Destination / In Residence

So glad we’ve got the real thing

Life as art in the home of costume and set designer Alice Babidge.

“One of the newest artworks is the Lottie Consalvo painting. I’d cover the walls in her work if I could.”

Like most of the best things in life, Alice Babidge’s Potts Point apartment came into hers by chance.

“I bought it at auction very last minute,” she explains. “I’d aspired to live in this building for years and at the eleventh hour noticed there was an apartment for sale.” 

When you know, you know. And for Babidge the attraction was instant. “I looked at it and bought it the next day. Spur of the moment … One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

There’s a warm sense of idiosyncrasy here that belies the fact it is only occupied by Babidge about two months of the year. Her work as a set and costume designer across theatre, opera, film and television takes her to London, Germany and Paris for much of the rest. But it’s not at the expense of a routine when she makes it home.

“I have clear patterns,” she notes.

“Coffee’s from Room 10, books from Potts Point Bookshop, countless visits to my favourite laundromat … When I’m here it’s rare a day goes by without a visit to Fratelli Paradiso – breakfast, lunch, dinner – anything, anytime, I miss it when I’m away.”

The neighbourhood’s vibe is arguably owed to the energy that spills out of these establishments frequented by friends. As Babidge puts it, “It manages to be loud and quiet at the same time. Which seems impossible but is true.

“It’s in the middle of the city but feels like a village and has a really refreshing sense of community.” 

It’s Babidge’s “people” that she misses most when she’s away. “And the light. There’s nothing quite like the light in Sydney.”

Her apartment provides a great example of this quality. High ceilings, parquetry floors and that big window to the harbour set the mood. But it’s the objects of beauty curated by Babidge in the five years she’s been here that bring emotion to the space. It’s hard not to stare. 

“Old and new, clean with the potential for clutter” is how she describes the aesthetic. “It’s spontaneous. I’m in and out of the country so much that things often need to happen quickly or out of necessity. It’s still a work in progress, maybe it always will be.”

Amidst the interiors are pieces collected from various projects, like a crown worn by Cate Blanchett in a Sydney Theatre Company production. “I tend to bowerbird from all the jobs I do,” Babidge explains. “A little memento or sometimes something more significant.”

Many of her favourite artworks, too, hold connection below the surface, like the eye collage gifted by Del Kathryn Barton, and the Luke Sciberras landscape that was a birthday present from her friend Meg Washington. “They are friends and she had used her clever ways to procure a special piece for me. I love it more because of how it came to me.”

And then there are the works by Sydney designer Henry Wilson. “He would never refer to himself as an artist or call his pieces artworks but Henry Wilson surely is. His eye is so sharp. I’m particularly fond of my brass lamp.”

It’s hard to imagine it being any other way but Babidge’s home, as it is now, was born from a new beginning within the course of her time here. “I really cleared the decks, I wanted to empty everything out and start again which in a way I did – and am still doing,” she tells.

“My home is a very important place to me. I feel so lucky that it found me. I love walking in the door, I love being able to share it with my friends and family, I love knowing it’s there when I’m away.”

“Certain projects ... influence my aesthetic more than others and that translates into my surroundings – it’s sometimes nice to be able see the journey of my work through my home.”

“My glass cabinet [is] kind of dinky and broken and not really my aesthetic any longer but my favourite aunt Jude gave it to me before she died. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to part with it.”