Artistic Touch to Changes

Home Magazine, The Sunday Times, July 25th 2004, Gail Robinson

Artistic Touch to Changes

The idea that artists have to struggle in a dingy garret has been exploded by Shannon Hamilton, who has just created a sensational studio space in the extension of her Wembley home. With exhibitions booked for Melbourne, Singapore and New York, Shannon will have to be typically well organized and productive, according to her husband Mark Dillon.

Just as they had to be to get their renovation done. “We were laymen when it came to building.” Mark said. Most of the builders we talked to change the plans and their prices varied enormously –from $70,000 to $220,000.”

To overcome the confusion, Shannon and Mark called in an estimator to price the project. “He came up with a figure of $110,000 for materials, so we chose a builder who would follow the plans at a mid-range price,” Mark said. But before any building work began, the couple painted the original Californian bungalow throughout. “I just chose colours I liked and bought a lot of sample pots,” Shannon said.

Fuscia, Lime Green and bold blue walls are hung with smaller art pieces by colleagues. Her own art, most of it in raw-edged canvas, needed a modern setting, so large walls and lots of light became key elements in their brief to building designer Peter Fryer.

“I worked with them on each stage of the renovation separately because they wanted to manage the budget and live there while work was done,” Peter said.

The master bedroom and kitchen were renovated first. What used to be a junk room was turned into a dressing room and spa ensuite. The difficulty with redesigning the kitchen was that three doorways opened off t. “Peter recommended we fill on one to get more wall space, but I didn’t want to lose our entrance hall which is typical of the art deco style,” Shannon said. The problem was overcome with some clever design tricks- such as putting the fridge into the old fireplace.

The next stage was building the studio. Shannon’s need for “incredible amounts of light” was achieved through a full glass wall and gable windows, as well as a roller door at the rear.

The final stage was the living and guest–suite extension which replaced the old sleep out and verandah areas. Shannon and Mark lived in the front of the house and sealed off the work beyond the kitchen with a teomprary wall. “I was able to work in my studio the whole time it was being built,” Shannon said.

Building in the middle of the housing boom presented some problems. “It was supposed to take less than five months but ended up taking nine. We had a party planned so we gave the builders a Boxing Day deadline,” Shannon said. They finished on Christmas Eve and the house entertained beautifully, opening completely from living to deck to studio.

Now they’ve completely moved into the final stage-completion of the front garden-and the imminent arrival of their first child has provided another useful deadline. “If it all goes to plan, we’ll have it finished just before the baby arrives.’” Mark said.