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Artist and designer Gemma Bamforth transformed her family home into an art-filled retreat.

| By Alley Pascoe | Home tours

How an Artist Breathed New Life Into Her Mid-Century Home

Artist and designer Gemma Bamforth transformed her family home into an art-filled retreat.

Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we celebrate innovators, artisans, and crafters of all types by taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we tour artist and designer Gemma Bamforth's mid-century home in Keiraville, on the South Coast of New South Wales.

The light touches everything in Gemma Bamforth’s Keiraville home. Every morning the sun announces the arrival of a new day by streaming through the big windows in the living room at the front of the house. “Rise and shine,” it says, leading by example.

It was the sun that lit something inside Gemma when she first saw the property two years ago after inspecting over 20 houses up and down the NSW coast with her husband Michael. “We had a few boxes to tick. The first one was [that the home had to be] light, and [have] big, open windows,” explains Gemma, sitting in front of one such ‘big, open window,’ basking in the morning sun. “There’s a lot of light. The beautiful sunroom gets sunlight all day long, so it’s super warm even in winter.”

Located in the foothills of Mount Keira, Gemma describes her home's location as ‘unknown.’ Keiraville is just an hour-and-a-half south of Sydney, where she was previously based on the Northern Beaches. “When we came to this inspection, an artist was living in the house, and she had a studio set up. It felt like a sign,” Gemma tells Bed Threads Journal.

After making the decision to buy the house almost immediately, the couple settled on the property, and embraced the slower pace of their new suburb by taking their time renovating the three-bedroom, open-plan, ‘60s home. “The first thing we did was rip up all the carpet and sand the timber floorboards, which are beautiful. Then we replaced the architraves and skirting boards, and painted all the walls white,” said Gemma. “I wanted fresh, flat walls because we have a lot of colour in our plants, artworks and stacks of books.”

Having studied fashion design at Tafe in Ultimo and running a label - Pereira Fitzgerald - for several years before leaning into her art practice, Gemma’s work is ever-evolving. Dipping her toe into different mediums including ink, paint and pencil, she’s created art pieces for exhibitions as well as clients including including the ultra-chic bakery Crema, the artisan boutique Bow + Arrow, and the coveted restaurant Heather Bar. “When I think about my artistic style, I’d say I’m still fine tuning it,” she admits.

As you might expect, Gemma’s most prized possession is a piece of art. It hangs on the wall in the living room. Pride of place. “It’s a fibre sculpture of a fish by Vera Cameron from Maningrida Art Centre in Arnhem Land. Everything used to make it was sourced on Country and every fibre is hand dyed, so it’s completely sustainable – and just amazing,” she says, marvelling at the natural beauty of the piece.

It’s true: there’s cohesion in Gemma’s chaos. Without a central theme, it’s the uniqueness of her pieces that brings everything together. From the dining table passed down from her grandparents (which she spent every childhood birthday sitting at), to a beautiful chair found in the Mosman curb-side rubbish pile, and a coffee table from her husband’s grandma, which they’ve restored to its former glory. “Everything’s handmade or second-hand, so each piece has a story and an earthiness to it,” she says.

Gemma’s favourite room in the house isn’t a room at all: it’s the garden. “We spend a lot of time outside, that’s where most of the work has been done. We ripped out all of the bamboo and put in a native garden, built a new fence, and tended to the six veggie-garden beds,” says Gemma, who has brought the outside in with indoor plants everywhere, rich earthy colours like the rust cushions on her couch and olive sheets on her bed, and – of course – the homegrown veggies in the kitchen.

“We’re huge entertainers and my husband is an amazing cook and fisherman. We love having fresh produce on our doorstep and cooking from our garden,” reveals Gemma, who has – rather fittingly – created an exclusive plate collection for Bed Threads, launching in October. “We took inspiration from the South of Italy for the plates, which feature hand-painted designs with the names and pictures of classic local Italian ingredients, such as; fig, radicchio, chilli and lemon.”

With her elegantly crafted crockery set, Gemma once again brings the outside in. “I’ve always gotten my inspiration from nature, and here [in Keiraville], I get to spend lots of time in nature: in the garden, walking my puppy Tilba at Port Kembla Beach, and exploring the nearby Botanic Gardens,” says Gemma, soaking up the inspiration and pouring it into her practice. “Art is life.”

And Gemma is living it to the fullest.

For more from Gemma follow her @gemmabamforth_

Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Audrey Won.

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