Two mates in their 20s have found an ideal location in a two-bedroom apartment off Hunter Street in Newcastle West. Small but comfortable, with great views of the city and harbour, it’s a step above the shared-house lifestyle for the two freelancers.
“I wanted something smaller. I lived in a big share house and I wasn’t into it. I didn’t have any neighbours. I was wedged between a night club and a methadone clinic, so it was really loud all the time. I was tired of sharing the space with a revolving roster of people,” illustrator Ben Mitchell, 26, says.
“I knew Steve from work, and he’s a lovely dude. Now we just hang out and have deep-and-meaningfuls while I’m making my lunch for the week, which was not a thing at my old house.”
Stephen Roberts, 28, is a cinematographer, and he moved into the apartment in May this year, a few months before Mitchell. Before that, Roberts was living in Raymond Terrace and had a half-hour drive in and out of work every day.
Both Mitchell and Roberts work at a freelancing space in the city called The Roost Creative, and this is how the two met more than five years ago. Roberts was looking for places and wasn’t too picky, and describes the apartment as being “at the right place at the right time”.
“I wanted someone with maturity. We’re a bit messy, but the maturity level is there. We’re both career driven,” Roberts says of Mitchell.
Signs of the two men’s artistic pursuits and interests can be found on the massive bookshelf that houses everything from comic books to DVDs to two dolls representing Mitchell and his girlfriend, Phoebe.
Mitchell owns all the books on the shelf, and Roberts owns all the X Files DVDS.
“I bought the bookshelf from Ikea, and it adds a lot of character to the place,” Mitchell says.
“I don’t want to add colour for no reason. There was a lot of deliberation regarding the cushions on the couch. The black clock was Stephen’s. It’s just there for aesthetics. I took the battery out because the ticking was driving me nuts.”
Mitchell describes his room as being shaped like the Superman emblem, which is nicely complemented by his stand-up bass. Although he does play, he says it’s there for aesthetics. He has the smaller bedroom, but he gets the bigger bathroom.
“I like that there’s the rooftop, that’s sick,” Mitchell says. “Everyone shares that. It’s a nice view of the city, you can see the interchange.”
He’s adjusting to downsizing in space, but he says now it just feels like the whole house is his bedroom. They have a balcony with a view of the city where Ben likes to eat his breakfast. Here he’ll watch people test-riding new bikes as he’s right next to the bike shop.
“I think it works well because I have extremely weird, long, different hours,” Roberts says. “I don’t think my lifestyle would have worked with a 9-5 person. But me and Ben are pretty free-flowing. Last night at 1am Ben asked me to buy some laundry detergent on my way home from the Roost.”
Mitchell isn’t just an illustrator, he also creates a comic series called Storm Clouds.
“My whole last comic was about living in a share house, and all the stuff that was really driving that narrative is no longer a part of my life,” Mitchell says.
“There’s nothing that I regret or dislike about that time of my life, but it’s interesting to see it on the page and starting a new chapter of my life with apartment living. In a share house no one feels like they own anything. We never decorated the living room because we’d have to check with everyone. Stephen enjoys anything I do to it. He loves the cushions. He loves the bookshelf.”
Mitchell loves holding rooftop dinner parties. However, when he first moved in, he had a bit of a mishap while cooking and sliced his finger open. Stephen ended up taking him to the hospital.
“If I had done this in my other house I would have died,” Mitchell says.
“Since Ben’s come along it’s added some character to the house,” Roberts says.
The apartment block just became open for residents earlier this year, and the space is a perfect example of modern urban living. Throw in Mitchell and Roberts with their unique personalities and creative endeavors, and Newcastle West becomes a little more interesting.