Please tell us a little bit about how you came to live in the Douglas Shire…
My parents sold up from Sydney in the early ’80s. They built a yacht and we sailed up the Queensland coast, stopping from port to port to find a new home. We sailed into Port Douglas, and we loved it.
Matt’s family moved up from Melbourne to retire in the early ’80s as well. They thought it was paradise.
Both our families are still here.
Matt spent a few decades running and owning restaurants in Byron. I spent a few decades traveling internationally and Australia-wide as an artist. We both came back to Port Douglas, and met up again and fell a bit madly in love.
What do you love most about your base in Wonga Beach?
We bought in Wonga Beach a few years ago. After nearly 35 years based in the region, we had never driven along the Esplanade at Wonga. We both thought it was absolute paradise and there was a little beach shack for sale. We were there looking for a garage sale, but Matt screamed out , ‘that’s our new home!’
What do you think makes Wonga different to other locales within the Shire?
Wonga Beach reminds me of Port Douglas in the ’80s. Wonga is filled with crazy characters, and most of the residents are more interested in the tropical lifestyle. Their yards are filled with boats, fishing gear, caravans, quads-anything to explore the outdoors. We love walking the beach, swimming in the rainforest rivers, and our house is shaded by towering palm trees. It is a wonderful place, and really chilled out.
Apart from home, do you have a favourite place to escape to in the Shire?
In summer, immersing yourself in the Mossman River is heaven.
What do you love so much about world travel ?
We usually travel the world six-to-eight months a year. There is something so lovely about exploring the world with little plan, living out of a small bag, and immersing ourselves in different cultures and foods. It has been a beautiful way to bring up the kids. I hope it instills a sense of curiosity, and that there are many ways to live a life. I hope they feel comfortable in the world, and they don’t fear different cultures. I want them to be global citizens. The more you experience different cultures, the less room there is for fear or racism. The kids have seen so much for such young souls. This year, we have really missed travel. We were supposed to be following the Silk Road right now.
What is your favourite city/ destination?
If you asked Pablo for his favourite country, it would be India or Japan. We have lost count of how many times we have been there. We often put the kids into school in South Goa.
If you asked Hugo, it would be Egypt.
Matt loves Mexico and we keep heading back to the Philippines.
I tend to love everywhere.
We generally start off with a one-way ticket and see where we end up.
Last year we spent a few weeks in Bangladesh, a country that doesn’t see many international tourists. We thought that was pretty amazing, with such beautiful people.
So, the more we get off the beaten paths, the deeper the love of travel gets. I love feeling out of my comfort zone as it gives a feeling of full-bodied attention and focus. The days feel big, you don’t know where the day will take you. It is so refreshing. It feels like you are making the most out of the time we are given, and you have all this time to connect with the kids, exploring together.
How do you enjoy your days best?
A great day for us at home is a bit of exercise, a swim in the pool, fresh juice and long beach walk, and time to create a bit of art. A G & T on the front deck or the beach at sunset. Simple days.
Please share with us a little about your creative spirit…
Before kids and homes took over, I used to travel the world creating emotionally interactive installations. I created video work that responds to your emotion’s signatures – like heartbeat, pulse, sweat, movement and emotional expression. I worked with tech labs and incredibly smart scientists and many renowned research institutions.
Nowadays, I create a lot of work that sits on our walls and some of our guests buy my pieces. Mostly for me, the process of creating is a beautiful way to chill out. But I am just starting to explore the world of a new media artist again. Now that Hugo is six, I feel like I have the energy for it again. To do ‘well’ internationally as an artist, takes an incessant amount of commitment.
Your design aesthetic for your houses is very eclectic-tell us about that…
We have five holiday homes in Port Douglas, and one in Berlin – so its quite a bit of work keeping those in shape too. But they are creative homes, so its quite fun, a little irreverent, and playful. I think the homes are inspired by going a little troppo.
We like things to look different. We hate buying from shops, and we don’t want our homes to look like they’re from a design magazine. We prefer to make it, or find it second hand, and then we do it up.
How do you source all your lovely artefacts?
We enjoy things that reveal that they are hand-built. I like things to have a story – it is much more intriguing than an expensive price tag. Matt and I like things that don’t generally mix, sometimes it works, sometimes its a bit weird, but it’s all a bit of fun! I think that sense of playfulness leads to laid back vibes – which is the feel we are going for.
Does the aesthetic evolve slowly, or do you have a plan at the outset? How do you hold yourself back when designing and decorating a space? Is your design ever a collaborative effort or more individual?
Sort of like a free flowing conversation – you never know where you will end up.
When you juxtapose strange things together, it ignites a sense of creativity, a feeling of ‘what could be’. That is a beautiful feeling to capture. Even when we are doing major renovations, we don’t have a final end plan. That can drive some builders crazy, but it’s the way we work.
Do you ever get the ‘minimalist’ itch?
We certainly don’t embrace minimalism, but probably if we built a home from scratch we would. It would be concrete and metal ;). Easier to look after in the tropics.
Why do you think people choose to come to stay at the Artist Houses?
I think people enjoy the playfulness of our homes. We get so many people saying they have started painting, or drawing, or playing guitar, etc when they spend time in our homes. I think its important to live around the energy of art. Whether you do or don’t like art, it asks you to feel ‘something’. In the act of feeling, or questioning, that can generate the beginning of a creative flow. It generates conversations.
We have heaps of returning guests. They may have started as a couple or honeymoon in our one bedroom Artists’ Cottage. They come back with their babies to stay at our two-bedroom Artist’s Nook. They come and stay at our four -bedroom Artists’ Treehouse with their growing family and parents, and then a huge family celebrations at our five-bedroom Artists’ Beach House. And then when they really want to chill out, they head to the Artists’ Beach Front, our five-bedroom home on the beachfront at Wonga. Some of our returning guests even stop by our apartment in Berlin. They tell their friends, so we get a lot of great people staying with us. There is something cosy about our homes, our guests keep telling us that they feel so welcoming, and that we create beautiful social spaces. I like to create big tropical spaces where you can laze the day away in, spaces that ignite beautiful conversations.
Yes, we love our homes, and they have all been our homes along the way. So feel like they are more than ‘holiday rentals’.
How has coronavirus affected your business and family life?
Who would have thought the year was going to go this way? I have found not being able to travel quite difficult.
But if you had to get ‘stuck’ somewhere, I feel so lucky that our home is in North Queensland. he energy of nature has been so healing in these uncertain times. Of course, our homes are our income, and it has been disheartening dealing with the cancellations, re-booking, and more cancellations. I guess, owning properties in North Queensland, that we always have to prepare for some sort of flooding or cyclone disaster, and also the long off-seasons, so we have spent years preparing for bad times, so I am hoping that gets us through.
I think it is the uncertainty that doesn’t have us sleeping well. And we keep thinking about all the families we have met traveling the world – everywhere we have stayed, eaten, all of our transport – and knowing how much they would be hurting, having a hard time simply trying to feed their kids. That gives a sense of sadness that is hard to shake. We are lucky we are here, that there is government support, and sometimes, with that ‘luckiness’ we feel a bit guilty.
How do you keep your head above water as a parent in that regard?
We hope to start some Australia trips. We just got a camper trailer – so we are looking forward to seeing more of our beautiful surrounds, but also simply to spend more time re-connecting with the kids.
The kids wish COVID home-schooling would start again (I don’t). With all the travel, I spend a large part of the year home-schooling the kids, so they are used to listening to me, but our home-schooling is so much more relaxed and intuitive than the home-schooling directed by the teachers. Our home-schooling is walking is through history, maths, science, art and geography.
What are your plans for the future?
Disruptions like this one can often reveal changes that were needed, and the energy to see through those changes, I just hope we have brave enough politicians that will take us into the future that works for all. For us, I hope we still get to share our homes and I most of all, I hope the world stays as welcoming as it was.