John Parker from Space Furniture, goes home, it's not to a minimalist reprieve from the designer crammed concerns of his working day, it's to more of the same stuff. "if there is something new in the showroom that I love, it's not enough to be with it there 10 hours a day, I've got to have it here. And that's why I've got so much, because I love it all," he says in a self-berating tone.
Indeed, you think, surveying the scene. But it doesn't stop here in this corner of a converted-army battalion-marching hall down a gritty Fitzroy lane, for Parker confesses to a further two warehouses bursting with the objects of his desire. "Everything I have in them I still really love," he adds, mindful not to be characterised as some sort of 'compulsive'. "I don't have a collector's mentality as such, maybe with the exception of those bottles," - he nods towards a table designed by French architect jean Nouvel that serves as the display base for a bevy of 1970s Holmegaard bottles - "I'm just passionate about good design."
A self described 'action man', Parker throws his racing cycles, motorbike and Mini Cooper S into his home in a decorative cross-pollination, There's a bit of the best of contemporary Europe, offcuts a la the local junk shop, style samples from the Melbourne art world and the decorative best of -a toothless hag in Iran". Parker is of the decorative school that says "what the hell, there are no rules left, just come to terms with your own bad taste and live it".
He doesn't even have a bedroom. Instead he lives with a "Bushie's" nonchalance, toting a swag for bedding from outdoor deck in summer to office floor in winter. But in spite of a seeming disregard for convention he has an instinctive fluency of line and a talent for coupling the high and low brow, that can only come with an arch sophistication and lots of life experience. A former dabbler in photography, outdoor furniture and stockbroking, Parker came to Space after a chance meeting with the company founder, Kevin Jarrett, in Chapel Street's quintessentially Italian Caffe e Cucina.
"He just talks to anyone," he says of the ebullient jarrett who, for over 30 years, has turned Australians on to cutting edge European design and has more recently spread the gospel in Singapore and London. "He's more than a furniture importer and seller. He is a promoter of an international lifestyle. He doesn't just bring in a sofa, he contextualises it and imparts a sense of where it was made. 1 started as the fix-it guy over eight years ago, and now truly can't believe my good fortune. 1 love the business of this business, getting to travel to Italy every year (for the Salone del Mobile in Milan), meeting the stellar designers and being exposed to the most inspired styling."
The rub-off is realised over two levels of Parker's pad, the airiness of which is interrupted only by the work of "artisan" steel fabricator Riva. An industrially framed glass wall separates an office at ground level entry from open plan kitchen/ dining/living and on view car parking, while a steel stair wraps around a perimeter wall guiding passage to second level living,
Into this deliberately crude context Parker has dropped a steel-framed glass box on the upper level. "I can stand right in the middle of the room and feel like I'm showering in this huge space." There are "bits of furniture for a kitchen" on the ground level - " I got by without one for four years, through the kindness of neighbours and great local restaurants". Around these quirky service areas lie has scattered the cult furniture classics of the 20th century and the "wannabes" of the 21st. Remaining surface areas see art and object curated into personally potent installations.
'Just about every piece of artwork 1 have is by a Melbourne artist and 1 generally know them, and to me that speaks of now and my age," he says of a collection that includes many of the blue chip names. "Sure, David Larwill's prices are now stratospheric but I bought this ROAR studios stuff in the early days when it was inexpensive. You can go to the student shows and get fantastic work for nearly nothing"
Having been into many homes "that are completely bereft of personality", Parker says that he worries when he doesn't see a book anywhere - "not that there's anything intellectual on these shelves" - or knick knacks that hint at lives lived. "But I don't want people to look at these pictures and say, 'Oh he has a huge space and can do whatever he wants'. This has been a very long process and I've done it all very slowly," he looks skywards to a roof lined with silver sarking. "It's not a case of having whatever 1 want, whenever 1 want it. That's probably why I haven't finished off the roof. But then again 1 don't want it to be complete." His tongue positions firmly in cheek: "I'm going to call this the new perfection."