The artist's studio and family home in Bondi comes alive with architectural-inspired artworks.

| By Rachael Thompson | Home tours

Charlie Bennell’s Victorian Terrace Is Enlivened by Her Colourful Paintings

The artist's studio and family home in Bondi comes alive with architectural-inspired artworks.

Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we celebrate innovators, artisans, and crafters of all types by taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we tour artist Charlie Bennell's studio and terrace home in Bondi.

There’s no shortage of incredible talent when it comes to Australian artists who produce wondrous works that enliven the homes they sit within. One standout who you should familiarise yourself with is Charlie Bennell. The Sydney-based painter creates vibrant works that merge the worlds of architecture and art.

These whimsical scenes depict existing architectural structures with an otherworldly vibe, including colourful imagery of doorways and staircases that suggest a refresh or reframing of the mind, a sense of transience leading the viewer somewhere else.

Charlie studied at UNSW Art and Design and received a scholarship to study at Parsons School of Design in New York. She has exhibited in group shows with Fenton and Fenton Gallery, Saint Cloche, and Parsons Gala.

In an exciting collaboration with Bed Threads, Charlie has created five one-off original paintings for Bed Threads Gallery. "I intended to create a series that is minimally-minded to be calming and supportive of constructive energies," Charlie shares with Bed Threads Journal. Each colourful work has been inspired by architectural settings and draws upon the works of architects like Ricardo Bofill, Richard England, and Andrew Trotter. "My aim is always to take something familiar and remind us of how special it is – showing us the world that we forgot to notice and the things hidden in plain sight."

Charlie's family home in Bondi Junction is a classic Sydney terrace. The heritage-listed Victorian building dates back to the 1800s and boasts many of its original features including high ceilings and intricate ironwork. The home has been mostly styled with antiques and historical objects that have personal meaning including artworks created by family members. Charlie's vibrant contemporary paintings which sit within, beautifully contrast and enliven the home.

Not one to shy away from colour, her bedroom features a whimsical Wildflower and Lavender linen combination. This dreamy space boasts an elegant balcony adorned in original ironwork and allows for plenty of natural light to flood the room.

To celebrate the launch of our exclusive collaboration with Charlie Bennell, we took a tour of her Bondi studio and home and spoke to her about her creative process, her most important artist tool, and her upcoming project.

Shop Charlie Bennell's edit.

Hi Charlie! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?

The main focus of my practice is oil paintings. I'm interested in painting architectural scenes that float somewhere between the ordinary and the otherworldly. Through my practice, I constantly explore the alchemical possibilities of colours, the play of space and void, and attention to light and shadow. The result is one that balances a rational vision of life with one that invites an element of fantasy and a moment of introspection in their minimal essence.

How does the act of "making" relate to your personality and who you are?

Creative expression is one of my deepest vital needs. My headspace is lighter, and my whole life feels more vibrant when creating, feeling inspired, and appreciating beauty in art and nature. I'm trying to make sense of the world by distilling objects and spaces into vehicles for vibrant colour, feeling, and child-like playfulness, finding stillness and weightlessness in a sometimes complex and heavy world.

Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

I've always been drawn to art and often spent lunchtimes in the library drawing in primary school. My interest in art developed more in high school, and I knew I wanted to study something creative when I finished. Exploring visual art as a career path was the most intimidating and frightening idea, which is how I knew I needed to try it.

I then studied at UNSW Art and Design and Parsons School of Design in New York. I have exhibited in group shows with Fenton and Fenton Gallery (Melbourne, 2020-2023), Saint Cloche (Sydney, 2021) and Parsons Gala (New York, 2019).

I'm proud of myself for showing up and just navigating this journey. It can seem daunting sometimes to make decisions and trust my gut. It also took me a while to have the courage to share this work with the world, and I'm overwhelmingly grateful for the support and appreciation everyone has shown me. Art as a practice challenges me often, and I am proud of how I have grown because of it.

Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?

My process involves starting with a digital sketch which allows me to play with the composition and colour without the pressure of permanency. I find freedom in deleting everything with a click and starting over. The painting process is an all-encompassing flow state for me. I love becoming completely lost in the process and emerging a few hours later, surprised at how many hours passed and how hungry and thirsty I unknowingly became. I let my hands take over and do the work intuitively; I don't think too much about it.

What's been the single most crucial tool or strategy you've used to further your career?

It's been vital for me to learn how to reprogram the limiting beliefs and societal programming I've picked up about pursuing a career in art. There are many narratives about what it means to be an artist, and I find it helpful to keep my focus on the artists who inspire me and are thriving in this field to show myself that it's possible for me too.

What's been the best thing that's happened to you since you started your career?

The scholarship I received to study at Parsons in NY was a turning point for me and pushed me to experiment with my practice and immerse myself in it fully. New experiences and adventure always help to kickstart my drive to make art.

Do you have a single piece of advice you'd give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?

My advice is to go easy on yourself. It can be tricky to navigate a career that is decided successful or otherwise based on the approval of others. Tread consciously and carefully around being your own biggest critic. It's essential to be your own biggest champion as well.

We're so excited to have some of your original artworks at Bed Threads. Can you tell us what the inspiration behind this collection was?

I can't turn off the part of my brain that harvests inspiration, so it's varied. It's the colour of the broken tile found in the ocean pool, the curved structure of an archway spotted on my morning walk, or the plants in the garden. Some architects that inspired me for this series include Richard England, Andrew Trotter, Terreo Studio, Ricardo Bofill, and Atelier dos Remedios.

I intended to create a series that is minimally-minded to be calming and supportive of constructive energies.

What do you hope people feel when they see your artworks?

My aim is always to take something familiar and remind us of how special it is – showing us the world that we forgot to notice and the things hidden in plain sight.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can't live without in your studio?

My Wacom tablet! Digitally sketching allows me to change the colours a billion times before I come to the sketch I'm happy with.

Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?

The home pictured here is my family home which we've had for 21 years.

Do you have any special décor pieces you're looking to add?

Not really! Though it could be fun to change up the colours on the walls.

Which is your favourite room in the house?

I feel the living room has the most character, and I enjoy the energy of having art created by my ancestors around.

What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?

Lots of colour and art! Also, indoor plants make the space feel alive.

Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?

I'm currently working on a series for my first solo show with Piermarq gallery in May! Keep your eyes peeled :)

For more from Charlie follow her @charliebennell

Photography by Alisha Gore. Styling by Audrey Won.

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