Home Tours

How art, DIY and clever styling revamped this rental home

Renting is no obstacle for Steve and Bobby Clark who are using art, DIY skills and styling to revamp their home

Meet & greet

Bobby (artist, designer and stylist) and Steve Clark (artist, designer, stonemason and sculptor) their son, Jimmy, two, and Scout, a Staffordshire terrier.

the property

Rented corner-block house.

Steve and Bobby Clark don’t just make art, they live creatively, too, and their home reflects their optimism and can-do mindset. There’s never been an absolute master plan – they don’t seem to need one.

“We really just get on with it,” says Bobby, an artist and designer. “We make do and improve things.” Her husband Steve owns sculpture and furniture studio denHolm. Originally from Scotland, the couple came to the Antipodes 12 years ago on a whim, fell in love with the city’s artistic community and never left. “A year ticked on, and then another. We weren’t ready to leave, so we just never did,” says Bobby.

They’ve rented this corner-block house for six years now and have thoughtfully updated it with paintwork, furniture, art and styling. “It’s very old – the kitchen is super old,” says Bobby. “But we have the best landlord ever. She’s fantastic. And because she likes my style, she has let us make changes. We’ve improved the feeling inside without touching the bones of the house.”

Art at heart

Paintings, sculptures, handmade furniture and textiles are all-important in the Clark residence. “Art can do so much,” says Bobby. “A big painting instantly transforms a blank space.” Her favourite pieces include a Carys Huws print from Solange: An Ode To, a performance/art event in New York that also featured Bobby’s work, as well as a Sally Bourke painting in the lounge room and a custom handmade Moroccan rug. “I’m obsessed with it.”

Kiddie impact

Of course, displaying important artworks isn’t easy when you’ve got a toddler on the loose around the house. “There have definitely been some strawberries squashed into my rug, let me tell you,” says Bobby. And a stone coffee table Steve made has had to be temporarily stored because it’s an injury risk for their son, Jimmy. Bobby is laidback and upbeat about it: “We’ll get the table back some day,” she says. “Jimmy has also drawn on my TV cabinet. But actually, I love it. I’m going to put glass over it and keep it like that. I’m never going to tell him to stop being creative. He can draw on the furniture. But not on my art books.”

Future moves

Bobby and Steve plan to buy their own place eventually, but finding ‘the one’ may take a while. For now, they’re happy to stay put and continue improving their rental. They have painted the toilet dark green and plan to give the bathroom a few coats of cornflower blue paint. Transforming the outdoor area is also on the agenda.

“I’m going to get banana palms and elephant’s ears and make it a concrete jungle,” says Bobby. There’s always a new dream to fashion into reality.

Bobby’s style rules 

1 Having a friendly relationship with your landlord is gold. They can enable home updates, or give you the green light to do some DIY.

2 Use art. Paintings instantly transform blank, boring spaces. Handmade rugs are absolutely worth the expense. And when you move house, they come with you.

3 Avoid trends and fast fads. Use a set colour palette to guide your buys. Be a magpie and keep your eyes peeled for treasures that other people just don’t see.

Create the home of your dreams with Shop Your Home and Garden