It’s now a magazine-worthy home, but not long ago, this Fitzroy warehouse was host to eight makeshift units divided by a DIY mezzanine and partitions.
After a seizure order and $60,000 in renovations and repairs, the landlord placed the property back on the rental market in 2019, when artist and designer Mishele Doueihy came along.
‘At one stage there were 16 people living in there. Graffiti was everywhere and I have heard some crazy stories that had gone down in that place,’ says Mishele. ‘When the listing came up, the place looked dodgy — the photos didn’t do it justice … But as soon as I went in for a viewing, it was everything I was looking for.’
Mishele was inspired by the rawness of the building and saw potential to make this his new home in Melbourne. He was living in Sydney at the time with no furniture, so the Fitzroy property presented the perfect blank canvas.
‘I had moved back from living in Switzerland and was finding my feet back in Australia after living overseas for quite some time,’ Mishele says. ‘I needed more culture, more creativity and inspiration … Fitzroy and Collingwood encapsulate how cultures can come together in a beautiful synchronicity. It’s vibrant, everyone has a place here, and you can be whoever you chose to be.’
Designing the apartment became Mishele’s passion over the next three years. Many of the pieces you see here were designed and made by the artist himself, including the bookshelves that work to subtly divide the huge 170 square metre space; the timber bed; and the mirrored wardrobe.
In designing the bed, Mishele was inspired by maintaining a sense of simplicity and effortlessness. ‘I wanted it to stand out from generic beds,’ he says. ‘To achieve this, I made the conscious decision to forego the generic bedside tables and visible legs, creating a clean and uncluttered look.’
He designed the mirrored wardrobe to define the bedroom area without taking away from the playfulness and magnitude of the space. ‘It was the piece which brought everything together and set it apart, and I’m really proud of what I created.’
Mishele also repainted the walls, added custom lighting and mirrors, and changed the fixtures in the bathroom.
The artworks on display are also nearly all his own creations, including the toilet sculpture titled ‘Piece of Sh*t’ — part of a forthcoming art series exploring sexuality, identity and shame.
Despite this only being Mishele’s temporary home, he’s also worked with neighbours to make the public area outside the building a more enjoyable space for all. The rear laneway is no longer just an area to store rubbish bins, but a communal area with grass, plants, and lights inspired by streets in Beirut, Rome and Paris. (Mishele even hosted his Christmas party in the laneway!)
‘It became a hub for our community, bringing warmth and vibrancy to the laneway and the neighbourhood,’ Mishele says. ‘The neighbours were delighted and ultimately brought the community together.’
Mishele has very recently moved out of this home, but he’s leaving with a newfound love of design that’s changed his life forever.
‘Looking back, the journey and relationship I had with this space was more inspiring than I had imagined,’ he says.
‘I hadn’t previously thought of designing furniture or interiors, but it was the creative challenge I needed and a reprieve from my day job working in tech… As a result, I am confident that there is a path for me in the design world.
‘I gave so much of myself to that space, but it gave me that much more in return, opening me up to my creative nature and ability to craft narrative through space.’