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Art house: at home with Genevieve Brannigan

Genevieve Brannigan is a collector of beautiful things – fashion, art, design pieces. “You know that Duran Duran song, ‘Hungry Like The Wolf? I’m a bit like that in the way I collect. I have this wolfish wonderment growling through me whether I’m at home or away travelling. I constantly hunt for rare gems; looking for the unusual.”

The former model and arts insider is the founder and director of Communications Collective, a culturally aware and creatively minded PR agency based in Prahran. Not far from the office is Brannigan’s other base – her classic Art Deco home in South Yarra.

“Living here is the best of both worlds - close to nature and close to the city,” says Brannigan of the art-filled and light-flooded space. “The location perfectly suits my yin and yang personality: I’m the sort of person who enjoys being super social then completely retreating. I need conversation and connection, then periods of time alone to process and recharge.”

Brannigan has lived in 12 different countries, and her passion for art and design started young. “We didn’t have a television growing up so I was always writing stories, drawing pictures and making things – art and creativity have always been a huge part of my life. I think both are so incredibly important when it comes to feeling connected to the world and enabling people to discuss challenging topics.”

For Brannigan, a highly visual person, it was love at first sight when she saw her tall, elegant townhome. “I absolutely adore Art Deco architecture and this house captured my heart immediately. It has so many beautiful features – a grand old entry staircase with double storey height windows, gracefully curved walls and porthole windows, and an ancient and rambling green garden. It is completely private, surrounded by trees from every aspect, yet always ready for a party. There’s something extremely romantic and glamorous about it, and I feel so lucky that I can walk from my house through the Botanical Gardens to find myself in the CBD.”

With her eclectic mix of paintings, photography and design pieces, Brannigan has created a home that celebrates colour while maintaining a sense of sanctuary and calm. “Much of my work involves art and design,” says Brannigan of the art she has displayed throughout her home. “At Communications Collective, we are lucky to work with some of the world’s best galleries, museums and artists. I have works dating from the 1600s through to the present day. Some of my favourite pieces are by Polly Borland, Tony Clark, Matthew Harris, Sally Ross, Kate Rhodes, Paul Yore, Birdie and Wolfe. I’m a board member at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP) so I have a lot of photographic prints, too including Jo Duck, John Gollings and David Rosetzky .

“Of course, I consider some clothing to be in the same realm as art. I am forever intrigued by the transformative nature of clothes. Right now, I’m really enjoying Gucci – creative director Alessandro Michele is a genius. I love the playfulness of his pieces and how they transcend different periods of history. I love that, increasingly, there is a dynamic relationship between fashion, art and design.”

When it comes to entertaining, Brannigan describes herself as a modern Italian nonna. “I love Italian food, Italian fashion, Italian design. I also love my 1960s Italian bar. It’s always fully stocked and ready to go. In winter, my friends and I often make cocktails and sit in front of the fire.”

“Cooking never fails to relax me, especially after a long day at the office. The slower, the better. I don’t think I’m ever happier than when I’m in the kitchen, a glass of wine in hand and something bubbling on the stove.”

An Italian influence is also evident in a set of 1960s hand-painted ceramic leopard side tables and a pair of green velvet Gio Ponti Love Chairs. “They look like open flowers and feel like heaven to sit in. They are the perfect reading chair,” enthuses Brannigan.

But her most treasured possession is perhaps the mid-century Munaro glass flower chandelier that floats above the white marble Sariden dining table. “I found it in pieces and was able to reconstruct it thanks to a small hand drawing that was tucked away in the box. It was incredibly rewarding to rebuild such a delicate object and see its beauty emerge. I adore Venice, and having this piece is like having a little piece of it at home.”

Brannigan is a firm believer that music is part of what gives a home its energy and warmth. “Recently, my friend artist Sally Ross, a self-confessed music fiend, got me a cranking 70s sound system. I love listening to records… classical, soul, 60s and 70s rock and funk... they’ve got a sound they just don’t make anymore. I love music and I love dancing. My living room often becomes a dance floor.”

From an aesthetic perspective, Brannigan is a big advocate of putting unexpected and opposing pieces together. “I love mixing everything together– right now I’m loving a more-is-more aesthetic. I’m always having fun and changing the space around me to suit my mood or the season. In winter, I love bringing my orange and lemon trees inside. I read about how they used to do this at the Versailles Orangerie to protect them against the winter frosts and fell in love with the idea of this immense building filled with sweetly-scented trees. Melbourne can be gloomy, and they add such a welcome pop of colour.”

As for her favourite piece of art? “I have an oil painting from the 1600s by Jan Frans van Bloemen which I picked up at an art auction. I had no idea at the time that he was such a renowned artist; I was just really drawn to it. It’s one of his pastoral scenes of figures resting in an Italian landscape. Before I go to sleep each night, I look at this dream-like image, and it puts me at peace.”