Inside Artist Caroline Walls' Neutral-Toned Victorian Terrace
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, artist Caroline Walls welcomes us into her home.
She’s known for her minimal and understated suggestions of the female form finished in muted, pared-back tones, but Caroline Walls’ polished eye and signature aesthetic extends beyond the realm of art and into the realm of interiors.
The former designer and art director lives in a two-bedroom Victorian terrace in Melbourne’s Carlton West with her wife, Emma Hill and their daughter, Luna. Caroline has rented this space for 8 years—and it’s gone through many iterations in that time, from a home shared with friends to her family home and studio. Still, she admits “it wasn’t until I got the keys for the first time and opened the door that I realised how much I loved the space.”
Here, as in her work, monochrome tones and her background in graphics inform the space. In the bedroom and living areas, meticulously curated bookshelves double as display cabinets where vinyl records, hard-crafted wares and ceramics take pride of place. Natural oak wood furniture and flooring add depth throughout the home, whilst countless artworks (some Caroline’s, and some by other artists) take pride of place. It is literally wall-to-wall inspiration here—just ask Caroline, who treasures her collection of artbooks most.
Hi Caroline! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
I am a visual artist working across a number of different media including painting, illustration and sculpture,
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
I have always been a ‘doer’ and don’t remember a time that I haven’t been inspired to create something out of nothing in some way, shape or form. This innate instinct to want to put paint to canvas or pencil to paper is yet to disappear and the ‘maker’ in me is still so eager to explore, expand my art practice and learn new techniques.
When did you start creating art and painting? And what inspired you to go down this route with your career?
I have always had a keen interest in the visual arts ever since I was very young and this interest continued into high school with the majority of my school subjects being visual arts based in my final years. Once leaving school I did an honours degree in visual communication and design and began working for large-scale International fashion and lifestyle brand agencies as a designer and art director between London, New York and Melbourne. After many years of doing this I craved some creative autonomy and felt a real yearning to explore my own art practice away from the restrictions of clients and design briefs so I returned to Melbourne and enrolled in a post-grad in Visual Arts as a way to explore this and I haven’t looked back.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
I work fairly intuitively and on a number of pieces at any given time. I tend to spend a period of time developing and exploring compositional options, creating rough sketches and mapping out the colours I’d like to use before beginning a new series. In this sense, I much prefer to work on a collection of works together to form a broader narrative rather than just one isolated painting at a time. I generally know what I am going to paint before I put paint brush to canvas but I always leave room for movement if I feel like the forms could work better or colours can be reworked. I draw the curves and forms intuitively, rather than from models, as I feel like I can be freer and more spontaneous with my line work.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to grow your creative business?
Although it doesn’t come naturally to me I’ve found social media, particularly Instagram, to be an absolute necessity to the success and growth of my business. The reach to both local audiences and the overseas market that Instagram provides has allowed me to really open up the sale of my artworks to anywhere in the world. It’s fun to know I have my artworks in the homes of clients from Bronte to Brooklyn and many places in between.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt since you started your business?
With few large overheads, aside from my art materials, and the ability to work from home I am glad to say that challenges have been few are far between—the key things I like to stay on top of are time management and clear communication with clients and customers in the hope that few issues arise.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your business?
I’m not sure there is one particularly thing but rather I am so grateful that I am able to practice my art full-time—something I never dared dream about. Being able to do something I love everyday and have people respond to the work is incredibly gratifying and something I don’t take for granted.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self/ someone looking to start their own business/ go out on their own?
Be brave and trust yourself. I think the very hardest thing is making the absolute decision to start your business, once the decision has been made I think things begin to fall into place –your instincts will guide you in every decision you need to make – listen to them closely.
Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?
I moved in eight years ago, with the space having a few different incarnations since then – firstly as a place with friends in my twenties and now as a family home and studio, sharing it with my wife Emma and our daughter Luna.
How did you initially know this was the space for you?
Securing a great rental in our neighbourhood is notoriously hard so when I first applied for this place I didn’t get my hopes up as I knew there were plenty of others vying for the space, I rushed around the open for inspection, barely taking it in. It wasn’t until I got the keys for the first time and opened the door that I realised how much I loved the space.
Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
Given the space is a rental we haven’t been able to make any physical changes to the property so have relied on our furnishings and objects to make the space our own.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
The objects, furniture, books and art we have in our home have been collected over the years so our home has quite an eclectic energy. The palette is very much in keeping with our personal style, in muted, neutral tones and darker accents.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
My collection of art books.
Shop Caroline's look with the Oatmeal Bedding Set and Oatmeal Sheet Set.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
I am very keen to grow my personal art collection – we are lucky enough to own a few pieces by other artists I love and respect, but am looking forward to building on this collection in the years to come.
Which is your favourite room in the house?
The living room is the heart of our home as it joins onto our kitchen, courtyard and my studio space (or dining room depending on the day!). The space has some of our favourite objects, op shop finds, books and music in it and is where we spend much of our time when at home.
Tell us about your bedroom.
Our bedroom is a calming space for us and sleep has taken on a new level of importance since our daughter came along. We have surrounded ourselves with artworks and ceramics in soft, muted tones to create a space that feels really restorative and relaxed.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
Always, always sound yourself with items you love, that tell a part of your story, rather than just objects and items that are ‘on trend’ or of the moment. This way your space will always be uniquely your own and true to your personality.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
I’m excitedly working towards my next solo exhibition, titled Resemblance, opening in early April at Jerico Contemporary in Sydney. This will be my fifth solo exhibition but my first since having my daughter with the artworks exploring themes of fertility, birth, the bodily intimacy of growing new life, as well as the ‘rebirth’ of oneself through the experience of motherhood.
For more from Caroline, follow her @carolinewallsart and on carolinewalls.com
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Discover more of Australia's most beautiful homes in our series, The Makers.