I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why I love documenting people’s homes and personal spaces so much. Sourcing and capturing creative homes is something I seem to spend half of every week doing, and though it is quite relentless (!!), it’s truly something I never seem to tire of. This process really is the most intimate peek into someone’s private world, and an incredible way to get to know them. It’s like peering behind someone’s ‘public’ face, and being afforded the rarest opportunity to briefly share their private world. Swooning over a beautiful home is one thing, but getting to know the interesting characters who inhabit these spaces is another thing altogether.
This means, of course, that when we have the opportunity to meet and photograph a particularly inspiring / well known / successful or notable person in their own home, well… that’s extra special. Such is the case with today’s homeowner, James Tutton, who lives in this incredible home on the Mornington Peninsula with his wife Imogen, a horse eventer with a background in law, arts, and horticulture, and their two children.
James Tutton is a social entrepreneur, and one hell of an over-achiever. (I’ve been known to bandy that term around quite frequently, but if there is anyone who deserves it, it’s James!). After founding Melbourne’s Moonlight Cinema in 1996, and selling this incredibly successful business in 2006, James turned his attention to a range of social and business ventures. Currently, in addition to being a director at design-driven Melbourne property development company Neometro, James is also heavily involved in Neometro’s social ventures – 3000acres, Slopes and Open Journal. Other projects include Smiling Mind – a digital meditation App and online resource for young people. James is also a founding board member of the micro-donation platform Shout for Good, which we introduced last year when we interviewed Jane Martino (and with your support, we raised $10k in ONE DAY using Shout last July, which still blows me away!).
James and Imogen built their home three years ago. Originally conceived as a weekender, plans quickly changed as the house took shape, and before long the Tutton family found themselves relocating here full time. ‘We have a long affinity with Byron Bay, and we actually tried living there once’ explains James of the impetus behind this sea change. In the end, Byron didn’t work out – the work commute just wasn’t viable. Instead, the Mornington Peninsula offered a similar lifestyle, and a happy compromise.
The house itself is a simple modernist structure, designed in collaboration with James’ team at Neometro. It’s an impressive presence within the landscape, cantilevering elegantly over a lake – ‘basically it is a large series of teak boxes that sit over a lake’ explains James. Constructed around one central open plan living space (there’s also a more relaxed kids TV room which is not pictured), the home is efficiently designed and supremely functional – every room is in constant, daily use.
Both their home and surrounding property are full of personal flourishes which speak of James’ and Imogen’s respective passions. Not long after settling in, infrastructure was installed for Imogen’s horses, allowing her to train just metres from her front door. Inside, James’ passion for timeless design and Australian art is clearly evident. Favourite pieces include a Thomas Jeppe painting recently purchased from Utopian Slumps, an Adam Cullen painting, and a Mike Parr work, which James says connects him with insanity – ‘not of a bad kind, but a joyous and free madness’! The smiling Buddha statue perched on the window ledge in the living room is also an unexpected favourite, purchased at a garage sale many years ago. ‘It is special to me’ says James – ‘it reminds me of goodness, impermanence and the need for love and generosity’.
When asked what he loves most about living here, James is clear and unequivocal. ‘Horizon is important’ he says. ‘I love an urban context, but also feel the joy and privilege of being able to look onto water, paddocks, and vines – not another person or built form in sight. It is something which comes slowly to you, over years. When you reach a point where that’s part of your consciousness, it becomes near impossible to let it go’.
Now 41, and ‘just hitting his stride career wise’ (his words not mine!), James is more aware than ever of the balance that is needed not only in his own life, but also between business and social endeavours in a broader context. ‘I have done all sorts of things, but inherently I just find things I can channel energy to’ he explains. ‘I see business as being a tool for both financial and social / community good’.
I feel very lucky to share James’ story and his family’s beautiful home with you today!