When asked what someone unfamiliar with his biography might surmise simply by walking through his Melbourne home, Troye Sivan remains sanguine: “I’d hope they’d think that I’m an unpretentious guy, maybe a bit eccentric, someone who loves art and design, someone devoted to his family—and definitely the fact that I’m gay,” says the wildly popular 25-year-old Australian singer-songwriter and actor.
Indeed, if that hypothetical visitor happened to be a persnickety design snob, they’d surely not fail to register the array of treasures by the likes of Percival Lafer, Ettore Sottsass, Tobia Scarpa, and Marios Bellini and Botta; the cabinetry details inspired by Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé; and the bespoke, Memphis-flavored appointments of the bath and powder rooms. On a deeper level, however, it would also be crystal clear that this is the home of someone with the cultivation and confidence to recognize that great design is as much about suitability and nuance as it is about important objects and artworks.
“Troye is an incredibly savvy collaborator. In our earliest conversations, he talked about materiality, how he wanted to feel in his house, about the scent and the sound and the light. It was so much more than just a few pretty things he found on Pinterest,” recalls designer David Flack of local firm Flack Studio, Sivan’s partner in the sensitive, sophisticated reimagining of the singer’s Victorian-era home.
The house in question is a genuine architectural gem. Erected in 1869 as a handball court, the building was converted into a brick factory in 1950 and then subsequently transformed into a residence in 1970 by renowned Australian architect John Mockridge, a fixture on the local art-and-design scene. The conversion is said to be the first adaptive reuse project of its kind in the city. “You can picture Mockridge and his friends sitting around drinking whiskey and talking about art. I wanted to preserve that bohemian spirit and honor the original architecture while creating something that feels like me,” Sivan says.
Although major structural interventions were kept to a minimum, Sivan and Flack made significant alterations throughout the property: The kitchen and baths were completely transformed; changes to the fenestration, along with the addition of large bifold doors off the dining area, now nurture a more intimate connection between the house and garden; new built-in cabinetry and perforated balustrade details nod to exemplars of 20th-century modernism; walls of Venetian plaster add a luminous element to a materials palette that swings from industrial to organic; and an outdoor wine cellar in the garden was converted into a fantasy powder room.
“It seems like we didn’t really do that much, when in fact there was a lot of heavy lifting. Simplicity is hard to achieve. It takes serious rigor and discipline,” Flack insists. “It was important to both of us that you can still feel the origins of the house despite the work we put in,” he adds.
Sivan’s aesthetic predilections were honed during his travels across the globe, in particular his pre-pandemic years in Los Angeles, where he still maintains a home. “There’s a strong affinity between Melbourne and L.A. in terms of climate and architecture. That strain of classic California midcentury modernism has been a big influence,” he explains. “I also love the time I’ve spent in Japan. The idea of wabi-sabi, the perfectly imperfect, really resonates with me.”
Embracing imperfection as a means of safeguarding the soul of a home is a concept perhaps too abstruse for many homeowners and designers, but Sivan and Flack clearly get it. “We left the original cork ceilings as they were, stains and all. If we wanted to preserve the germ of what this house was originally, everything had to feel effortless and real,” Flack avers. “It’s like the yellowing Scarpa lamps over the dining table. They look like they were sitting in a house in Milan for 30 years with a bunch of Italians smoking under them,” he says, further touting the power of patina.
Despite the polyglot brio of the decor, Sivan ensured that the essence of the house remains, in his words, “unquestionably Australian, from the plantings in the garden to the art on the walls.” The singer’s collection of paintings and sculpture encompasses work by Australian masters such as the late Sydney Ball, influential talents on the order of Karen Black and Nell, and an intriguing array of young, contemporary artists including Gregory Hodge, Tom Polo, and Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran.
“I was living in the States for about five years, longing to be in Australia, before the pandemic brought me home. As much as I’ve missed touring and seeing people, it’s been cool to be forced to stay still for a second. I wake up every day excited to make something new, in a house that tells the story of my life and the places I’ve loved,” Sivan concludes. And for any old-guard aesthetes concerned about young celebrities becoming standard-bearers for good design and idiosyncratic taste, Sivan’s seductive Melbourne sanctuary should put their minds at ease—the kids are alright.