When they married in the 1980s, arts manager Ros left behind a Country Road-inspired home to join Ian de Souza on this Fremantle block, taking with her only a dusty pink frilly Sheridan doona cover! ‘You couldn’t get further from Ian’s masculine batik style,’ laughs Ros. ‘He was mortified.’
Inspired by traditional Arabic homes, high limestone walls on three sides of the property conceal an art studio, vintage train carriage and rammed earth dwelling, connected by lush courtyards. Having repurposed the driveway for Ian’s art studio, the front gate serves as a front door. ‘It’s a 410 square-metre battle-axe block, and we use every scrap,’ explains Ros. Inside Ian’s steel and glass studio, art hangs on the ceiling like in the Sistine Chapel.
Further in, a rammed earth dwelling contains Ros and Ian’s bedroom and bathroom, while a vintage train carriage houses Ros’ office. The living area in between is open both sides most the year. Their shower is outside, and the kitchen virtually outside too. ‘We used to sleep outside,’ adds Ros.
Ready entertainers, Ros and Ian’s guests sit around the 22-seater table on rails, which Ian built with steel wheels from a mining cart, while they cook Asian curries over an open fire or electric wok – since they don’t have an oven. Initially, for council approval as a dwelling, Ian had to install a stove but he pulled it out after inspection. ‘I was a bachelor then, I ate at the Freo markets instead!’ he says.
Ian’s motivation for indoor-outdoor living actually stems from claustrophobia. ‘Growing up in Malaya and Singapore during Japanese occupation, the Japanese were always after us,’ he explains. ‘We moved house 33 times one year, always hiding in cupboards and under beds. I’d prefer no walls, just art on sliding panels instead.’
Regularly open to the public for garden days and art walks, people come from everywhere to get a peek at this unique home. ‘One magical summer evening, three nuns shuffled around like brown–coated Daleks,’ Ros recalls!
Having a few thousand people traipse through your private sanctuary is a ghastly thought for many, but Ros and Ian have never felt that way. With nothing to hide, and everything to share, the real charm of this home is the de Souzas.