In fact, this home is unique in more ways than one. For one thing, it’s not actually one home. It’s two adjacent one bedroom apartments, sitting side by side within a distinctive 1920’s apartment block in St Kilda. Gavin has been in his apartment at the front of the building for 22 years (!), whilst his partner Peter has been next door for the past 8 years. Their front doors are just metres apart, joined by a shared balcony / landing. After so long living alongside one another, the distinction between each apartment has blurred a little, and these days Peter and Gavin treat the space very much as one rambling home – their much loved ‘cabinet of curiosities’.
I probably don’t need to tell you that Peter and Gavin are avid collectors. Of everything! Their home presents as a museum of antiquities, an ever-evolving space to showcase their incredible collection of art, antiques, textiles and ephemera. The apartments have been endearingly dubbed ‘Nic-Nak Castle’ by friends – a name that has stuck! It’s also the name of Gavin and Peter’s wonderfully entertaining blog, in which they document their various creating musings and endless enthusiasm for art, interiors, travel and fashion. The pair travel regularly and are always collecting more and more brilliant and bizarre pieces… ‘our Nic-Nak Castle motto is Out with the old, and in with the older!’ Gavin says proudly!
My inkling is that Gavin is probably the most dedicated collector of the two. In fact, it’s clear that Gavin’s maximalist approach to home decoration in some ways mirrors his dynamic art practice. Gavin’s paintings are busy, buzzing scenes often incorporating photography and collaged elements. ‘In my own chaotic vision, busyness only works with good composition’ he says, in a statement that rings true, too, for the eclectic world he and Peter have created at home. ‘The rhythm of an image should allow your eye to travel around a painting, acknowledging fragments, while reading the work as a whole’.
Having been here 22 years, there is a rich layering of colour, texture and pattern here that you just don’t see in ‘new’ homes. Incredibly, though, in all those years, neither Gavin’s not Peter’s apartment has undergone any structural changes. They have, of course, made up for this with surface decoration (!), incorporating various paint colours, custom wallpapers and hand painted murals. Gavin had parquet flooring laid before he moved in, whilst Peter stripped his blonde wood floors, staining them with glossy Black Japan to maximum effect. In the entrance foyer, the pair stripped back many layers of paint to reveal richly stained dark timber panelling. ‘We prefer things that are old and original, even if they are imperfect, rather than reproductions’ Gavin explains.
During a visit to this remarkable home, you really can’t help but be swept up in Gavin and Peter’s world. It’s a space that speaks to the power of decoration, and demonstrates how an interior can totally change your mood, or even transport you to another time or place. This feeling is echoed by Gavin when describing a most treasured piece, his Chinese Opium bed – ‘I like to wake up every morning feeling like I’m somewhere exotic’.