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IN THE TROPICS: A FORMER ART DEALER’S RETREAT IN A COASTAL VILLAGE

IN THE TROPICS: A FORMER ART DEALER’S RETREAT IN A COASTAL VILLAGE

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CLAUDIA CONNOLLY LOVES her peace and quiet. In fact, she jokingly refers to herself as a “half semi-recluse”. Moving to the sleepy fishing village of Boreen Point on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast nine years ago, Claudia, in her seventies, was happy for the ‘seachange’.

“I lived a very busy, frenetic life before this,” she says. “Living in Brisbane meant we always had something on. My former husband was a QC, a judge and later a politician. I raised four children as well as running my own business.”

Claudia’s business –a gallery and antique store grew from her passion for “all things primitive,” she explains, “The 1970’s was a very exciting time. Margaret Olley was one of the first white women to venture up the Sepik in Papua New Guinea-she was bringing back the most fabulous primitive pieces. She became a great supplier of all things exotic, as did the artist Donald Friend who was  living in Bali. He would source wonderful textiles and special pieces.”

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One of the former dealer’s most treasured possessions is an unusual decorative chest of drawers in the central living area. Encrusted with old shells, barnacles and broken pieces of Chinese porcelain it looks as if it has been hauled up from Davey Jones’ locker.

“When I had the gallery it was offered to me one day sight-unseen for $300 –which was not cheap in those days,” she says. “I was intrigued when this man described it to me, it had actually been rotting away unloved under someone’s house in Brisbane. I simply had to have it — and now that I do I would never dream of parting with it.”

When Claudia bought the block of land across the road from the water at Boreen Point, she knew exactly what she wanted to do with it and who she would engage to help her. “I had always been a fan of the Queensland architect Gabriel Poole. His architecture suits this climate,” she says. “His proportions are perfect. He just understands sophistication and simplicity.”

Claudia’s brief to Poole was to design two buildings connected by a central verandah. This way she could maintain her privacy while still having friends and family to stay. “I wanted  them to have the appearance of fishing shacks, whilst being low-maintenance and secure. I wanted a home that I could just close-up and leave when I felt the need”.

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One of the former dealer’s most treasured possessions is an unusual decorative chest of drawers in the central living area — encrusted with old shells, barnacles and broken pieces of Chinese porcelain.

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The collaboration was very successful and Claudia describes the architect as a ‘dream’ to work with. As was a local builder, David Hill, who built the corrugated iron and timber beach house to schedule in just under six months.

During this time Claudia rented a very basic fishing shack nearby for $50 a week and thoroughly enjoyed familiarising herself with the area and observing the abundant wildlife so close at hand. “I would have the most exquisite wrens dropping in and echidnas just coming and going,” she says.

Decorating her new home with her collection of art, books, antiques, textiles and junk was easy for the former dealer.  The style is eclectic, although, as she admits, “this can be a bit of a nuisance as there is just so many things that I love.”

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Claudia also confesses to a real need for books and requested a reading room in her new home — which has been a great success. “I wanted a peaceful, simple space where one could just bring a book and read,” she sasy. “Friends and family love it — what happens usually is everyone is so relaxed they fall asleep.”

The former city dweller has made some firm friends in her tiny community and they in turn have been quick to recognise her passion for collecting unusual and different pieces. “I have a neighbour who gave me the most magnificent bird’s nest that literally landed at her feet — she said she knew exactly who it was meant for.  Last Christmas the same friend gave me two big green tree frogs –when she told me she gave all of her other friends expensive cheeses I was thrilled.”

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KAREN COTTON

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Karen has produced features for many of the world's leading lifestyle publications -- including UK Instyle, UK Homes & Garden, US Interiors, Belle, Inside Out, Madison, Home Beautiful, Country Style, the Australian Womens Weekly and Harper Collins. Karen's styling expertise extends to both editorial features and advertising campaigns. Karen Cotton Stylist

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