The R&B and future soul artist's home hits all the right notes.
Stylish Secondhand Furniture Makes Musician Ngaiire’s Home Sing
The R&B and future soul artist's home hits all the right notes.
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, we tour musician Ngaiire's home on the Central Coast of New South Wales.
Papua New Guinea-born musician Ngaire Laun Joseph, known by her stage name 'Ngaiire', is creating some of Australia's most unique R&B and future soul sounds. Her mesmerising music draws on her experiences growing up in Papua New Guinea and touches on themes of opposing societal constructs, embracing your sexuality, and survival.
Difficulties at home pushed Ngaiire to delve into her musical talents. "Naturally, I needed an escape and music gave that to me," she shares with Bed Threads Journal. "I knew how music made me feel and I knew how much I enjoyed it so it made sense for me to want to pursue it professionally." She moved to Australia at 16 years old before studying Jazz at the Central Queensland Conservatorium.
The singer and songwriter was first introduced to a mainstream audience as an Australian Idol contestant in 2004. Now, she's a four-time ARIA nominated artist, Glastonbury Festival performer, and has released three albums: Lamentations, Blastoma, and 3. Her deluxe album is set to drop later this year.
Her home on New South Wale's Central Coast takes on a more pared-back aesthetic than the vibrant fashion she's become known for, but it's still distinctly her. In the open plan living area, a vaulted ceiling makes the home feel spacious while the timber details and fireplace keep the space looking and feeling warm. An olive velvet sofa takes centre stage in this space and perfectly complements the leafy views outside and the array of indoor plants.
The home's pièce de résistance is undoubtedly her baby grand piano which is flanked by two vintage armchairs acquired from Facebook Marketplace. There are several items around the home that nod to her love of music including stereo players and guitars hanging on the wall. There are also heritage heirlooms and artifacts peppered around the home that she has inherited from her mother and that pay homage to her Papa New Guinean heritage.
The primary bedroom turns to the opposite end of the colour spectrum to the living area and features Pink Clay and Terracotta linen sitting on a dark timber bedframe.
We spoke to Ngaiire about her career journey, her advice to young musicians, and life in her leafy abode.
Hi Ngaiire! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
I make music and sometimes various forms of visual art.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
It would definitely be my resting state. I feel like I’ve inherited that from my mother. When she was at home raising three kids in New Zealand, I remember her always making things, whether it be cane baskets, painting, sewing, pickling, or macrameing. I used to be so amazed that she could produce such amazing things with her own hands. More amazed now that she was able to do that with three kids under the age of four.
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
Yes. No one in my family knew I could sing but I discovered it in a time of chaos when my parents had divorced and we’d also just been through a major natural disaster with two volcanoes exploding and destroying our town. I’d had to change schools as a result and as a shy kid that was a lot to process as I’d already had a solid group of friends. My mum remarried shortly after and all of a sudden I was sharing my house with four extra step sisters and a stepfather who unfortunately ended up beating my mother.
Naturally, I needed an escape and music gave that to me. I’d sit next to my mother’s stereo and listen to Mariah Carey’s ‘Daydream’ on repeat, imitating her every run and reading the cassette tape jacket from front to back over and over again. I knew how music made me feel and I knew how much I enjoyed it so it made sense for me to want to pursue it professionally. I didn’t know how that was going to happen as I lived in Papua New Guinea where there wasn’t really a robust enough industry to support such a career. It seems that with any vocation though, the road will always head in the direction of your purpose and that’s what happened to me. We ended up moving to Australia as my mother had won a scholarship to study for her doctorate and had remarried my now stepfather.
As soon as I knew I could properly take music as a class, I dove in head first. I managed to get into the Central Queensland Conservatorium of Music to study Jazz and then the next 18 years I followed that dream like a dog to a bone and have enjoyed some incredible experiences doing so. And now I get to call myself a four-time ARIA nominated artist! That’s pretty stinkin’ crazy.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to further your career?
Belief. In self. In what I do. Belief from the people closest to me in what I do. Belief in a higher power and that I’m not just out here hustling alone. Belief that everything happens for a reason. I feel extremely lucky that I’d always known the path that I needed to go on in life. I meet so many people who are drawn in so many directions they confuse themselves or are reticent to take the necessary risks to do the thing they actually want to be doing. It makes me so grateful for my upbringing and the grit it’s given me to stay the course.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far in your career?
That music isn’t everything. Music has been my life for over a decade and a half, but over the lockdown period, I realised that even though I’m good at it and it’s given me the life it has, it’s also acted as an armour to me and a means to fill holes in my life left by childhood trauma. It’s also ironic that these jagged edges in my history have acted as a conduit to connecting with my audience but when the world stopped in 2020 I realised I had to find out who Ngaire one ‘i’ truly is. I wouldn’t have been able to survive another lockdown if I hadn’t made the time to. It’s been painful looking at things I’ve locked in the back rooms of my mind for so long but there is a freedom in not letting your work define you. I want to have something solid to cling to if it all gets taken away because nothing is a given.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your career?
My son. They say becoming a mum is extraordinarily ordinary because it happens so often that we forget how transformative, life-changing, and impressive it is to do something like that. It nearly killed me carrying Nadav as I had a few health complications, but even after that, I noticed an immediate shift in creativity after I’d had him - all I wanted to do was create create create! All of the things, all the time, all the places. And it makes complete sense to me that this occurred. You’re essentially a human portal to bring forth the ultimate creation so of course, there was going to be some residual magic poured out to other parts of my life. I feel like my creative output has been the best it has ever been since Dovey came along yet I haven’t slept properly for four years. I guess that’s one of life’s great paradoxes.
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
Be yourself. Take your time. Plan. Don’t jump into bed with people you don’t trust. Know your boundaries. Read your contracts!
Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?
Two and a half years.
How did you initially know this was the space for you?
This was actually the quickest we’d ever moved into a place. We were planning to head back to Papua New Guinea and the borders shut. We’d packed up our old house and everything was in storage and suddenly we had nowhere to go. Thankfully we were able to bunk out at Jimmy Barnes's place (thanks to his daughters) for a few days while we looked for places and even so we didn’t know exactly where we were going to live or for how long. We’d previously been to visit some friends up on the Central Coast and they’d been going on about how much they loved it and so we thought - why not. I think we’d only seen about two houses before we saw our home and the agent basically gave it to us on the spot. The next day, the country went into lockdown and we’re so grateful that we were able to find something so beautiful so swiftly.
Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
The biggest thing was the garden. It was overgrown and the previous tenants hadn't put much love into maintaining it. Because we back up onto a huge nature reserve, everything is super moist and tropical and can very quickly overtake the whole house. So there was a lot of tree lopping and bush hacking in the first year or so. Two years later I think we’ve nearly tamed the bush and things are looking a lot better. We know which parts of the yard have the best soil and what grows well where and in which seasons. It’s given us so much great produce and I’ve just put in so many bulbs so I expect the garden (and the house) to be exploding with colour come spring.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
I couldn’t get over how beautiful the high ceilings were when we first moved in. The first couple of months I’d walk in, it felt like walking onto a giant ark that was floating in the trees so in one sense the outside almost becomes the interior as it’s hard not to notice the amount of greenery that engulfs the house through the windows. I’ve kept things fairly timber orientated. There are also a lot of found objects we’ve collected around the neighbourhood as well as Papua New Guinea heirlooms and artifacts that I’ve inherited from my mother. And then there are a few more modern pieces of furniture that we outlaid more money for that we know we’ll have for a while.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
My baby grand piano which my boys got for me for mother’s day. I also love these two vintage armchairs that sit on either side of it. I got them from Facebook Marketplace for $50 each and was pretty excited that I’d found them. I felt like so many people were selling some incredible things throughout the start of the pandemic. I would confidently say most of our house is furnished by Marketplace.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
I have some huge black fishing basket-type light fittings that I’ve been wanting to hang up but we haven’t gotten around to it yet. I also am dying for a new coffee table. We’ve had a basic Ikea one for so long which is great because our son can spill things all over it and it doesn’t matter but I’ve had my eyes peeled for the ultimate one for years. I’ve learned it’s better to wait till you find what you really really want than waste money on something that you’re going to hate or is going to break in a few years. The right one will come along I’m hoping!
Which is your favourite room in the house?
It’s usually the one with the fireplace but since we got our new Bed Threads sheets I’m obsessed with our room at the moment!
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
It’s hard to keep a home ‘well-styled’ with a 4-year-old but I’d say that with style, it needs to be practical too. We’ve re-arranged the house so many times as we learn how we all interact with the furniture and how it’s positioned in various spaces. The change in seasons also influences how we style the house as some furniture becomes less desirable at certain points of the year. I’d also say that I’ve always found armchairs in bedrooms not very practical. They look nice the first time you put them there and then you never see them again as it ends up being a dumping ground for clothes and other items.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
I have a deluxe album about to drop and a national tour that will extend to New Zealand starting in August. I’ll also be doing my first US Tour early next year so I’m pretty pumped for that!