House of the Week | Newcastle | Photos TweetFacebook House of the Week | Newcastle | Gallery One man’s inner-city tree house. Photos: Chris Brown+12One man’s inner-city tree house. Photos: Chris BrownMORE GALLERIES
facebookSHAREtwitterTWEETemailwhatsappChris Brown admits: “I have a bit of a plant problem”.
He first moved into what he and his friends have dubbed “the tree house” two years ago when he learned another friend was moving out.
“I instantly pounced on the opportunity,” Brown, 30, says of the space.
“I’m still here because my indoor plants all grow so well.”
The artist and permaculture enthusiast is a born and bred Novocastrian. He’s an active citizen in Newcastle. He works in community service and regularly volunteers, getting his hands dirty in community gardens.
His apartment, which he shares with a housemate, is in Cliff Towers in Newcastle’sChurch Street. The art deco building was built in 1935. He believes the apartments once served as accommodation for doctors who worked at Royal Newcastle Hospital.
The two-bedroom apartment is brimming with natural light and interesting things. It is undoubtedly the space of creative individuals.
From the jars of homemade kombucha being brewed above the fridge to the colourful milk crates, op-shop crocheted blankets and a variety of plants, this is a home that welcomes without pretension.
“I don’t like bare walls,” he says.
“I like to fill every nook and cranny and I’m constantly rearranging. If I get a new piece of art or plant I completely rearrange.”
Outside his kitchen is the fire escape, which also happens to have a peaceful view of the harbour.
His lounge room is the space he speaks most about. It’s a room with a sweeping view through the treetops in Church Walk Park.
His thriving plants are an indicator of just how much sunlight the west-facing room enjoys.
Brown is interested in the relationships between people and plants and how people engage with them.
For him, plants are an art form. Many of his plants have a backstory, and Brown’s passion for permaculture and gardening is personal.
“It all started when I was a child. I learned about gardening from my mother. We would grow snapdragons, petunias and geraniums. She passed away when I was 11, and I forgot about it,” Brown says.
Later, when he was at uni, he found a house with a large backyard full of similar flowers and a big orange tree. All the memories came flooding back and a love for plants was immediately rekindled.
Now, in his home, some of the plants are living memories.
When Brown’s grandfather passed away, he dug up some soil from his backyard and potted and watered it. The soil grew into a fairy grass plant and has thrived ever since. Brown says the plant even reminds him of his grandfather’s white wiry beard. There’s a similar story in a plant cutting he took from his mother’s home after she passed away. Since then, it’s grown into its own and thrives as a reminder of her.
A long, thin cactus spreads across a wall, creating a wild desert vibe within the plant haven. Many of his plants were originally cuttings he received from friends, and much of the artwork in the house was given to him, including paintings from his grandmother.
He doesn’t like to buy things new. His decor in the home is mainly from second-hand shops or gifts from friends. Most of the furniture in the lounge room was found on the side of the road.
“I don’t find new things interesting. I like things that are old and damaged and quirky,” he says.
While Brown doesn’t own any land himself, he says he will always find ways to grow. He coordinated the Habitat In Harmony community garden in Belmont, and he volunteers there regularly. His partner and brother live nearby, and he believes he’ll live in Newcastle forever. He feels deeply invested in the community. He’s clearly dedicated to his creative space at home too.
From each plant’s story to the intense sunlight and the interesting op shop odds and ends, what the tree house lacks in sophistication it makes up for in personality. Its natural quirky style is unforgettable.
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