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.