Theo and Soula Mantalvanos

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 19th June 2013

The Collingwood apartment of Theo and Soula Mantalvanos.  Cat Poljski print (right), Theo’s Dad’s wooden sculpture (right), ceramic Cypriot pot (right) from Aunty Irene (for Greek Easter), Thonet chairs.  Other artwork in Soula’s studio listed below.  Jean Prouve Potence lamp popping in from the right hand wall.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Details from Soula’s art studio.   The Self Portrait Marionette was commissioned by Soula from Colleen Burke (the likeness is uncanny!).  On drawer unit – Aphrodite sculpture by Theo’s dad, Ceramic ‘home’ from Soula and Theo’s niece Kat Moritz, Paper flowers made from recycled photography class paper and pipe cleaners by the pair’s nieces Eleni Katsoulis & Kat Moritz.  On the paint wall, a collection of works from Theo and Soula’s local community and arty friends – including purchases from James Makin Gallery, Chrysalis Gallery Artwork, work by David Fairbairn and Jeff Makin (Soula’s art mentor), John Waller, and Sergio Manzi (San Gimignano, Italy).  In the centre is ‘Journal & Palette’, Soula’s finalist entry in the Alice Bale Art Award 2013. To the right – two black and white portraits of Theo by Soula.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Soula’s collection of decorative plates in the dining room, including Merrick Boyd plate,  Fornasetti plates from Paris and Joy Hester drawing.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Theo and Soula Mantalvanos in Soula’s art studio.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Today’s creative Melbourne apartment is both a home and a busy workspace for Theo and Soula Mantalvanos, the husband and wife team behind graphic design studio Origin of the Image.  The pair purchased their generous loft-style apartment in Collingwood twelve years ago, at a time when it was still possible to buy an untouched warehouse ‘shell’ in Melbourne’s inner North!  These days they share the home with Zephyr the jack russell (their ‘CEO’!), and Evita, their full time employee, as well as an ever rotating group of creative collaborators.  In addition to her design work, Soula is also an exhibiting artist, and uses her studio for both painting, drawing and her commercial design work.

Over their twelve years here, Theo and Soula’s home has seen three major shuffles.  Their first priority soon after purchasing the empty shell was making the place liveable on a modest budget  – ‘initially we converted it to a ‘make-do’ point of liveability’ says Theo.  Six years on, the pair undertook a more major renovation, creating a master bedroom, ensuite and bathroom as well as a large functional kitchen. Project managed by Theo, the renovation took 4-5 months – ‘it was tricky renovating and living/working in the same space’  he says.

Five years ago, Soula and Theo faced a new challenge.  After a workplace accident, Soula developed a chronic pain issue known as Pudendal Neuralgia (PN) – a condition which still limits her mobility, though she has come a very long way!   ‘Life took a massive halt (for about 5 years in fact) and I’m still very reliant on Theo’s help, 24/7’ says Soula.  After a turbulent few years, finally life and work has resumed for Soula and Theo this year, thanks in part to Soula’s incredibly positive outlook, and her passion for her art.  ‘Creativity truly is one of life’s coping mechanisms – for us it is the essence’ says Soula.

In its current form, the apartment incorporates living and kitchen space as well as Soula’s main art studio on the lower level, ensuring easy access from working to kitchen and living spaces for Soula during the day.  Soula can’t live without her capisco chair – her condition is similar to carpal tunnel in the pelvis, so time spent sitting is limited to about 2 hours per day in small increments.  All surfaces in her art studio are therefore now set at bench height to allow her to work comfortably whilst either standing or sitting.  Upstairs on the mezzanine level is the master bedroom, ensuite and another studio space, used by Theo and other studio staff.

‘We love that the building is a little piece of Melbourne history, and we love having had the opportunity to make it what it is, being the first to live in it!’ says Soula of her much loved home. ‘It evolves with our life, it keeps on giving. I think best of all is that I get to create as I please, anytime of the day or night. There’s no wasted time, everything I need is right here.’  And that, I guess, really is the crux of what makes this home so special.  For Soula and Theo, home is more important than for most. Having such a flexible, functional working and living space has been a huge part of Soula’s recovery process, as she has spent the past few years learning to manage her condition and return to her art and her work.  Her home has played an integral part in her recovery, and in doing so, has become all the more cherished by this busy creative duo.

Huge thanks to Theo and Soula for sharing their home and story with us today!

Soula works in her studio, adjoining the main living area.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Living area detail.  Spacecraft cushion, Mark Tuckey shelving and rug. On shelf –  a portrait of Lynn Savery in her 30/40’s vintage at The Gertrude Street Enoteca (Soula’s Alice Bale finalist entry 2008).  Emu egg, a gift from Lynn Savery. Richard Morrison piece, an art swap for one of Soula’s nudes. Bust purchased in Athens and somehow arrived in one piece!  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Kitchen and balcony, and Zephyr the Jack Russell!  Kitchen Splashback drawing by Soula & produced by The Splashback Co.  Tolix stools from Thonet.  ‘And thanks City of Yarra for our great creeper outside’ says Theo!  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Soula’s current doodle on the blackboard wall in the kitchen.  ‘Theo is always in charge of coffee and all things hospitality’ says Soula – ‘clearly the qualities that make a great account manager!’  Lights by Geoffery Mance. Tolix stools outside from Thonet. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Soula in her art studio, viewed from the mezzanine.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Evita from Theo and Soula’s design team in the mezzanine office. Painting by Rachael Guthridge (an office warming present),  printing press by MES, Tinman painting by Kaitlin Beckett our previous designer and great friend. Fritz Hansen drafting stools from Corporate Culture.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Master bedroom.  Fornasetti wallpaper and Spacecraft ‘Amsterdam Street’ bedlinen.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Master bedroom.  Cartell chair from Space, wooden Pinocchio moneybox. Chapman and Bailey custom chest of drawers. Phil Daveys print from Australian Galleries.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Ensuite – Flowers by Flowers Vasette and bathroom products by Aesop – ‘not just a wonderful product, but the Aesop team are also our friends’ says Soula.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Soula’s painting study on the hall table (after Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer – a study set by Soula’s mentor, Jeff Makin ).  Antique school desk from Angelucci, vintage spindles on floor.  Print wall  – Soula’s parents wedding photo, Prints by Debra Williams, John Olsen, Martin King. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Building courtyard – the unique red brick exterior of the old CUB distillery.  ‘Stepping out to the rear courtyard you forget that you are in bustling Collingwood’ says Theo. ‘There is a tranquility and old world quiet reminiscent of old London’.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 19th June 2013


  • Kylie 3 years ago


  • Jane 3 years ago

    Love the eclectic mix, really well done!

  • kathee Gunn 3 years ago

    I think I need to drool over this for a bit longer today!

  • Gaz 3 years ago

    Inspiring old building for artists to live and create in! I want to go back to Melbourne now!!!

  • Sheila 3 years ago

    Besides being something beautiful any artist would love to create and live in, I think anyone would LOVE to live here. Gorgeous!

  • The Countryphiles 3 years ago

    Wow! What an inspiring and wonderful example of a living studio/creative space. Just lovely Soula and Theo! Lovely post Lucy and as always awesome story-telling photos Sean. Now, back for a second and third and fourth look. xx

  • Lisa 3 years ago


  • Melissa de Campo 3 years ago

    The Fornasetti wallpaper in the master bedroom looks good as a ‘one wall only’ feature. Prompted a visit to their website……….. Alice in Wonderland meets Salvador Dali.

  • Ak 3 years ago

    Such an inspiring creative space, love the vision and soul in this home! Love the collection of suitcases , definetly one of my favourite spaces featured.

  • Kath W 3 years ago

    Love that courtyard.

  • Mrs Notable 3 years ago

    a stunning creative home and workspace, love it!

  • Mary Murphy 3 years ago

    very inspiring… happy faces, gorgeous interior and lots of beautiful art!

  • Annie 3 years ago

    Simply gorgeous home full of character !

  • christine van maanen 3 years ago

    What a gorgeous place to live and work! Thanks for sharing

  • Indra 3 years ago

    Adore that bedroom! Pinned!

  • Kate 3 years ago

    That wallpaper in the bedroom is amazing!

  • Wow gorgeous home. The bedroom wallpaper is also interesting – love it. Thanks for the inspirational post Lucy!

  • Barbara 3 years ago

    I find beautiful art and surroundings are great therapy for me. And oh, how I wish I could go back in time and snap up an untouched warehouse shell.

  • Ali 3 years ago

    A truly beautiful space

  • Sarah 3 years ago

    Really good to see original art and truely individual people in a great space.

  • Claire 3 years ago

    Nice. But so, so wealthy.

  • Rachel 3 years ago

    What a beautiful glimpse into an inspiring and energetic space!

  • Esz 3 years ago

    Ahhh – they are living the dream. Really! My dream! Perfection – as in their lifestyle as well as the house.

  • Jade Evans 3 years ago

    I love how eclectic their home is. So bright and airy but then there’s all the artwork and the vintage suitacases above the cabinet (which looks so cool and makes me want to go thrifting for suitcases!).

  • Catherine Aurubind 3 years ago

    Like Soula, my life was virtually turned upside down when I suffered the same horrific, painful condition known as Pudendal Neuralgia/Pudendal Nerve Entrapment. It is an honour to see the beautiful artwork produced by Soula and her husband Theo. She is such an inspiration to those who suffer silently with chronic pain. A pain so unbearable it robs you and your family of a normal life.
    Congratulations Soula. You’re blessed to have such wonderful talent. I hope and pray your pain subsides soon.

    Catherine – Perth WA.

  • Chantelle 3 years ago

    Enjoyment from reading about where the artworks originated; inspirational story about two very creative souls!

  • Kenneth bordewick 3 years ago

    What a gorgeous place to live and work! Thanks for sharing
    a stunning creative home and workspace, love it!
    Kenneth bordewick

  • Helen 3 years ago

    very impressive !!!

  • Ori 3 years ago

    Love, love, love that wallpaper!

  • Tina 3 years ago

    Any details on the curtains in the master bedroom? They were gorgeous and just what I’m looking for.

  • Paris Rendez-vous 3 years ago

    J’adore Soula et Theo! Divine. Can’t wait to meet you both.

  • theo 3 years ago

    Hi Tina
    We got our curtains from In Vogue Blinds. The material is called Rimini and the colour is pepper. Hoep this helps.

  • What a beautiful home – love the exterior shot too!

  • katrina ginsburg 3 years ago

    Love the look with lots of ‘stuff “without it looking cluttered! Nice bentwood chairs too!

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