Planes, Paper Animal Sculptures and Props in an Australian home


Anna-Wili Highfield is an artist who creates graceful sculptures of animals using cotton paper. She says that her goal is to represent animal life in an immediate and authentic way that conveys the energy, movement and physical character of different creatures. Her work is elegantly displayed throughout this 19th century cottage, located in the Marrickville suburb of Sydney, Australia. She shares this space with her husband, the artist and prop maker Simon Cavanough, who runs Macgyver Models, and their children Claude and Matilda. The old house already had some handsome period details, such as the tiled fireplaces and cornice work ceilings, so, as Anna-Wili puts it, they just respectfully moved their things in. Respectful indeed. Though there is a distinctively playful flight theme running throughout the home, from birds to planes to clouds (as well as room for the children’s creations), the overall aura is one of quiet drama, in part due to the pared down color palette and old world, heirloom charm of their collected objects. Thank you, Anna-Wili, Simon and Julia Lee Skinner and special thanks to Shauna Greyerbiehl for photos! -Shannon

Image above: Simon and our almost 2-year-old son like to fly glider planes together. Claude goes in a backpack and they head off to stare at the sky most mornings. I find the planes handsome around the home. We have all been collecting feathers for this lamp. The shadows the feathers cast at night are very pleasing.


Image above: I grew that pumpkin!

See more of Anna-Wili and Simon’s Australian home after the jump…


Image above: My first Raven. Simon gave me this Cloud sculpture on our first date. The towers are Simon’s and the racket is a work by our friend Nick Strike. His studio is below mine. It’s a wonderland to explore. The large lithograph is by the German (French emigre) artist Hans Hartung and was given to me by grandmother. I love this piece.


Image above: The Raven on a burnt pole I made just for me after a similar series for Hermes. The picture is a felt work by our friend Shane Haseman. The wooden chair belonged to my great uncle Hugh. And the yellow chair is one of many great roadside finds that Simon brought to the relationship.


Image above: The chain detail is part of an early sculpture of Simon’s. The copper tube has the names of every person he remembered knowing engraved on it. The grey one is another of Simon’s works and the nest a friend found outside my front door one day. Below is my apron. Even if I’m not wearing good clothes I live in an apron at home. I think I like a uniform. Guests sometimes get excited that I might have been baking, but alas, that’s rarely the case. Marrickville has fabulous Greek bakeries though.


Image above: A Currawong resting in my home before flying to its owner in Brisbane.


Image above: The little photos on the wall are photo booth shots of my family. There is another sculpture by Simon, and some drawings by our daughter Matilda. She loves to draw. The bed is a little dishevelled from being jumped upon. The vintage night table I found on the side of the road outside a beautiful 1920s apartment building in Elizabeth Bay. I try to to keep the place from looking like the set of a period drama but I have collected too many discarded vintage pieces over the years.


Image above: I like to cocoon myself under a mosquito net. They are actually very practical during a Sydney summer.


Image above: If we owned the house I think that we would respectfully add a couple more windows, but the light is nice and filtered through leaves.


Image above: Simon made the lair sign for a basket that Claude likes to sit in, the basket was also my great grandfather’s and so I moved the sign to discourage Claude from sitting in my ancient basket. I guess lair suits a bedroom well though.


Image above: The wonderful Petrina Tinslay (photographer) and I are collaborating on a series of prints of my work. The first in the series is the Wolf. He is one of my favourite sculptures for his debonair stare. On the left of the mantel are some more works by Simon. The glass horse is Nick Strikes’ and a miniature painted moth was made by Oliver Watts in exchange for a small paper turtle.


Image above: Both our kids like to draw. Matilda is especially good at making things out of what she finds in the recycling bin. Some of her creations are fabulous. I think she’d be suited to work with either me or Simon one day if she’d like to.


Image above: My mum bought the butterfly kite for Claude in Bali.


Image above: This is my desk at home. Crowded by artifacts from the men in my family. The plane belongs to Simon. The mask belonged to my great grandfather who brought it back from Papua New Guinea and the old drunk judge is an original puppet from the first theatrical staging of The Magic Pudding (an Australian classic). Circa 1920s. The judge was given to me by my father who is a puppeteer. I think he influenced my fascination with bringing creatures to life. Oh, and the desk was my great uncle’s.


Image above: A mask I made to be worn by the mannequins at Hermes Sydney. Temporarily mounted in my study. It is loosely based on a Rorschach print effect and reminds me of an insect.


Image above: I love Staghorn ferns.


Image above: A real picture of the chaos in which we live. And our great grand tower.

  1. Beautiful home, I love that it looks like everything has just evolved naturally from the way they live their lives.

  2. Fran says:

    Love this home! Where is the white blanket and bedding on the master bed from?

  3. Sarah J says:

    This house is lovely. My sister used to live in the same neighbourhood and that tower is actually a sewerage vent chimney :)

  4. Nicole says:

    Where is that giant yellow balloon from? It’s amazing!

  5. Tia Stockton says:

    Love that first set of table/chairs!

  6. Sarah says:

    How wonderful to see a home filled with art, instead of only trendy diy projects. Love!

  7. I really love the wolf print, it has such nice texture to it.

  8. Sarah says:

    Gorgeous home of my all time favourite artist! Thank you for sharing.

  9. Miss Heliotrope says:

    Excellent. I have been loving her work for ages (how much does it cost?) & now have a crush on her home…

  10. Mary Wiseman says:

    This home is beautiful. I love the muted background that allows all the ‘charm’ to pop.

  11. This is my favorite home tour yet… It reminds me of home. I also think more of these tours should include an messy bed from a good family jumping session and a good papery mess that shows real life!

  12. Amberly says:

    Beautiful! The bedroom is magical. Those ravens are also very, very cool. Thanks for sharing your home!

  13. austere says:

    Beautiful birds. Just beautiful.

  14. Tubos led says:

    I really like the decor, especially the white backgrounds.
    Thanks for sharing with us.
    Mary.

  15. Friends, if you’re looking for billows of mosquito net (which actually has its own entry in my app) you need not look far – Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL (there’s also an online site and no, I don’t work for the store, just adore it). I think netting still very popular worldwide to keep bugs away at night is very romantic.

  16. Sarah H says:

    Love the artwork!

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