James Tutton is a social entrepreneur with a restless, creative mind. After founding Melbourne’s Moonlight Cinema in 1996 (and selling it in 2006) James turned his attention to a range of social and business ventures. He is director at design-driven property development company Neometro, co-founder of not-for-profit meditation app Smiling Mind, and more recently has launched The Plato Project – a business school which fosters entrepreneurship driven by both financial and social value.
James has also recently finished renovating a truly spectacular Victorian home in Coburg, elegantly executed by Clare Cousins architects. Total dream house material.
James Tutton is full of surprises. After having lived for many years on the Mornington Peninsula (in a beautiful home we featured here), two years ago he purchased a huge Victorian mansion in Coburg, enlisting local architect Clare Cousins to design a considered renovation and update.
The move to Melbourne’s North wasn’t exactly planned. ‘I was actually looking at a development site and happened to park nearby and saw it was for sale…’ recalls James. He purchased the property somewhat spontaneously – but when James sets his mind to something, the results are bound to impress.
Clare Cousins and her team retained key period features, but gutted much of home, re-designing the kitchen and bathrooms, and softening the interiors with lime-washed floors and a beautiful muted palette of blues, greens and soft pinks. ‘Floor finishes, light fittings, robes, the laundry, you name it… there is not really a surface in there that has not been touched’ James explains.
The gardens, too, received an extensive overhaul, with James installing a swimming pool and half pipe for his teenage kids (who split their time between Coburg and the family farm in Mornington).
With a long-held affinity for Victorian homes, James was drawn to the scale of this historic mansion house. ‘There is volume in terms of ceiling height, which you just don’t get in a modern home,’ James explains. ‘The connection to nature if you live in the city is rare and it’s hard to get outdoor space… this home gives us that.’
James has a discerning eye for art and design. He loves colour, interesting design pieces and contemporary art. His most treasured possessions include his son’s much loved skateboard decks, music-related paraphernalia (including photographs of The Beastie Boys and Nick Cave) and an impressive art collection which includes works by Polly Borland, Kate Beynon and Dale Frank. The leather khaki couch from Space is James’ most loved furniture piece – ‘It’s been a part of my life for a very long time, around 10 to 15 years, so it’s a bit special,’ James says.
There’s something quietly remarkable about the refurbishment of this home. Though impressive in scale and finish, and surprisingly brave in its use of colour, the interiors here feel relaxed and understated. ‘It’s quite soft and worn, not as in worn out, but you don’t see shiny glossy surfaces here’ James muses. ‘I just kind of wanted to build a home that was reasonably relaxed,’ he explains. Nailed it.