They say home is where the heart is.
That’s certainly true for Sandra Baker and her New Lambton home, where her love of art is distinctively on display.
From the mural-adorned tiled front entrance, right through to a bathroom surrounded with seas shells, every inch of the Mackie Avenue home is elaborately adorned with art.
The entrance alone makes a striking impression, but the eyes only open wider on treading the beautiful black and white tiles of the hallway and rounding the corner.
Known as the “primitive room”, its walls and display stands are covered with tribal masks.A visit to New Guinea while working as a mess girl on a Norwegian freighter sparked Sandra’s interest.
“That’s where I started my collection of primitive work,” she says.
There are a few authentic pieces, but most were made by a friend, suffering illness, who carved to pass the time and gave the pieces to Sandra, knowing she would somehow use them.
“I’d go to work and come back to a couple of boxes of stuff,” she says.
A surprise feature in the room is a nook with a bath, mission brown and surrounded in tiles painted with insects.It’s a space to lie and contemplate, Sandra says.
Another favourite spot is the library, a room Sandra says is “more of a man’s domain”, with its model ships that belonged to her father, as well as glass decanters, a comfy antique chair and rows of books enclosed in a case with lovely leadlight glass that Sandra had made from old windows.
“I quite like sitting in here and reading,” she says.
A textile room has an enviable display of retro garments and sewing gear, while an Egyptian space at the foot of the stairs has boxes, cabinets and walls that Sandra has painted to look like artefacts.
“I can’t afford real Egyptian artefacts, so I’ve hand-painted them,” she says.
“Everything presents as such but in reality it’s not.”
The laundry is undergoing a transformation as a Greco-Roman or Pompeii enclave.
The bathroom (there is another tub in here, this one a large corner suite with antique brass taps picked up at a garage sale) is based on marine life and references the 2000BC to 1400BC city of Knossos in Crete.
There are walls of sea shells displayed behind perspex, a coral collage, jellyfish paintings, turtle shells and sea-life themed glass lamps and murals.
Across in the Oriental room, Japanese-style screens, a gong (bought at auction), parasols, tea pots and cups, dolls and cushioned corner bench seats feature, along with a marble fireplace.
The theme in the kitchen and dining area has some Indian influences (Sandra is working on a totem pole of elephants for this space – “as you do of course”, she says) as well as a great display of retro canisters on shelves under the island bench, cabinets containing pewter items, cast iron pans underneath an antique-looking sink and a walk-in pantry filled with bits and pieces.
“The house was built in 1919,” Sandra says.
“It’s like people have lived here and left pieces of themselves behind.
“So there’s a collection of bits and pieces.”
Sandra sleeps upstairs, in a bedroom off a large landing. The theme is art-deco, with ceramics, 1930s art and a leadlight bay window among the highlights.
Sandra’s love of art started young.
“I’ve always drawn, I suppose,” she says.
“I think Mum encouraged us just to use chalk on the pavement.”
Then came art school and a career as an art teacher.
The home renovations started in 1982.
It followed the tragic death of Sandra’s husband in a motorbike accident, just months after they married.
“I had to create something that would keep me going,” she says.
Walls were ripped out, the brown paint work, lining boards on the walls and lino on the floor removed and replaced with art.
The house is still a work in progress, Sandra says.
The transformation took a back seat when she opened Studio 48 art gallery about 15 years ago in the house next door.
She plans to continue work on her home and renovate the gallery this year, before potentially opening the doors to both in 2017, for exhibitions at Studio 48 and “tea and tours” (a look through with a cup of tea or coffee to follow) of her unique house.