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 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