretty interesting! I wonder if the people who are so horrified at animals being used as decoration are the same people who chow down on animals for food. As far as I see it there are two options – seeing animals as animals (the kind that live and breathe) or seeing animals as products (whether it’s food, art, clothes etc.) Is animals being shot, stuffed and mounted any more wrong than animals being farmed, shot and eaten? Either way I don’t think they’re down with it.

  • little bird big chip 4 years ago

    Amazing home! I just wanted to reach out and give that musk ox a pat… such an interesting thread of comments, I kind of wish jeweller and taxidermist Julia DeVlle was reading and could chime in with her thoughts…

  • sarah 4 years ago

    Can’t we just all appreciate how beautiful they are?
    Whether they’ve been obtained ethically or not at least they’re being treated as the family’s pride and joy, if taxidermy exists surely thats the best way.

  • Lucy 4 years ago

    You know what guys, I’m so grateful for all your responses, both negative and positive, thanks for taking the time to read and to offer your varied viewpoints. I have to say, having visited this house in person, I was not at all affected by the taxidermy, but I was completely GOBSMACKED by Michael and Alison’s incredible art collection, which is why this was the angle covered off in the story (especially relevant given Michael and Alison’s career backgrounds).

    I don’t feel it’s my place to judge or make moral statements about people’s homes, I simply source and shoot what I deem to be creative, aesthetically significant Australian homes, and present them here as a growing archive for your viewing pleasure. Of course as loyal readers of this site, I’m incredibly grateful for your ongoing support, and welcome honest feedback on every post. However I think it is fair to say that making blanket judgments about people based on 12 photos of a home and an anecdotal intro from me is probably a bit hasty!

    I asked Michael and Alison a number of questions about their home and items within – their responses all centred around their art collection, and the luxury of space for their growing family. They didn’t focus too much on the taxidermy so I decided to steer the story in that direction. I wonder, had I spent a paragraph discussing the taxidermy if it wouldn’t have actually caused even more of a storm!?

    Many homes and shops we have featured in the past have featured taxidermy, leather furniture and animal hides etc in them actually, just not quite this many in one place!

    Anyway thanks all for the amazing response, so glad to have struck a chord with so many of you, and thanks again for reading.

  • Emily 4 years ago

    I love it, but couldn’t live in it. Thanks to the owners for sharing.
    PS I think blog debates like this are important.
    Respect to all.

  • Clare 4 years ago

    Taxidermy is a craft, an art, a means of “preserving beauty” in much the same way that a photograph “captures beauty [or a moment etc]”. The choice to live with such art works is as personal as choosing to live with an orange chenille bedspread. I find bones, skulls of animals though definitely not of humans) fascinating and beautiful. But.. there is something immeasurably sad about a full taxidermied head or body. Maybe it’s the perception of its “being” by a glimpse into the creature’s eyes – this, despite the fact that they’re typically fake glass eyes inserted later into the eye socket. Perhaps, rather than seeing a “hunted-now-dead” animal, we can view it as a “Life moment”. I wonder whether Michael & Alison aim for provocative in their artworks or truly love their animals.
    I do believe it’s unproductive to be critical or sanctimonious about people’s living spaces. Choice, individuality, pleasure, comfort.. it’s all about OUR personal environment.
    Oh and .. Shoes, by the way are not a product of taxidermy, rather a bi-product of meat consumption. Make choices that sit comfortably with you (when you’re alone). Be kind to people and furry (feathered, scaled etc) creatures every chance you get :)

  • Christine Scott 4 years ago

    Interesting comments. Animal trophies are a sad reminder of the barbaric practice of hunting for pleasure. I expect those who are familiar with the artist’s oeuvre will understand why he is surrounded by these animals and objects that we associate with beauty. Great article and thanks to the family for the open home!

  • Anne 4 years ago

    Carrie (41): I read the Design Files almost daily, and I am from Australia.
    Kath (17): I don’t like or buy leather boots or cow skins
    Roberta (45): I don’t use products tested on animals or containing animal ingredients, I don’t buy leather ( or wool or fur)
    Sarah B (49) : I don’t eat dairy (or any other animal product for that matter)
    … so am I allowed to have an opinion on this?

    Thanks Lucy for all the gorgeous houses you find and to the people who share their homes. I’m pleased that this has opened up discussion about taxidermy/trophies… Personally I was kind of horrified at the number of dead animals… I sure as hell couldn’t live there! There are some nice features of the house but the animals are so overwhelming and confronting… definitely not my cup of tea.

  • Carla Coulson 4 years ago

    The portraiture artwork in these pics are simply amazing such detail just like a photo wonderful talent!
    Such a creative space and so quirky and eclectic! How fabulous are the children’s names, such an interesting house and creative family thanks for sharing..
    Carla x

  • Margie 4 years ago

    great job Lucy, thanks for uncovering another gem. I’ve never read more than a handful of comments in the comment stream before…

  • De-sign 4 years ago

    Taxidermy and French Posters are so 2007. Not surprised this house is in Queensland!

  • Hannah 4 years ago

    I personally think it’s nobody’s business. Taxidermy isn’t illegal and not ONE reader here today knows the origins or backstories of those animals.
    I don’t know where people get off, thinking their two cents are worth a damn. It’s rude, arrogant and, frankly, immature.
    There are plenty of things people do in their homes/lives which I personally disagree with, but I don’t say anything to them because it is NONE OF MY BUSINESS.

    This is a gorgeous home, and should be celebrated as such!!!

  • Bianca 4 years ago

    @ De-sign What a seriously pathetic comment. This has to be the most offensive comment on this thread. The french poster and taxidermy have special significance to Michael’s art practice and Alison’s heritage – not everyone needs to style their homes so it is “so” 2012 for it to be appreciated! What a joke, I’m sure no matter what the interior, you’d have a disparaging comment just because this home is in Queensland and not Melbourne.

  • DS 4 years ago

    Until I read all these comments I thought the animals were alive and just posing for the photos. Oh, and Zavros, I want to be on you.

  • amy 4 years ago

    My seven year old and I pour over TDF together every morning before she goes to school – Thankyou Lucy for giving us this special time. Yesterday’s post did not strike either of us as particularly controversial and we both loved the beautiful portraits in this home – in Scarlett’s words ‘amazing’. From the mouths of babes..

  • Jo 4 years ago

    Lucy, I read the Design Files every week, went to the Design Files Open House, and usually look forward to Wednesdays as I get to have a peek into some amazing houses.

    I must say I’m really surprised and disappointed by (a) your lack of judgment in publishing photos of this house in the first place and (b) your lack of accountability on this issue, when your readers understanably reacted with shock.

    You have consistently sought to undermine any less than positive comments, both in your comments on this page, and on Facebook.

    The issue is not one of taxidermy, as you have mistakenly tried to characterise it. We are talking here about the display of ENDANGERED SPECIES skins and busts. Completely different.

    Please keep bringing us beautiful homes. But please do not show us homes with cheetah skins, or endangered species busts, and then try to convince us that these homes are stylish.

  • Kate Johnson 4 years ago

    I realise it’s hypocritical, but I felt ill viewing this house. It was quite shocking to see animals displayed in this way. Unfortunately instead of admiring a talented Queensland artist and his home, I am left with the assumption of an arrogant man who finds pleasure in displaying animal trophies as some sort of power trip. As mentioned in previous posts, a little insight into the thinking behind this display might help to put it in context. I apologise for being so judgemental, but admittedly that was my first instinct before having to take a deep breath and remind myself that everyone has the right to decorate however they like, however distressing to others…

  • Kate Johnson 4 years ago

    …and what about his kids? They look quite young, I don’t understand how they could possibly comprehend that mommy and daddy love animals so much that they have chosen to nail heads to the wall and lay skins on the floor for everyone to walk on.. bizarre…

  • Emma 4 years ago

    That big cat makes me sad, all these animals are sourced via hunting, and we all know how scarce big cats are in the wild these days. Offering the context of ‘she’s from South Africa’ as a justification or attempt at context is like saying ‘I’m from Australia, here’s my thylacine’. Yes most of us eat meat and wear leather, but these animals are farmed, as opposed to the rare beasts in this post.

  • thomas 4 years ago

    i like the stuffed animals. pretty cool.

  • Vanessa 4 years ago

    There’s a global movement called kind design. Compassion. Awareness. Karma. Ethics. Respect. Gratitude and grace. This space is the exact opposite of that. What a shame this place is being put on a glorified pedestal here on Design Files. Appalling and horrifying.

  • G 4 years ago

    LOVE TAXIDERMY!! Thanks TDF…beautiful piece!

  • ClareMc 4 years ago

    Vanessa (78).. Wonderful!
    I appreciate the sound of “kind design”. Those are all qualities (dare, I say “virtues”) that we should embrace and demonstrate to our small humans. I guess it goes along with avoiding unnecessary consumption, hence greed-avarice-envy-excess. Recycling and salvaging and sharing and “making do” in creative ways. Using imagination for evocative rather than provocative aims. This house, spectacular as it may be, goes for the latter, somehow thoughtlessly. It goes against the grain.

  • Emily 4 years ago

    For a little bit of “insight” into the taxidermy collection that so many of the previous comments are demanding… Michael Zavros is quoted as saying “They distill a soulless beauty, a melancholy and a timeless quality that I’m drawn to. I find them strangely life-affirming; I never think of my taxidermy as trophies of the hunt. I try to collect antique pieces and not contribute to the vast, illegal trade in animals.”

    Through his artwork he deals with notions of beauty, pop-culture, vanitas, death and excess. His collection of taxidermy is directly referenced in his work, as are designer sunglasses, and an Alexander McQueen scarf. These objects are used not only used as visual models, but also for the symbolic implications they provoke. A lot of his work deals with consumerism and narcissism. To judge his work quickly and on aesthetic value only is to miss the point…. I imagine it is much the same for his taxidermy collection.

    I appreciate everyone’s freedom to make comment on an open forum such as TDF, but I think a lot of one-dimensional judgments have been made about Michael and Alison here. As readers, we actually know very little about them, including the reasons behind their collection and the history of it. Sometimes the anonymity of the web can turn people into very harsh critics.

    Here’s the link to the interview, if anyone wants to take a look…

  • Kath W again (sorry!) 4 years ago

    I don’t see the strong comments as necessarily ‘negative’. You can be critical & principled and still civil and decent, and I agree with the earlier comment that if you put your home out there, you’ve got to weather the response. From experience, I imagine the curators of this home are used to critical discourse: most professionals in the artworld WELCOME it.


    I hope Lucy is not feeling overwhelmed: conversely, this debate is testament to her magnificent work documenting homes. She is a documenter: the varied response is a healthy acknowledgement of the huge impact of her work. Could this open an opportunity for occasional posts on the ethics of interior styling? Such posts would add such a lovely dimension to TDF and INVITE robust debate instead of damning it with strawman rhetorical tropes like “freedom of speech” & “people’s right to do what they like”. If robust debate is unwanted in home-profiles, perhaps it could be referred to / kept within the perametres of posts on ethics and design? Just a thought.

    Forgive me for banging on, but this has been the most fascinating thread I’ve ever read on TDF. Certainly got me thinking of all the issues. Bravo, Lucy and all.

  • DS 4 years ago

    To #70 Melissa and the others who criticised Michael’s work. Taste in art is absolutely subjective and everyone is entitled to their opinion. But Michael’s work is on a level – in technical ability, creativity, and execution – so far beyond most artists in Australia (and the world), that all your comments demonstrate is that you wouldn’t have the slightest clue about art and its process.

    Secondly, to those people criticising the collection of taxidermy. How do you know when the animal was killed or died? How do you know that the animal had anything to do with commercial killing?

    Lets say the animal is very old and has passed through various hands and has not been the subject of a recent commercial venture. What is worse – buying that animal, or buying a wooden credenza made from several trees chopped down in a native Australian forrest?

    I hope you critics are vegans!

  • Jennifer 4 years ago

    De-Sign, I’m not sure what your comment is alluding to. Why are you not surprised this house is in Queensland? Would it have made a difference if it were a Melbourne home? I think the house is lovely and the owners have done a wonderful job decorating it. I’m quite stunned at the feedback here and have to question whether any of the posters who find taxidermy so horrifying are actually vegetarian who also refuse to adorn themselves with leather products or let their arses come into contact with couches made from dead animals.

  • Gary 4 years ago

    I am a sculptor, a painter , a designer, a stylist
    I am conservationist, a hunter and a collector
    I am an artist
    I am a taxidermist
    This thread was brought to my attention by a close friend
    and I guess it comes as no surprise that the topic of taxidermy as interior decorations has, as one would expect, raised a healthy debate over ethics and may I say, personal choice.
    To begin with taxidermy is not illegal, nor will it ever be, the resurgence of interest in this craft is stronger than I have ever seen in the 35 years that I have practiced taxidermy.
    What does concern me is the incorrect assumptions about some of the specimens involved. There are no cheetahs as suggested above,,,, the leopard rug pictured is in all probability a Van Ingen and Van Ingen from Mysore India. The Indian government banned big cat hunting in the 60s way before Geneva ever initiated the CITES treaty. But I digress.
    Most of what I see in the photographs I personally handled. Recycled hunting trophies from private collections and captive specimens that died of natural causes that I dispersed through auction houses Australia wide.
    And please let’s not confuse hunting with poachin., Sustainable hunting practices generate more funds that are used to protect all levels of biodiversity than any emotional can rattling at traffic intersections will ever achieve. And the stark reality is that in countries where hunting is regulated, no species has become extinct, and in many instances are more common than before European settlement of the land.
    Poaching is to be condemned at all levels of society, and it is a reality that in some countries poachers are dealt with in the strongest possible measures.
    In closing its all about choice. We all love houses that express an individuals, or may it be families lifestyle , and in the passion of interior design and decoration not everything we see may be our cup of tea, but at least it stimulates our most primal instinct to gather , collect and adorn our own dwellings as we see fit.

  • Peter 4 years ago

    Well it’s been a few days since I’ve checked in with TDF and wow I’ve never seen anything like this.

    A colleague once told me that people who ‘like’ or agree with what they’re reading or seeing THINK this; but those who ‘dislike’ most often SAY so.

    As someone who ‘likes’ what they’re seeing I’m moved to comment (for the first time ever) on this fascinating thread and to offer some balance to what I see as utterly ridiculous and hypocritical.

    I echo a very early comment that suggests this interior displays a casual elegance, a complete lack of pretension and (I would add) an intelligent, avant-garde quality.

    Debate is healthy and welcome in my book but the petty vitriol heaped upon this artist and his family for having opened their home to all of us is surely a disgrace. I engage with TDF because I love design and embrace the very point of designing anything, which has always been to challenge what has gone before. I congratulate TDF for bringing us this home and the owners of it for not engaging with this thread nor justifying their choices.

    Working in design, of course I have heard of Michael Zavros and am aware that he is one of the country’s leading visual arts practitioners. A CURSORY glance at any of the myriad articles on this guy would clearly answer some of the questions asked or ‘spat’ throughout this thread as Emily 79 has begun to articulate. A little more research would indicate that Musk Ox are not endangered nor are cheetah (the skin in the studio is not a cheetah but a leopard anyway thanks to the very measured Gary 84) and the artist buys antique trophies in any case.

    The passage of this thread raises much broader contemporary issues than the ethics of taxidermy. It illustrates how easily we’ll engage – via the internet – in a dialogue about anything sans research or accountability. We speak our minds anonymously.

    I would like to say that I am a vegan, that I don’t wear leather and that I own no taxidermy.

    In the spirit of this thread I would like to now state that which offends me most– prudishness and stupidity.

  • Emma 4 years ago

    I think it’s a shame that Lucy is deleting any comments that don’t blow smoke up Zavros’ art. So much for open discussion. Sure these people have ‘generously’ opened their home, but the whole thing reeks of self/cross-promotion (the producer was referred by the guy’s art dealer for goodness sake). If you go this commercial, you should step up and take the bad with the good (it might even do you some good).

  • Tara 4 years ago

    This is disgusting!! The majority of readers here are horrified by this! I am a devoted fan of The Design Files Daily but this has turned me off this blog completely! I will no longer be reading because of the support for such horrendous cruelty to animals. i live a vegan lifestyle and i am truly disappointed and saddened people can do this with neither regard nor respect for life.

  • Jac 4 years ago

    I love the way that these guys have disguised 70’s features like the curved entrances and terracotta tiles throughout with artwork, textiles and deco furniture. Masterfully done.

  • Lucy 4 years ago

    Hi all, thanks again for all the comments! I’m just letting you know I’m now closing this comment thread, I think everyone has had the opportunity to participate and I just don’t have time to moderate it anymore!

    I’ve chosen not to participate in the fierce debate here. I don’t have a strong opinion on taxidermy, though of course I acknowledge others opinions and choices, and have left this comment thread largely intact for this reason (with the exception of 3 particularly personal and unconstructive remarks). I don’t feel it’s my obligation to justify or make moral judgements about the homes or content we share on TDF. My job is simply to source, shoot and share Australia’s most interesting creative people and spaces. The internet moves fast, Wednesday was a long time ago… I’m already working on next week’s house!

    Once again a huge thanks to you all for reading and supporting TDF, and participating in this debate! Big thanks must also go to Alison and Michael for weathering this rather unexpected storm and not asking me to delete a single comment!

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