In an age when any designer can whip up a stunning project of a luxury home using Photoshop and other digital tools, raw talent is hard to come by. That’s why when you have clients that vouch for your real-life work, and even recommend your services, it must mean that you’re are truly spectacular. Melbourne designer David Flack has earned himself that reputation, with a following of clients all of whom flock, or as the designer would term it “flack”, to his Fitzroy studio after physically immersing themselves in his art.
David Flack, the left-field visionary behind Flack Studio, brings his dynamic brand of 1980s Memphis-meets-21st-century metamodernism to this Melbourne Federation-era luxury home, with devastatingly decadent results.
In the formal living room whose formerly white walls have been dipped in the rich ganache of Porter’s Paints Bacio tone, Flack characterises his residential projects as “kind of like Kate Winslet — you can dress her up or dress her down, but put a lick of red lippy on her and she’s totally gorgeous and still real.”
His allusion to the British actress leads one to ask whether this living room is Kate at her red-carpet best or playing to camera in a period piece? Definitely the former, answers Flack, surveying a space set with Antonio Citterio’s body-hugging Apollo sofa, a sparkly Murano chandelier, a flash of Louboutin-red-esque leather inside a Jean Royère- referential cabinet and the signature ‘whack’ of Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni’s bicycle-seat stool. This design concept of Kate in film-premiere persona is further underscored by Ettore Sottsass’s Ultrafragola, a neon-framed mirror emitting a strawberry-ripple glow that epitomises Hollywood glamour.
“You know I love me a bit of Memphis,” he says of the 1980s Milan-based studio that Sottsass founded and familiarised with a mash of cartoon colour, classicism and popular culture. That devotion is revealed in the new fireplace surround; a graphic border of stone set into a fluted, polished plaster wall that repeats the Memphis master’s wavelets. Either side of what Flack calls its “humps” sit deep-set, leather-lined shelves, displaying nanna-style tchotchkes next to new ceramic sculptures that echo the colours of a feature Federation leadlight.
The fruity mix of mustard, Bordeaux, olive and plum flows out of the room, down a dog-legged hallway, past a powder-room homage to Pierre Chareau’s 1930s House of Glass, into a cook’s kitchen where a monumental island bench anchors an open-plan living room and nearby dining nook.
This cossetting eating corner, veiling views to a minimalist landscape of Japanese maples through the netting that reminds Flack of orange bags, is furnished with an arching sweep of brown leather banquette and a brass-inlaid oak table. Both customised by Flack, the pair encompass a Sottsassstyle ‘diner’ vibe; a very high-low Memphis-mix that makes fine dining in the kitchen feel far less formal. The designer affirms the luxury home residents’ enthusiasm for entertaining by retracting accordion-fold walls — crazy patch-workings of solid walnut dropping to a crazed palladiana terrazzo floor — to reveal machinery worthy of a Michelin-star cooking hub.
The commercial kit is housed in brass units, hammered by hand, to imply an aged texture. “Over the top, isn’t it,” says Flack of both the intensity of craftsmanship and a clash of material contrasts that counts three different colours of stone. “I didn’t want perfect junctions — to my mind these junctions are perfectly imperfect.” The reality of such exquisite contradiction is the result of a calibre of the maker who can realise such seeming randomness, with mathematical precision, using precious material. The designer leaves no doubt that his creative carte blanche on this luxury home came down to trusting clients and a crack crew who collectively desired the holistic work of art. Flack wants this artfully read from an upper-level vantage point, on a glass bridge that connects the old house to new addition (built by a former owner).
He leads passage up a feature staircase, pointing out the balustrade’s seamless bleed of mild steel into golden brass, which whiplashes around a limoncello-coloured column at rail base. “There are so many things going on down there,” he says, peering through the kitchen’s improvised chandelier — a hanging tangle of brass pipework that feeds power to lamps, presumed to be agricultural relics from the 1950s. “I’ve always loved [Alexander] Calder’s work and last year when I was in LA, I just kept looking at his small cord-wrapped pieces.”
Flack’s suspended salute to the kinetics of Calder and ’50s farming, in a galaxy of bits that bring light to raked roof space and service area, exerts the gravitational pull towards a story. “Where on earth did you find that?” is the refrain of guests who assume it loads with mystery.
And that makes Flack a happy man — the fact that something is not readily identifiable or easily bought but imparts an atmosphere and infers an adventure. “You see, this is the thing about us,” he adds of an office whose next client will come from a momentary orbit in this ambience. “We’re passionate, we labour over every detail in every project, and we invest it all with love. Can’t you feel it?” And it’s that question about feeling overlooking that keeps them lining up.
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