As resident designer at Adelaide’s internationally recognised Windmill Theatre Company, Jonathon Oxlade is well accustomed to creating worlds for people to inhabit. But one project has been a much more personal endeavour.
The set and costume designer moved into a ’70s-era loft in the city’s south-west last year and has been busy renovating it since. Now complete, the L-shaped house – a two-minute walk from the Adelaide Central Market – is adorned with objects and homewares from local designers, as well as refurbished vintage furniture, a striking archway and a gorgeous spiral staircase. It’s clean and contemporary while retaining its warm personality and character.
“I’ve created a mood that’s playful and meaningful,” Oxlade tells Broadsheet. “Everything in my home has a story and a history.”
The open, light-filled digs are something of a shrine to his life and work, and the travels, ideas and memories he’s amassed along the way. An eye-catching colour-blocking bookshelf in the living room holds keepsakes from his various projects, objects gifted by friends and some he’s crafted, and rows and rows of books. Among these titles and trinkets is a gold AACTA (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts) Award for Best Costume Design that he received for his work on critically acclaimed film Girl Asleep. (He also scored a nomination for Best Production Design.)
“With work, I tend to spend large periods [of time] in other states and I love to travel, so when I come home all of these ‘things’ remind me of those experiences,” says Oxlade, who’s just completed a national tour of Bluey’s Big Play.
“There are so many imaginative spaces humans can build and inhabit; it’s a nice respite from the real world,” Oxlade told Broadsheet in 2016. “I love promoting parallel worlds.” He’s currently working on Windmill’s very Australian musical Hiccup!, which follows a paranoid camper, a scheming quokka and a particularly inventive emu on a journey to find a hiccup cure. His next project is the heartwarming and hilarious Creation Creation, which blends puppetry, mime, dance, animation, projection and live sculpture, and will see Oxlade take to the stage to (sort of) resolve some of life’s biggest mysteries from the big bang to the afterlife.
Name: Jonathon Oxlade (Jox)
Lives: In a late ’70's open-plan loft house in the centre of Adelaide, near the markets and parklands.
With who: Just me right now.
Have you made any changes architecturally since you moved in?
The house had previously been decorated in the ’90s and was a bit of an ant farm. I removed cabinets and cupboards that were stealing space, removed and replaced all the flooring with bamboo, removed the old kitchen and installed a simpler, cleaner design, removed some walls, created an arch to a hidden laundry, repainted. Basically everything was ripped out. It was a little scary looking into the courtyard at a pile of the insides, now outsides.
What made you fall in love with the house in the first place?
I’ve always been attracted to A-frames and loft spaces. I was immediately struck by its openness and flow; I could see beyond the cream walls, tiles and teal countertops. The whole space is an “L” shape that looks onto a green courtyard, so the footprint becomes a square. It’s very quiet and relaxing looking out into that space. It’s great for gatherings too – the whole interior opens up onto the courtyard, so there is a flow between all the zones. Also, it’s a two-minute walk to the markets.
Tell me about the area.
The eclectic neighbourhood centres around the Central Market. It was built by migrants, and the area is rich with many cultures’ stories. Chinatown is around the corner, as are the Central Market, law courts and Wirranendi Park. The Himeji Japanese Garden is just to the south, too.
Favourite room in the house?
That’s difficult, everything flows into the next. Sitting at dusk in the living room looking into the courtyard is pretty special.
What’s your fave item in the house?
A little carved wooden trophy given to me by my woodcarving teacher. I was continually injuring myself with the chisels (hence the pierced hand). Also a mask by artist Tai Snaith; an excellent wooden Japanese robot designed by a kid. I fell in love with it in Tokyo.
Do you have any favourite homewares stores?
Adelaide has some excellent designers that sell objects and furniture through the Jam Factory. I also like the vessels and objects that Studio Arhoj makes; I’ve a few dotted around. Most of the furniture is refurbished and from vintage store Hype and Seek, that’s a bit of a go-to for quality furniture.
Home Visits is a Broadsheet series exploring homes across Australia.