James Powditch and Diane Adair

ARTISTS have the BEST HOUSES.  I’ve said it before, I’m sure I’ll say it again… and there is really no better example than today’s incredible family home in Sydney’s Annandale, which belongs to artist James Powditch, his partner Diane Adair (a graphic designer), their two kids Ella (12 yrs) and Harry (8 yrs) – and cats, Tom and Jerry.

Lucy Feagins
Supported by Dulux

Artworks in living area, clockwise from left to right, by Luke Sullivan, Lucy Culliton, Paul Worstead and Peter Powditch (James’ father). Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Kitchen with dark formply cabinetry, Ilve cooktop, oven and range, off form concrete suspended benches. Artwork left to right by Ton Timmers and Graham Rendoth. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Looking out to the garden courtyard, across the suspended off form concrete kitchen bench to with James’ studio beyond.  Black Timor Bamboo grows in two large industrial stainless steel slaughterhouse bins. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The Annandale warehouse home of artist James Powditch, his partner Diane Adair and family.  Pictured here, the open plan dining / living area with mezzanine above, which opens out fully to the internal courtyard via the incredible ‘Renlita’ tilt door to the right.  Vintage 1950’s blue lounge, 3 metre long cowrie and steel industrial dining table. On stairwell, from left to right, an original 1967 Italian poster for ‘2001, a Space Odyssey’ and ‘Once Upon a Time there was the West II’ by James Powditch.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

We love the concrete bunker-like TV lounge room! Norman & Quaine Hudson sofa, vintage 1960’s bubble chair and coffee table. Artworks left to right – 1968 original ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ poster, paintings by Paul Ryan and a portrait of James by fell Sydney based artist Julian Meagher. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Looking from the courtyard into the living area with vintage 1950’s blue lounge, vintage 1960’s radiogram and original 1967 poster for ‘2001, a Space Odyssey’ and ‘Once Upon a Time there was the West II’ by James Powditch on the stairwell. A music ‘nook’  can be glimpsed under the stairs, filled with CD’s, albums and stereo equipment. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Upstairs, looking from the mezzanine into the main bedroom. A 1920’s small town telephone exchange sits on top of the vintage cowrie cupboard and a Cuban poster from 1975 for the film ‘Cool Hand Luke’ hangs in the bedroom. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Another details on the upstairs mezzanine.  Bookshelf corner with vintage Pelican and Penguin book collection. Art works behind from left to right –  ‘Lolita’ by James Powditch and a Rodney Simmons water colour. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Upstairs, the library/spare bedroom with vintage handmade ‘coin maze’ machine, which James says were common in the 60’s and 70’s in fish and chip shops! Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Master bedroom detail.  Artwork from left to right by Ton Timmers and Rodney Simmons. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

First floor main bathroom looking through to deck with Kaldewei bath and dark formwork ply cabinetry. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Looking from the lounge across the courtyard garden to James’ studio with vintage 1950’s blue lounge. A sliding black board panel enables that part of the studio to be opened to the courtyard – the ‘super soaker’ machine is an amazing school-fete creation made by James for his kids (yes, it works!). Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Looking from stair across dining/ kitchen area.  ‘Eucalyptus’ by James Powditch hangs in the void with that amazing folding ‘Renlita’ door up and open to the left.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Detail from James’ studio.  Artworks sit on a set of steel industrial plan drawers. Works by James Powditch from left to right – ‘Made in Canada’ and ‘The Shining’. Behind these is an industrial drawing board with counter weighted arm. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Artworks hung in James’ studio, clockwork from top left by James Powditch ‘Kornfield 36’, ‘Superpower- made in China’, ‘Silent Running’ and ‘Kornfield 38’. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

James Powditch on his studio.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Lucy Feagins
3rd of December 2014

James Powditch is a celebrated mixed media artist, with a background in set building for the Sydney Theatre Company and Sydney Dance Company. He is a four times Archibald Prize finalist (this year with a portrait of Nick Cave) and also this year is a Doug Moran Portrait Prize finalist, with a portrait of fellow artist Ben Quilty.  James’ work, seen extensively throughout his eclectic family home, is heavily influenced by cinema, architecture, science and politics.  His distinctive, multi-layered artworks have, in part, inspired the design of his family’s impressive warehouse conversion in Annandale, in Sydney’s inner West.

The Powditch family bought their home in 2009 as an empty 320 square metre warehouse shell, one of three subdivided warehouse spaces. ‘It was essentially a big, empty space that we could build anything inside of’  explains James. The project took a year and a half to get the relevant permits through council, and just eight months to build.

Initially, the building had only windows and a roller door facing the street, with solid party walls either side, and a solid wall at the rear.  It was, however, high enough to put in a first floor without touching the roof trusses or having to lower the existing floor level, which gave James the freedom to design and build his home almost entirely within the existing footprint of the warehouse.  ‘‘About 80% of the building was just beautiful high, clear span space ready to fill!’ says James.  The addition of an internal courtyard was imperative, allowing northern light to permeate the home’s main living zones, and to create some separation between the house and James’ self contained studio, which sits just across the courtyard.

James and Diane retained the existing window and roller door openings at the front (South) end of the property, and added a HUGE (7 x 4.5m) ‘Renlita’ folding tilt door to the North, facing the courtyard. This incredible industrial door is, without a doubt, the home’s most impressive and distinctive feature!  The first floor is a suspended concrete slab, supported by exposed concrete columns and walls that lend an incredible layer of industrial texture to the living areas downstairs.  On this second level are four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a deck and a cantilevered mezzanine which looks over to the dining area below.

With the help of architect friends, the home was designed by James, and in a way, it has been an extension of is own creative practice, reflecting many of the distictinctive features of his mixed media artworks.  ‘The building reflects my aesthetic through a sense of logical order, raw materials, reuse and layering – a throwback to my years as a set builder, and my own work now’ says James.  The heavy use of concrete also reflects James’ love of 60’s and 70’s modernist buildings.  The space is unashamedly modern, yet is filled with a rich sense of history and nostalgia, on account of James and Diane’s impressive collection of industrial and vintage furniture, and extensive collection of contemporary Australian art.

James and Diane’s home is full of art, furniture and stuff that has been either bought, found or in some cases swapped for James’ own work.  Treasured favourites from this extensive art collection include pieces by artists including Paul Ryan, Craig Waddell, Lucy Culliton, Martin Sharp, Peter Goodwin, Nike Savvas, Julian Meagher, Jasper Knight, Peter O’doherty , Rodney Simmons, and James’ father Peter Powditch.  James’ own works also feature prominently throughout the house, including his large scale ‘Eucalyptus’ (finalist in the 2011 Wynne prize), hanging in what James calls the ‘primo spot’, up high in the void above the light-filled dining area.

Above all else, what the Powditch family really love most about being here is the incredible sense of space.  ‘It’s all about space, which rare in the inner city’ explains James. He is especially happy with the seamless flow through from indoors to outdoors here, from the living areas to the garden – and that towering 6 metre high void above the dining area, which is the perfect space to hang and view large scale art works.

Being a talented creative and self-taught carpenter himself, James is very keen to mention his builder, David McNabb of KBK Building Services, who he worked with closely on the build.  ‘David was our builder, whist I project managed, drew up detailing as we needed it and worked on the building everyday’ says James. ‘My carpentry skills as a former set builder enabled me to work on a lot of the timber work, plus a good share of general labouring. It was a great collaboration and we have remained good friends’.

Huge thanks to James and Diane for sharing their incredible home with us today!

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