The Artist’s Treehouse, Port Douglas
by Tina Gonsalves
Bookastay staff stayed at the Artist’s Treehouse in Port Douglas back in 2011. We loved its bohemian, creative vibe so much we just had to feature it. Here’s owner Tina Gonsalves’ story about her family’s enviable lifestyle and how the Treehouse (and the Artist’s Cottage) came into being. Over to you, Tina!
I am an artist and my husband, Matt Wild, is a chef. We have a young son, Pablo, who just turned four–in Beijing. Pablo has been traveling with us since he was 10 weeks old. His passport is nearly full, and he calls everywhere home!
Matt and I have travelled for years–our careers have taken us all over the world. Last year we spent time in London, Hollywood and Berlin, and this year it’s been Bali, Liepzig, Turkey and now China. I’m here doing an artist’s residency supported by Asialink. Most recently I’ve been photographing professional funeral criers–people who are paid to cry at others’ funerals.
We’ve always loved our nomadic life, but I think it was something to do with hormones that made me desperately need a home when I was pregnant with Pablo.
The Artist’s Cottage
We bought the one-bedroom Artist’s Cottage at that point. We knew we really should have bought a two-bedroom house, but we fell in love with the place. It was bright yellow with blue trim when we bought it – we painted it and scoured garage sales and op shops to fill it full of the things we loved. I was painting a lot when I was pregnant, so we filled it with art – my own, and some friends’ work too. We loved it.
But after Pablo was born, I needed to work on a big project overseas, so we decided to holiday rent it. This was the perfect solution – we get to share it, and at the same time, we come home to a beautiful, clean home whenever we need to!
However, the Cottage got so popular that it would book out constantly. We were spending a lot of time in Berlin at this point, so we bought a little place there – one of the most exciting cities in Europe! But when Pablo’s first words were German we realised that although it’s great to be multi-lingual, we needed to put down some roots in Australia.
We decided to set up a home in Port Douglas. We wanted Pablo to get to know his extended families better, and spend some more time around the English language!
The Artist’s Treehouse
We bought the Port Douglas Artist’s Treehouse in 2010 over the internet from Berlin. The first day we saw the place was the day of settlement. It has three bedrooms, so is more of a family home. But oh, you should have seen it – what a sorry sight it was!
It had been the town’s big party place with heaps of mattresses everywhere for anyone who needed a bed. We had mixed feeling of sadness, fear (what had we got ourselves into!) and excitement. Most people told us it would always be pretty awful–no chance of making it great. We saw potential, but had little budget for renovations.
We scrubbed it from top to bottom, then moved in and did as much of the renovation we could ourselves. We turned the garage into a living room – we found all the sliding doors and louvres from a house that was being demolished. We discovered the Queenslander windows and French doors at the dump. We were given a lot of second-hand wood. My brothers, my father and friends all came onboard to help us.
Within six months it went from a sloth-pit to a really lovely home. We filled it with heaps of art and things we found that were interesting. We found the wallpaper at op-shops and on ebay, and most of the furniture came from garage sales and second hand shops too. We treated it like a big art installation–just having fun and being playful I guess! It’s a bit over the top, but we love it. We started holiday renting it this year–so far, it’s been popular and gets some great reviews.
When we leave China in a few weeks, we are moving to Vietnam and then India. Matt helps people open restaurants, and he’ll be doing this in Delhi. After that, who knows – maybe Iceland, or Taiwan! I have two exhibitions in June: one in Australia, one in Moscow, so we’ll see where we end up when the time comes.
We tend to know what we are doing only a few months in advance. We find it exciting, but realise that we are in the minority! However–we will have to settle soon for Pablo’s schooling. We don’t know what the plan is yet but it’s nice knowing that the Treehouse is there, being enjoyed by everyone, but ready for us if we need it.
Port Douglas is great in any season–most people come during the ‘dry’ season (April to November), but ‘the wet’ is a magical time of year when the skies open up with warm, lush rain. It brings about some of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls and raging rivers, and it’s our favourite time to sit on the verandah with a glass of wine and a book!
About Tina’s work
My work is a mix of video and installation. I work with scientists who study emotion, and also computer scientists to develop technology that highlight the emotional signatures of the body. For example my last work looked at the audience’s emotional expression from a distance and changed the video accordingly.
I have recently been very interested in emotional responses, working with a number of scientists who study compassion. We worked with monks–the Dalai Lama’s close advisors–looking at how their brains responded to fear, excitement and compassion under meditation.
I’m have worked with Nokia Research Center (I spent a lot of time in Finland in 2010) on some art-based projects that disrupt the way we communicate. We have reworked Skype so you only look deeply into each other eyes as you communicate. I also am developing a chat engine project with a technologist in London. It only allows you to chat in the present tense–it changes everything you are saying to the present. Should be interesting!
Local things to see and do
Matt Wild, Pablo and Tina Gonsalves in Turkey
One of the bedrooms at the Treehouse, papered with A3 photocopies of palm trees
The downstairs living area
Another bedroom, vibrant with colour
Detail of a piece of art
The funky kitchen with its kitsch wall collections