I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – artists have the BEST houses. There’s just something so free and un-self-conscious about the way artists tend to pull together the spaces they inhabit…. and I’ve never visited an artists’ home that isn’t richly layered and full of imperfect beauty – just the way we like it!
Eveline Kotai and her husband Giles Hohnen live in White Gum Valley near Fremantle, WA. Their rambling home encompasses a separate but attached studio, where their daughter Elly lives, with her partner Frank and their daughter Mabel.
The property has been home to Eveline and Giles for 12 years, and was originally purchased to fulfil the need for three work spaces – a design office for Giles (an architect), a studio for Eveline, and a workspace for Elly, a textile designer.
Eveline and Giles’ home is unconventional in more ways than one. For starters, the site was never really intended to be a home. Originally built in the 1970s to house 3 businesses (a deli, a hairdresser and a beautician) the site is officially zoned ‘non conforming’ (!). This zoning was a blessing for Eveline and Giles, allowing a little more flexibility than the average suburban block, and after securing the property in 2012, it didn’t take long for them to create 3 distinct work spaces to suit their needs.
It wasn’t until a few years later that this space was transformed into a home. When Eveline and Giles decided to sell their principal residence (in the next street), the workspaces they had created here presented a new opportunity. Giles reconfigured the site, adding a beautiful North facing living space opening into a central courtyard. ‘The building process alarmed the neighbours somewhat, as they watched many a dump truck come and go over the next few months’ recalls Eveline. After removing at least 20 loads of rubble and old building materials from the site, Eveline and Giles’ new home began to take shape.
In the years that have passed since then, Eveline and Giles have layered their home with an incredible collection of furniture, textiles and artwork. Eveline’s most treasured possessions, though, are those she has inherited from her parents.
‘The furniture piece I love most is the Danish-designed chair that my Mum bought from a friend in 1970 – we call it the ‘Man Men’ chair, as the same chair appears in Don Draper’s office in the TV show.’ Eveline says.
The piano is another much loved piece – it was a gift from Eveline’s Father to her Mother, for her 50th birthday. ‘My parents had left behind quite a cultured life in Budapest, and my Mother was a great lover of music – she often played evocative Hungarian melodies that made her cry’ Eveline recalls.
Eveline’s parents arrived in Australia with 5.5 children and just a few suitcases in 1950 looking for a new life. ‘I was child number 6 – the only dinky-di!’ says Eveline. Her Father had studied sculpture and ceramics at a prestigious Arts Academy in Budapest. ‘He was very capable, creative and optimistic, and after a short period of trying to make a living here with ceramics, he was invited in 1955 to set up an Applied Arts Department at Fremantle Technical College’ Eveline explains. ‘We have photos of his early sculptures, but almost everything was destroyed in the war – making the ceramic pieces he made in the ’50s all the more precious. I have around 9 pieces and will always treasure them, along with many artworks created by various friends and family.’
Eveline describes her home as ‘a little cluttered, but visually rich, cosy and tranquil’. What is most apparent is the joyous sense of creativity here – this is a space which effortlessly celebrates all things creative. There’s no projection of any particular style, and yet everything seems to be connected – either gifted, inherited, created or swapped with other artists. A space to aspire to!
Eveline Kotai is represented by Art Collective WA in Western Australia, and Conny Dietzschold Gallery in Sydney, and is part of a major exhibition called ‘Patternation’ opening at Hazelhurst Regional Gallery (NSW) on December 12! Meanwhile, Giles Hohnen’s artworks will be included in the Fremantle Artist Open House event later this month.