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This Terrazzo Artist's Cosmic Palace Is Out Of This World!

Homes

Actual gasps were sputtered from the collective TDF mouth when our Managing Editor stumbled across this multi-level, mezzanine gem while searching for homes to shoot in Sydney earlier this year. It was like finding buried treasure, and that was before we even saw it in the flesh!

This unbelievable home belongs to prolific public artist David Humphries, whose legendary career has seen him craft dazzling terrazzo art pieces in Australia, London and Los Angeles. With endless stories up his sleeve, and an outstanding artistic legacy, David’s home is one of Sydney’s best-kept secrets. Which really begs the question, why have we only JUST heard of David Humphries? An oversight we’re seeking to rectify today!

It’s my job to get excited about all beautiful Australian homes, but this house is spectacular on another level.

22nd April, 2020

The gallery walkway connects the two upstairs mezzanines. The linoleum tile floor assembled by Haden Fowler is a reference to the building’s 1950s beginnings! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Jimi painting by Martin Sharp in 2004. The Love Table ceramic mosaic sculpture by Deborah Halpern in 1987. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Sculpture from Sepic River region in Papua New Guinea purchased by David in 1983. Sculptured head by Tiwi artist Lionel Tipungwuti. Papanya painting by Norman Kelly Caley. Various pieces from remote Northern Terriority Indigenous communities collected by David over the decades. Snake poker-worked wood by John Mongda. The red and blue chair was designed by Gerrit Rietveld in 1918, but this licensed edition was produced by Cassina in 1973. Terrazzo side table and floor made by David. White table bases by Sam Whiteman in 2006. Ceramic vase Linda Seiffert. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

All roads lead to the garden! Terrazzo floor and table made by by David in 1996. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Paintings from left: David Humphries, 1965; Ron Lambert, 1968; Geoff Klem, 1986; Blue Circle by Masou Nodoust, 2018. Terrazzo table and floor by David himself in 1996! Kartell dining chairs in blue from Space Furniture.  Black chairs by Le Corbusier x Cassina from Space Furniture. Ceramics by Sandra Taylor. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Details of the terrazzo floor and table made by David in 1996. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Ceramic vase by Linda Seiffert. Terrazzo table by David Humphries in 2006. The little blue figurine was found in the Marrakech markets in 2020. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Crocodile sculpture purchased in Sepic River region of Papua New Guinea, purchased in 1990. Artworks (from top): photograph by Geoff Klem in 1986, Blue Circle painting Masou Nodoust in 2018. Terrazzo floor by David Humphries. Lounge set and chairs are Le Corbusier x Cassina from Space Furniture. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The living room interior. Artworks from left: Papanya painting by Norman Kelly Caley; painting by David Humphries in 1964; painting by Ron Lambert in 1966. Mirrored cabinet by Scott Whiteman, 2012. Ceramics by Sandra Taylor 1978 to 1998. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Marble eyes, glittering stars, and fluid, iridescent orbs float across surface, resembling a sea-floor filled with creatures, coral, and hidden treasure. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A jaw-dropping art collection! Artwork from left: painting by Pantjiti Mary McLean, 1998; painting by Nyilpirr Ngalyaku Spider Snell. Face vase by Jenny Orchard, 1986. Green vase by Patsy Healy, 1988. Bird sculpture by Daniel Wallace, 2005. David’s own terrazzo floor and table! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

A picturesque bedroom. The Kiss is Coming by Martin Sharp, 1968. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

La Paloma garden pots from the Thanakupi and Lino Alvarez collaboration. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

‘Every room upstairs faces into this magic little garden which doubles up as outdoors dining area,’ says David. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Blue onyx shower marble installed by master stonemason Nick Gazzard in 2015. Terrazzo floor made by David in 2015. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The SHOWSTOPPING terrazzo floors. Seriously, there is no limit to the photos of this we could look at! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Artwork on the gallery walkway! Blue Buddha by Lachlan Warner. Wall vase Sandra Taylor. Cow by Andy Warhol. Martin Sharp + Tim Lewis collaboration. Eternity by Martin Sharp. Mosaic pot by Sarah Lysaght. Head sculpture Oliffe Richmond. Jet-cut marble circle and large coloured painting by David Humphries. Rooster sculpture by Jeff Thomson. (And Goochie the cat!) Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The yellow and blue painting of former politician Neville Wran is titled Cooking fish and chips in paradise by Paul Worstead in 1976. Small paintings on wall were painted by artists (from left): Charles Blackman, Michael Callaghan, Rollin Schlicht, Ashley Taylor, and Bunduk Marika. The Zandra Rhodes portrait was painted by Robyn Beeche. Baining Fire Dancing Mask from the East New Britain region of Papua New Guinea in 1980 hangs from the ceiling. Lounge and chairs Le Corbusier x Cassina from Space Furniture. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Central painting by Masou in 2012. Bark painting by Mimi Spirit in the Northern Territory. Photographs on right: (top) jetcut marble and terrazzo installation in Queensland by David Humphries, 1996; (bottom) by Richard Stringer. Cardboard face sculpture on the ground by Slim Barrie, 2005. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The garden is a living, breathing organism. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

The downstairs studio as seen from above. David’s paintings and terrazzo works. White table by Sam Whiteman. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

David transported his collection of koi fish from his old abode to the custom-built pond in his Rosebery warehouse. He has had some of the fish for over 30 years! Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Terrazzo work details. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Masou and David in the studio in front of David’s paintings. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files. Styling – Annie Portelli.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 22nd April 2020

‘The interiors of this warehouse are a chatter of energy, vibrating creativity to the household like a tree full of cicadas.’ – David Humphries.

Behind an anonymous, unimposing warehouse facade in the Sydney suburb of Rosebery lies the home of one of Australia’s most prolific public artists. Although you might not have heard his name before, David Humphries is a bit of a living legend! Entering his home is like stumbling into Aladdin’s cave glittering with crystals, or taking the lens cap off a telescope to reveal a star-studded night sky.

‘I like that passers by have no inkling as to what’s behind my door, unless they are invited in,’ David remarks. He shares the Sydney home he has been living in for over 25 years with his partner, designer photographer Masou Nodoust.

David’s truly epic career was most prolific through the ’80s and ’90s, where his distinct terrazzo designs sprawled across the floors of cathedrals, memorials, shopping centres, retail complexes and casinos. His company, Public Art Squad, made large-scale public art pieces for institutions like the National Maritime Museum and Olympic Walk, as well as the entrance hall floor of the Fashion and Textile Museum in London. David even crafted the terrazzo installation at Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall tramway zone!

After returning from New York – where he had lived in many loft-style studios in the ‘70s – David had his antennas up for his own warehouse. ‘I found this one by accident on Christmas Eve in 1995, and pounced on it immediately,’ he recalls. At the time, it was an industrial space, an ex-storage facility for an events management company. Despite the international acclaim his work garnered, David’s piece-de-resistance is the 9x15m concrete slab floor in his own home, atop which sits a 40cm-deep terrazzo artwork. Marble eyes, glittering stars, and fluid, iridescent orbs float across surface, resembling a sea-floor filled with creatures, coral and hidden treasure.

‘The interiors of this warehouse are a chatter of energy, vibrating creativity to the household like a tree full of cicadas,’ David says. Each room in the 400square metre space points towards the indoor garden, and sports its own type of terrazzo to match its personality. The bathroom floor is inky and black, studded with crystalline stars and wiggly supernovas; while the art-filled gallery walkway is a vibrant, multicoloured checkerboard.

Beyond the terrazzo, this loft residence boasts 12m high walls, polished concrete floors, a library, a media den, a custom built koi (fish!) pond, an exuberant art collection, a second indoor courtyard and a marble sheathed bathroom. The old loading dock is now a flexible studio space where David creates paintings, mosaics and terrazzo pieces, while also doubling as a gallery and photo shoot location.

‘The design of the space is simple and fluid, it’s easily adaptable and can be changed to fit the needs and uses of a variety of projects,’ says David of his multifunctional home. ‘Most of the furniture is on wheels, and plants are in pots so they can easily be moved. The view from above is great for designing floor works, photo shoots or watching parties in the studio below.’ The soft and ever-changing light is perfect for making art, and a lot of work has gone into making the house eco-friendly, with a full roof of solar panels, a worm farm and double brick wall for insulation!

Ceiling-to-floor cedar and glass sliding doors partition the mezzanine space from the studio void, which David calls his ‘secret garden of exotica’. The garden is a living organism, where ‘gentle air currents and ions from the pond cross-ventilate the space and create an energy that nurtures plants, our life and creativity,’ David explains poetically.

Though Public Art Squad is still in operation under Masou’s direction, these days David has taken a step back from crafting terrazzo pieces himself. ‘We keep within our capabilities, but I’m not up to the physical yakka of the good old days. I am no longer Peter Pan.’

We are truly blown away discovering David’s work and home, and hope you feel the magic, too!

Our Art Director Annie Portelli made this little video tour, just incase you were wanting more! Enjoy

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