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!