Freddy Grant and his husband Burton Reynolds have been stockpiling artworks since they met 10 years ago. Grant, who is now an art collector and the PR and communications manager at online art marketplace Bluethumb, was a backpacker working for an Indigenous art gallery in Darwin. Reynolds, now a lawyer, had just graduated from university.
“Only a few months into our relationship we bought our first artwork together, a piece by Australian film legend David Gulpilil, who just so happened to be working with the gallery at the time,” says Grant. “Ever since then we’ve always bought artworks when we travel and for important milestones, to remind us of our journey together.”
The pair, who exploited a legal loophole to get married three years ago at the British embassy in Melbourne, making a statement in support of same-sex marriage, say that art has always been a part of their life together. But it took a long and winding search to find the perfect home for them, their growing collection of paintings and photographs, their long-haired Jack Russell, Grungle, and Maine Coon cat, Totoro.
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Stylistically the house falls into a few different camps. Built in 1920 with extensions done here and there over the years, it’s a little bit Edwardian, a little bit art deco, and full of sunlight even in cooler months. It’s the perfect hub for the couple’s eclectic, stylish and retro aesthetic.
“Everything in my home reminds me of something – a time, a place, a person, an argument at Spotlight,” says Grant. “I don’t let anything in the house unless I love it, so I love it all for different reasons.”
Name: Freddy Grant
Lives: In a 1920s single-storey weatherboard house in Footscray
With who: My husband Burt, our dog Grungle and cat Totoro
Have you made any changes architecturally since you moved in?
We’ve done a lot of work actually, but everything we’ve done is to preserve what’s here. We’ve just had the outside painted and replaced the rotten weatherboards. We also had to restump, which is a very common thing in Melbourne, especially with these classic wooden houses. The roof is new, too. People have patched it up for 100 years basically, and if you don’t do it properly it actually makes it worse. The water gets trapped between the patches, so it was really rusty. The first time we had a big storm here there were all these drips and we were thinking, “What have we done?!”
Favourite room in the house?
I love the main living area and it’s where we spend most of our time. It’s very communal and a very inviting space. I also love art, so this is my own little art gallery. My husband and I always bought pieces when we were travelling, but the collection has grown rapidly since I’ve worked at Bluethumb. Now I think most of it is finally on the walls. It took a long time and I spent ages moving things around and staring at them thinking, “Is that the right spot?” One day the portrait wall will be completely covered from floor to ceiling. It’s getting there slowly.
Favourite item in the house?
My favourite artwork is Queer Dinosaur by Kim Leutwyler – it kicked off my collecting habit and portrait wall. I feel very lucky to have it as she’s a rising star, having won prizes and been an Archibald finalist three times. We’ve also become good friends which makes me love it even more. Queer Dino is pretty iconic, I reckon, and a bit different from her current work. Kim’s an activist and her paintings deal with queer identity, something that’s close to my heart. But I’ve always loved dinosaurs, so love the mix of both and the meaning behind it.
Favourite homeware stores?
My mum makes knitting patterns and has her own website, Mad Monkey Knits, so I get a lot of the originals she makes when she’s designing the patterns. Grungle is Melbourne’s best-dressed dog thanks to this. I have some of mum’s animals on display, though my favourite rainbow elephant is a bit damaged – thanks Totoro!
Bluethumb is obviously a big one as it’s where I buy all my art. It’s unrivalled in terms of the number of different artists and art styles. I know I work there, but I also work there because it’s a company I believe in and I love collecting art, so it makes sense.
I really like Picture Box in Clifton Hill for their cheap frames made from quality offcuts. And I go to St Marks Recycled on Smith Street all the time. They give Grungle treats so he normally pulls me in there on my lunch break. That’s my excuse to my husband anyway. It can be slightly more expensive than a normal op shop, but only for the high-quality vintage homewares that would cost a fortune elsewhere. A lot of my favourite things I have around the house are finds from there.
Home Visits is a Broadsheet series exploring homes across Australia.