Grace Corby, Bardwell Valley, NSW
Images by Saskia Wilson
Anyone that grew up in the suburbs may sense something familiar about this beautiful semi owned by Grace Corby and her fiancé Josh in Bardwell Valley. There’s a feeling of openness and warmth that is often lost in the anonymity of city living and a sprawling floor-plan that Grace has carefully curated with a treasure trove of vintage finds over the last couple of years. We visited Grace on a sunny afternoon to talk about creating this special space and her much-loved vintage sourcing business, Art Garments.
“A cocktail of miraculous conditions enabled us to buy our first home in mid-2019 after a three-year(!) search. After a very long trail of auctions blew past our budget by tens to hundreds of thousands in the Inner West, we set our sights ten minutes south of it and found this adorable double-brick semi that ticked every single one of our boxes and more. I mean, a pool?”
“What I love most is the sunlight, we have a north facing, elevated aspect and this beautiful view that looks down into a leafy gully. We can see so much sky, with a panoramic view of the sunrise and sunset. My plants love it.”
“What made this place especially perfect was the enormous separate “teenage retreat” we converted into the Art Garments studio. I think I must have yearned it into existence in the years I was blocking thoroughfares with racks of vintage in our old Alexandria rental. I love its high ceilings and exposed beams, its sun-drenched whitewash and my very own photography booth my dad built me. To me, it’s the stuff of fairytales.”
“I've been collecting vintage clothing and running Art Garments for over a decade, although it’s gone by a couple of different names. I hand source, photograph, measure, describe, wrap and post each piece myself. I'm a one-woman operation but it's a labour of love that's turned into something I am really proud of, especially now I have this sun-drenched home studio to shoot in and work out of.“
I'm a one-woman operation but it's a labour of love that's turned into something I am really proud of.
“I am attracted to singular, interesting vintage, be it homewares, pieces of furniture or items of clothing. This is evident in how I curate pieces for my home, my wardrobe and my shop. I source for creatives, curators and collectors. I refuse to bulk-import shipping containers full of denim and street wear (common!). Instead I attentively select special, well-constructed, head-turning vintage. I believe dressing is a creative process and I hope to offer pieces that inspire. The body is a canvas!”
Our bedroom has the only south-facing window in the house so it has a cozy, moody feel. Our big and beautiful king bed takes up most of the space so I had to ensure everything else in the room was impactful. My textile artist friend Leisa Wake and I have just released a small range of wearable silk artworks - quite literally Art Garments - that are designed to work on your body or on your wall. In prime position above my bed you can see The Jug. I could stare at this piece all day - the simplicity of the standalone vessel and vibrancy of the colours, its yummy curvaceous lines.
Our big and beautiful king bed takes up most of the space so I had to ensure everything else in the room was impactful.
My bedside situation is mostly lamp, but what a lamp! The vintage ceramic base perfectly complements the Tobacco innards of our sheetscape. The other piece in our room is one of my most prized finds–The Swan. 1980s Italian vintage, hand-carved timber "feather" mirror and swan base with a tempered glass top. She is stunning! These bold, statement pieces make the room feel curated, a theme that is carried throughout our home.
“The guest bed appeared to me amongst an endless stream of timber queen frames in one of my late-night scrolling trances. This is why I am an avid advocate for late-night scrolling, sleep health be damned. Like pretty much every piece in the house she is vintage, one of a kind Australian-made, artisan-worked steel frame fit for a Spanish Surrealist. A work of art. We've set it against the window so the sun hazes through the curtains behind and lights up her curves all day. I find lots of excuses to come sit in here now.”
“I love being able to furnish with Art Garments creations, to enjoy the final form of something you watched develop from an idea. The butter checker runner is currently in pride of place on my dining table looking heavenly beneath my beloved sunflower painting - the first artwork I found for the new house. When I put a room together I let the pieces come to me one by one and themes seem to emerge all by themselves. Like the beautiful cobalt in the sunflower painting that has settled itself firmly in our lives. After the painting came our floor lamp, then coffee table, rug and an endless stream of tchotchkes - I swear blue objects keep finding me - I come across them and would love them in any colour but they so often happen to be blue! Then I realised it's also the colour of our front door and the whole thing feels predestined. I have submitted to blue.”
I let the pieces come to me one by one and themes seem to emerge all by themselves.
“I strongly believe there is enough "stuff" on earth so I source everything I possibly can second hand. In doing this I also get to meet lots of fun characters in my expeditions all over Sydney to collect things. A notable mention is my curly-armed teak and cow-hide chair from a very kind nurse who restored furniture when he couldn't sleep. He helped me wrangle it into the boot of my Kia Rio for twenty minutes so it's imbued with the memory of that sweet interaction. The checker mirror console in my office was another heart-stopping encounter in one of my late-night scrolling spells - advertised only as "antique dresser" (which it most certainly isn't), I drove out to Guildford at first light to make it mine. Now it makes the studio space and makes me very happy.”
“This kimono is one of my favourite pieces, the print is a work of art. It's definitely a piece I can't see myself ever selling. I've collected vintage from all over the world and can be very sentimental when the pieces are attached to memories of the places I find them or a good time I had wearing it. I have to consciously curb my hoarder tendencies by imagining the happiness they’ll bring to others. Vintage selling is predicated on a catch and release model after all.”
I am fortunate enough to love my work so much that I also consider it leisure (the hunting part in particular). On a regular weekend Josh and I will discuss the day's plans over morning coffee, almost invariably landing on a pilgrimage to one of Sydney's second-hand markets or a walk up South King St with brunch at Either Or in Newtown. On Sundays we like to pick up fresh seafood from Faros Bros in Marrickville and make a feast, read by the pool and have friends over for dinner. Josh is a big Ottolenghi fan and loves creating elaborate veggie-based share spreads.
“For the rest of 2021 I'm looking forward to investing even more love and time into Art Garments and continuing the self-growth streak I'm on. I've been sober for five months and - without exaggeration - feel like I have a new brain. I'm also loving dance again after a regrettable fifteen year hiatus, taking ballet and jazz at Sydney Dance Company and DUTI Newtown. I've also commenced my Masters in Cultural Studies at USyd and am loving reawakening my critical inner Arts student . Probably most excitingly, we're planning our wedding, set for October at my brother's property in Northern NSW. There's going to be a lot of pasta and a 30" disco ball.”