Making the most of inner-city living

This article was first published in the Newcastle Herald ‘Weekender’ magazine in print and online on September 19, 2022.

Artist Melody Suranyi’s Wickham apartment is a masterclass in small, inner-city living. Her modern, one-bedroom abode serves as both her home and studio.

Suranyi relocated to Newcastle in 2019 from her family home in Avoca Beach to study graphic design at the University of Newcastle. She moved into her apartment, where she lives alone, in March of that year.

“This whole apartment complex was actually only built in 2018 – the year before I moved in. So, it was exciting and new. I think everyone else moved in pretty much at the same time. It’s a really cool community.”

Having moved to the city, initially without a car, Suranyi describes it as a “perfect, central location”. It’s in walking distance of the university’s city campus, the train station, the water, her work (as an art teacher at Pinot & Picasso and at ceramics store Palinopsia), food stores, shops, and many cafes.

“In the past few years, since I moved in, so many new buildings have popped up.”

“I honestly had never really been to Newcastle. I think I just hadn’t had a reason to come but now I’m here I love it so much.”

Working under the name ‘Banksia Brush Studio’, Suranyi’s two main artistic mediums are acrylic paintings and linos.  

Suranyi says she is currently working on a “very bright and floral” mural for Wickham Street Studios, a collaboration with local jewellery brand Gracie Face, and was recently featured in a group exhibition, her first, titled ’40 Under 40’, at Newcastle Art Space.

“I am also working on lots of big paintings – 20 large-scale works – because I’m hoping to have a solo exhibition next year.”

She describes her art as “very fun and colourful – Like an explosion of colour.”

“I also like to weave ancient themes into it. So, artefacts from Ancient Greece and Rome and Egypt – mostly vessels and pottery. Then I bring it back to the present by having lots of really bright, colourful vines and flowers, and organic forms.”

“It’s a celebration of old and new in one.”

Suranyi’s artworks are hung throughout the apartment. They add pops of colour against the neutral tones of the space, and sit alongside other bright prints, artworks, ceramics, greenery, and dried florals that adorn her home.

“I’d say it’s very colourful, funky, and – because of the plants – fresh and arty,” she says of her interior style.

The apartment is cosy and well-designed. Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the space with natural light and a generous balcony, dotted with plants, offers sprawling views that stretch across the harbour and city.

Suranyi says she’d love to add more plants and a little herb garden to her balcony and dedicate a wall inside to hang works by local artists she loves.

The heart of the apartment is the open-plan kitchen/living room, which is the main living space and connects to the balcony. It’s where Suranyi cooks, eats, entertains, studies, relaxes, and – perhaps most impressively – makes art.

“So, it’s taken a bit of trial and error, but I’ve come up with a system now. I’ve got a little trolley over there that’s got everything I need to paint.”

The aforementioned trolley is tucked away against a wall – small, soft pink, and tiered, it brims with paints and brushes. A line of paint tins also sit tidily beneath her TV stand.

“So, I just wheel that over and once I’ve got the drop sheet down, then I get my paints. Then I either set up an easel or just lean up against the wall. I just paint and then pack it all away. I keep my paintings there to remind me to finish.”

She says the crossover between home and art studio blurs when she completes an intensive lino-making session. The pieces require two weeks to dry properly.

“I string up a line across the top of my ceiling and I hang them and the whole ceiling is filled with prints. I’m like ‘watch your head’ when people come over.”

Suranyi says having a system and a place for everything helps make a dual studio/home space functional.

“It is also just about being okay with it sometimes being messy because that’s the life of an artist. It’s a bit messy! Pretty much all my clothes have paint on them. I love that.”