Just a stone’s throw from bustling Crown Street in Surry Hills, the home of Sydney artist Guy (real name Guido) Maestri is an apartment that can only be described as an oasis. So centrally located, in fact, that it tends to be ‘the place everyone ends up once all the pubs are closed,’ says Guy. But the beauty is, that when you’re inside the complex with its large central garden, this apartment is also extraordinarily quiet, despite being right in the hub of Sydney.
Having first visited the 20-year old complex as a guest at a New Year’s Day party on what was possibly the hottest day of the decade, Guy was struck by how cool it was inside, and how well designed this two bedroom apartment was, with its northerly aspect. ‘I told my mate if he ever wanted to sell it I would buy it, and six months later, he rang me up and we did a private sale’ Guy explains. He’s been here now for almost ten years.
Not surprisingly, Guy has THE MOST ridiculously beautiful collection of Australian art you have ever seen – and all vertical surfaces are basically wallpapered in paintings, many of a scale you might not consider for compact apartment living! No wall is spared – every inch of the living/ dining area, hallway, kitchen and both bedrooms are liberally plastered with highly collectable artworks. ‘All of the paintings are swapped with my artist friends (including Ben Quilty and Luke Sciberras) so they are all special, and I would never sell any of them,’ he says. Two of Guy’s most treasured pieces are by his favourite Indigenous painter, Billy Benn Perrurle. ‘I had the pleasure of meeting him in his studio in the Northern Territory a few years ago. I watched him paint and was able to buy two small paintings. We arranged to come back and go on a painting trip with him, but he sadly died shortly after our visit.’ says Guy.
Beyond the art, it is clear that Guy is a meticulous collector of things – including espresso cups, stove top coffee makers and vintage glass lanterns. It is hard to label his aesthetic, but when pushed, Guy offers the term ‘eclectic maximalism’!
‘Everything in the house I have either made, found, swapped or have been given’ says Guy. ‘Actually, there is barely anything in the house bought new. That’s pretty much my philosophy. Everything has passed through other hands and I value that greatly. So many of the things in the house have existed in another time, and in other people’s lives.’
Despite this, the home feels beautifully considered and cohesive. One of his favourite pieces of furniture is a small, Australian cedar side table that his father made when he was about 25, who then gifted it to Guy when he turned 25. ‘I then left it outside for ten years until it went grey and fell apart’ Guy admits. ‘I felt pretty bad so I stripped it back and rebuilt it, and now I love that we both sort of made it, across a generation.’
A boat builder by trade, Guy renovated the kitchen and laundry with the help of his carpenter brother. With some enthusiasm Guy recalls his adventures on global eBay – discovering some fabulous drawer hardware on the British site. Other handles Guy designed for himself, and had made out of brass. ‘I was pretty pleased with myself and they look great, except they nearly break your finger off when you try to open the cupboard. Definitely form-over-function,’ he muses.
Possibly the best feature of Guy’s apartment is the generous balconies, all facing out to the communal garden or pool. Guy’s balcony is so lush with plant life you could be forgiven for forgetting where you are. Where many urbanites might just park an ashtray and a clothes rack, Guy instead has created a true urban jungle complete with coffee plants from which he has actually harvested beans! He also has an enviable collection of orchids, staghorns and bromeliads. This little green verge shields extreme sun, buffers outside noise, provides temperature control, and all-important privacy. And it looks good! So smart.