A space to breathe - Interview with Lisa Madigan

The Little Paper House - lounge room

Imagine a space where you feel open, transformed, rejuvenated, connected. A space where you feel only love. A space where you feel human again. For me, one of those spaces is the beach. Nothing connects me more with the earth than the feeling of sand at my feet and the taste of salt on my lips.

Then there is this stunning space nestled in the Kangaroo Valley in NSW. It’s rare for a building to make you feel so connected with nature, but that’s exactly what this restored cottage manages to do. Lisa Madigan, who owns the cottage along with her husband, has created a space that all at once takes your breath away and breathes new life into your soul. It’s a meditative space, one that envelopes you with a sense of stillness and calm. Her cottage is the perfect example of how to take inspiration from nature, thoughtfully bringing the outdoors in to create design that is beautiful without compromising our environment.

It’s no wonder her cottage is a work of art… Lisa is a fiercely creative soul. An artist, stylist, photographer and online retailer (her online boutique is a must-visit), Lisa shares with us her styling secrets and gives us an insight into what inspires and drives her…

Peaceful bedroom

What's your decorating philosophy?
I find it's about being in tune with your lifestyle and also with the space itself. I love contrasting old with new and substance with clarity, and allowing a space to evolve and develop over time. Authenticity plays a big role, it's so important to have a sense of self when decorating a space. Finding what you love and surrounding yourself with the things that you want to come home to rather than following trends or living out of a catalogue. A home has to reflect it's inhabitants, that's what makes certain spaces so endearing. Living in a home in which everything has a story just feels better, raw and real, warmer, true. Sustainability is certainly key, as is bravery! Just being brave in the way you set things out. That may not mean being 'loud'; it may mean looking at things in a new way, like hanging a beautiful branch or an old fishing net, finding inspiration and beauty in simple objects or bringing fallen pieces of nature inside. I love to celebrate the things we love in our home, fine art, nature, our own stories of where we've been through the placement of little things I've picked up on travels near and far (or big things for that matter). In our little cottage it's also about striking that balance of an incredibly comfortable luxury. It's important that we feel equally at ease walking sand through the house as sipping champagne!

Three words to describe your cottage.
Inviting, honest, full of heart (okay so that’s five).


Bathroom details
 What is your favourite piece of decoration at the moment?
I just made a load of paper pom poms for my birthday party and was given the most beautiful array of flowers from a gorgeous friend, so they've been a pretty fun and beautiful addition to the house. I'm still loving all of my fallen palm pods and hanging bottles, intermingling these with paintings and photos. Our walls are always changing. The great big pile of paints on my studio floor is always a welcome inspiration! I also picked up a gorgeous mirror and rusted old French chandelier at a recent auction which I now have hanging in my studio. I'm utterly in love with both of these pieces. My 'new' things are usually 'old'. The pieces that come with a story and soul are the things that I'm really drawn too. The roaring open fireplace is a pretty fabulous thing to have in winter too!

What does sustainable decorating mean to you? Why is sustainable decorating so important?
For me it's about having an awareness about what you're bringing into your home, that's from the paint on the walls, to the furniture, to the cleaning products you use. I find it so important to know where they're coming from, what materials they're made from, if there's an integrity in the production methods. It's about seeing the entire process from source to purchase and weighing up if that is something you are willing to support. I think finding pieces that have a long life span is so important too, or if they have a short life span, that they can be utilised in another way once you're done with them or properly recycled. It's an exciting time to be living in as we're really in a way getting back to our roots, it really is about quality over quantity and hand crafted rather than mass produced, a celebration of nature and craftsmanship which is definitely a wonderful thing.

Dining and lounge room details
What are you passionate about?
Life and living well, experiencing things fully, embracing new experiences and challenges. I'm a hunter and gatherer in every sense, I love to collect memories and moments of wonderful people and places. I also love to collect pieces that inspire me and bring joy into our home and lives. Sharing and having a generous heart is a big part of that too. I love to entertain and spend time with our wonderful friends and family. I love to share what I do and that definitely flows through into my business philosophy and essence as an artist. Finding inspiration in things that touch me, listening and learning from other people that are brilliant at what they do. I love to travel. I love to spend time in our home and of course my studio. I love my yoga practice. I love amazing produce and cooking for family and friends. My art is at the core of who I am, so that's certainly a flame that's ever present. My incredible husband and our marriage. Pretty much everything in some way; sustainability, compassion, honesty, beauty, antiques, amazing architecture, knowledge, champagne, fresh figs, Turner, Botticelli, flowers, candle light, balance, forever following my heart, my gut & my creative drive...

As well as being a supremely talented stylist, you are also a talented artist. Tell us about your art. What inspires you?
I am deeply inspired by nature, by mood and atmosphere, by the landscapes that surround us and also what lays within. I covet beauty in my works. I'm often told that what speaks most is that they're works of great strength but there's also a softness to them that really compels people. Throughout the process I really envelop myself in a conversation with my pieces, it's an intuitive process, it's dynamic, it's surprising, it's meditative. My works are really about exploring the evocative, capturing a transient beauty, finding a raw toothy reality and lifting that into something subliminal.

I also love to work in portraiture; it's the other string. This year I was lucky enough to meet the incredibly talented and humble Peter Gilmore of Quay and paint him for the Archibald. I find that having a synergy with your subject is truly so important otherwise that awkwardness will shine through in the work. Peter and I have so many parallels in our inspirations and approach to the way we work in our different fields, he as a chef and I as an artist. It was a pleasure to get to know him and paint his portrait.

What is your favourite piece of artwork at the moment?
I've just completed a new series titled 'sublimation' which I've entered for this years Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship. I've been absolutely loving working on the caravaggio linens & playing with that contrast of black and white, light and dark. There's a definite interplay of texture and sheen. It's been a really deep and dynamic series to produce. Exploring the process of sublimation, in short taking a base element and lifting it to the sublime. I also love that they're having just as much impact on people as solitary works as they do together as a series.

Pieces from Lisa's new collection Sublimation, and past collection Aphrodisia

Rustic sideboard made by Lisa's brother

Dining room details - table made by Lisa's husband with wood found on a friend's farm

Bedroom details


Dining room details

Reclaimed chairs used as sidetables in the bedroom

Seaside finds

Lisa's two gorgeous dalmations Mia and Oberon

The artist's desk


The cottage exterior
All photos by Lisa Madigan.

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