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October 5, 2016

Modernist in Melbourne Street

Reece Freak travelled and lived around the world, but he found what he was looking for in an old modernist apartment at North Adelaide.

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  • Words: Farrin Foster
  • Pictures: Josh Geelen

“I was kind of searching for meaning elsewhere,” says Reece Freak.

“I lived in Berlin for a while and then came back and got restless and went to Borneo, and before that went to Vietnam for a little while. So I was trying to find a place I can connect to.

“But this… does what it needs to do, which is a place of sanctuary and solitude after longer days.”

A Year 7 teacher (and debating coach, and maths co-ordinator) at Parkside Primary School, Reece has chosen and crafted his home carefully so that his time in it counterbalances his long days spent in other people’s worlds.

“The less time I spend here the more I want to stay here,” he says. “I work six days a week – I spend a lot of time at school, when I come back I want less rather than more.”

“The less time I spend here the more I want to stay here.”


Reece Freak

It was a conclusion Reece came to slowly. After returning from Borneo – where we was mentoring local teachers for an NGO – he thought he would like to be less isolated, so took a lease with a friend in Croydon.

But it soon became apparent that he was at a point in his life where living alone was the best option.

“I just want to make a place that’s fairly personal and speaks for itself, and it’s for me and not for anyone else,” he says.

The search for a house that felt right was complete when he came upon the rental property at Deepacres – an Adelaide icon recognisable to anyone who frequents the Melbourne Street area by its sweeping green lawn and geometric form.

Created by SA architectural great Jack Hobbs McConnell in the early 1940s, the block of 15 apartments is one of Adelaide’s earliest and best expressions of modernist design. The blue terrazzo, window seat and curved mantelpiece in Reece’s home are a few examples of the unique architecture that he has built on to make the place his own.

“That table in the middle was specifically bought for the house,” says Reece. “I love it – a very important piece of furniture in a fairly sparse house. It’s a Hans Olsen table and it’s got three legged chairs.”


 While the Hans Olsen table counts among Reece’s favourite items in the house, most of the other highlights were books and records – the former of which could be found stacked and placed in surprising and delightful spots throughout the apartment.


While the form of the apartment – customised by Reece through his addition of maps, op shop (and not) art, carefully selected furniture, and many, many plants – has immediate appeal, the location is a little less straightforward.

“Everyone has this truth opinion about North Adelaide that it’s had its heyday and that was in the ’90s and that it’s old and decrepit now,” says Reece. “But there are these pockets and I don’t see anything you need outside what is provided.

“I don’t really know anyone in this area, I have one friend who lives not so far away, but it’s a little of that isolation here as well. And it’s still close to the city, I’m still able to cycle around and be able to live in this beautiful area.”

Reece is happy to stick with his lease-based life, even though renting is becoming increasingly less common among his friends, because it gives him the chance to prioritise things in a way that makes sense to him.

“Eventually [I might buy a place], but it’s not part of my life goals I guess – my life goals are more about personal balance,” he says.

“At the moment one of the reasons I rent is because I’m trying to appreciate the beauty of small things.”

Watching the afternoon light refract through the picture window Reece is sitting under, it’s obvious how his thoughtful approach and the space complement each other, and it seems likely he’ll be at home here for a while longer.


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