Inside Artist Charlotte Swiden’s ‘70s-Style Home on the Mornington Peninsula
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans, and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we tour artist Charlotte Swiden's '70s-style home on the Mornington Peninsula.
Growing up, Charlotte Swiden always knew she wanted to be an artist. But like so many other creative types she didn't think this was a viable career option. Fast forward to now and this narrative has flipped, with the Swedish-born painter successfully turning her passion into a full-time job with her artworks highly sought after across the country.
The artist's geometric paintings have a Matisse-like quality to them and are inspired by her Scandinavian heritage and love of nature. Her medium is acrylic paint and impasto, which she uses to create bold forms in rich colours to reflect modern life and inner landscapes. Charlotte has a background in art and design and has spent the past twenty years working in graphic and product design in Sweden and Australia. She moved to Australia in 2005 to undertake a BA in Communication Design at RMIT University where she focused on illustration and printmaking.
After having her second child and taking a ten year break from painting to focus on family, Charlotte naturally began to miss the art. "When I started painting again it was like a dam bursting, it felt like I was a free-flowing river," she says. Her works have been featured in multiple exhibitions, hung in countless homes, and she was commissioned to paint a mural for an exquisite home conceived by interior designer Simone Haag and Jost Architects.
And while we we often contemplate artists through their divine work, we less frequently think of them in their respective homes. Charlotte's Mornington Peninsula abode is a beautiful example of being conscious about what you buy for your home. Her '70s-style home in Dromana is filled almost entirely with vintage furniture and decor. "We also try to not buy anything new unless we have to," she says.
The open-plan living, dining, and office area is where Charlotte works, eats, and paints while admiring the ocean views. "I feel completely spoilt living in such a beautiful space," she says. The same nature-inspired tones which she uses in her artworks carry through to her home's colour palette with Olive Stripe and Rust linen featured in the bedrooms. A charming clawfoot bath has been place in the backyard fernery and makes for an idyllic place to relax, unwind, and soak up nature.
We spoke to Charlotte about the advice she'd give others who want to pursue a similar line of work, the thought process behind how she's styled her rental home, and the best thing that's happened since starting her business.
Hi Charlotte! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
I make paintings!
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
Painting is one way for me to process life, it's an ongoing inner conversation I suppose.
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
I always wanted to be an artist growing up, but I never thought it was a viable career option. I’ve always had a career in the creative field though and I still work in design. I took a ten year break from painting to focus on my family, then after I had my second child I really started to long for my brushes. When I started painting again it was like a dam bursting, it felt like I was a free-flowing river.
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Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
I usually start with making collages, sometimes I draw. That's my concept stage, I let go and make whatever comes to me. After that, I prime my canvases with a soft colour and draw up my sketch with charcoal. And then I paint! I use acrylic paint and impasto because I love texture.
When I’m happy with my composition, I add oil pastels to lift the colours and give the painting more depth and glow. I used to paint with oils, but it’s a little risky with kids running around so now I’m a complete acrylic convert.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to further your business?
I don’t think of my painting as business. I think of it as play, therapy, love, something I do for myself. I don't need to choose colours or motifs to suit a trend. That way I’m free to do whatever I feel. That’s in contrast to my design work where I have a client or a customer to keep happy. With my art practise it's just me.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far in your business?
Although I say I paint for myself and do whatever I want, I do like to share my work and hope to make people feel something through my art. I would say the most challenging lesson is that I’m only human. I put my soul and heart into what I do and I want people to respond to it. I do have that wish. I just have to remind myself to keep staying true to myself.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your business?
The best thing is when people share their stories and emotions that they experience through something I make. I sometimes feel like I’m baring my soul in my work and to have someone connect with that is the wildest, most wonderful thing. And of course, when people buy my art it’s pretty amazing to think that an artwork of mine will live and be loved in someones home for a long time.
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?
That’s a tough one. I studied and worked in design (which I love, by the way) because I didn’t see painting as a career option. I wouldn’t have done anything differently if I could do it all over again though. I think everyone has their own road to travel, all I can say is that my road meant that I have been able to keep my art practice completely free of demands and that’s important to me. And my design work is a huge part of me too which I wouldn’t want to be without. Take the scenic route I would say.
Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?
We have been here for about a year and a half.
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How did you initially know this was the space for you?
We had dreamt of moving to the coast for a long, long time and then suddenly lockdowns and the working from home situation made it possible. We found this rental in an area we loved and without the chance to see it in person, took a leap, signed the contract, and moved during one of Melbourne's long lockdowns. It turned out to be absolutely perfect.
Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
As it’s a rental we could only do small things, like hanging art, which is obviously very important. Apart from that, my husband, Clem, found us a beautiful old clawfoot bath which we put in the backyard fernery.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
The house has a '70s feel with most of its original features so I wanted to keep that vibe. We also try to not buy anything new unless we have to, almost all our pieces are vintage. We also have a table Clem’s grandfather made, my grandmother's String shelves from Sweden and lots of op shop scores. I like that everything has a story and is full of personality.
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What are your favourite pieces in the home?
I think it’s a combination of things more than specific pieces. I love how it all comes together as a home. I guess if there was a fire I would grab as much art as I could, things that can’t be replaced.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
My mum is a painter too and she has a piece that I think has influenced my art making more than anything else. She’s said that I can have it so I’d love to bring it over from Sweden one day. And if it wasn’t in a rental I would love to add one or two Cocoflip lights.
Which is your favourite room in the house?
The open lounge/office/dinner space! I work, eat, paint and relax here looking out over the ocean. I feel completely spoilt living in such a beautiful space.
Recreate Charlotte's look with Olive Stripe and Oatmeal in our Build Your Own Bundle.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
Comfort and homeliness is important. Go for things that you want to live with for a long time. If you have to buy new, buy quality. Fill your home with things which make you happy, like art, books and plants.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
For more from Charlotte follow her @charlotteswiden