Story LISA GREEN
Photography TOM FERGUSON
The gas man is flummoxed. He’s come to read the meter and a note on his clipboard says it’s in the garage, on the left-hand side. But this garage is like no other. A car stacker makes it dual occupancy. A “bedroom for the car”, it has two walls and the ceiling wrapped in walnut timber, and 3.6m-high push-front panels disguising integrated storage. Where the meter lives is anyone’s guess. With a shrug, the meter man moves on, tossing a calling card on the floor and casting a last, puzzled glance at the spacey spherical light fittings just inside the door. A schoolboy and his mum cut through the Paddington laneway. “Why’s there an artwork in the garage?” wonders the child.
“Couldn’t find meter,” mutters Boris Tosic when he emerges from the adjacent front door minutes later and spots the gas man’s card. He taps panel two to reveal the neatly housed utility. “That’s by Diesel’s son, Jesse Lizotte, he says, eyes flicking to the muscular black and white under-the-bonnet photograph that occupies a recess at the rear of the garage. Titled Made In USA, it’s part of a Lowrider culture series the musician’s son shot in Los Angeles in 2014. Like every other element in this unique Sydney home, the print’s position beside the Mercedes-Benz charging station is hard won and comes with a story.
“I need a personal connection when I buy something,” says Tosic. “Nina from China Heights [gallery] said ‘this lady keeps asking about you’. It turned out to be Jesse’s godmother and she walks past here all the time.” He turned up at Lizotte’s next exhibition and bought the print.
The installation at the garage entrance, four Verner Panton lights from Hamburg’s iconic Spiegel publishing house, were secured at a European auction by Tosic’s good friend, fellow design hunter and collaborator Don Cameron. They’re one of the final flourishes in this warehouse rebuild, a project that has occupied Tosic, a charismatic master joiner, maker and lifelong curator-collector, for the best part of three years. The brick warehouse was constructed in 1892, at the intersection of a narrow street and laneway. It was once a hat factory, necessitating a geotech report before building could begin. (Milliners once used mercury to shape hats, hence the term ‘mad as a hatter’.) Cleared on the mercury front, the building then needed significant structural work to meet earthquake guidelines. “It’s got more steel in it than the Harbour Bridge,” remarks Tosic.