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Artist Marc pays homage to his childhood in retro design home; NATHAN BEVAN Favourite room.


IT'S a property that in estate agent's jargon would probably be best described as 'must be viewed'.

But, while the grey, utilitarian exterior of this unassuming block of council flats in Cardiff's Fairwater would have put most buyers off, Marc Rees was instantly sold on the place.

And, inspired by his childhood growing up in the Swansea Valleys, the 45-year-old performance artist set about transforming the flat's interior into a retro-chic retreat which paid homage to the happiest times of his life.

"There's a very Welsh notion which says that everything you do creatively is inspired by your home, the square mile you grew up in," says Marc, who travels all over the world performing his contemporary theatre-dance work.

"I'm an absolute believer in that, it's what my work is constantly exploring and it's reflected everywhere you look in here."

Indeed, while most people might recall the '70s as being a decade of disastrous decor decisions, Marc has lovingly and painstakingly turned the magnolia-walled blank canvas of his two-bed pad into a riotous mix of vibrant colours, borrowed heirlooms, junk shop finds and the occasional bargain-priced designer piece.

"I bought the place about seven years ago because I thought it would be the perfect place for my first home," he says.

"It was built in 1967, the same year my mum and dad built their own house, and reminded me from the outside of the social housing blocks in Berlin where I lived during the late '90s.

"A lot of people probably would have driven up to it for a viewing and really been put off, but I've always had a knack of seeing through the ugly and finding the charm in things."

And, the minute he walked in through the door, Marc said he knew exactly where he'd start on his latest piece of art.

"The wallpaper in the living room was the first to go up, then I built everything around that," says Marc "With its elongated pattern it's definitely the boldest thing in the room, so I only used it to make the one feature wall.

"It's very '70s, very Abigail's Party and I picked it because it mirrored the shape of the room's long narrow windows.

"After that I softened it up with various red and orange items so it wouldn't dominate everything too much."

Orange is certainly a colour that holds a fascination for Marc.

"I'm like a magpie, what can I say," he laughs, rocking back and forth in the similarly coloured contemporary rocking chair he picked up from a trendy furniture shop in one of the capital's back streets.

"I just find myself naturally attracted to it.

"I suppose I've inherited my mother's obsession for it as my kitchen is full of brightly coloured knickknacks and that's bled through into the living room."

And into his interior design work also.

"That's true, I helped create the look for the Cwtch area of the Chapter Arts cafe and that looks like a direct extension of my living room," smiles Marc, who's currently turning the fuselage of an old DC-9 aeroplane into a mobile arts space which will tour Wales during next year's Cultural Olympiad.

But from the quirky sideboard sourced from a local antiques market to the dining table salvaged from a DIY shop where it was used to paste wallpaper, Marc's style is a celebration of the eclectic.

"If everything were from the same shop or the same era it would be so soulless, so boring," he says.

"Even if people can afford to have all designer stuff, I'd encourage them to spice it up a bit and incorporate some personal family artefacts, or to take a favourite old piece of furniture and do something to give it a new lease of life.

"In my study I've even got a chair that I found on the side of the road and reupholstered. Now it looks fantastic."

And how do his parents feel about what must be akin to walking into a time warp each time they visit? "Oh, they love it and feel really at home here," Marc smiles.

"I think they feel touched that I've carried on their particular style.

"It's a tribute to them really, not to mention something that constantly helps to inspire me in my work," he adds.

FAVOURITEOBJECT "I really love this rug, it totally completes the room.

"It's originally from Denmark but I got it several years ago from Melin Tregwynt, the contemporary West Walian wool weavers who've got a shop in Cardiff's Royal Arcade.

"It cost about pounds 300 - IKEA do a cheaper version I think, but It's not nearly as nice.

"It's made from lots of little straps of leather all stitched together and, if you stand back, it looks exactly like a blanket of fallen leaves has gathered in the middle of your living room.

"All the colours in the room are pretty autumnal anyway, so it really helps create the prefect organic, rustic look.

"It really warms the place up."

steal Marc's style Karlstad two-seater beige sofa, pounds 356.43, from Verner Panton Style Flower Pot Light, pounds 79, from Remp Modern Glass Coffee Table, pounds 359, from Black retro telephone, pounds 49.99, from The Contemporary Home, Arne Jacobson Style Series 7 chair, pounds 129, from


* Making the most of his limited space, the kitsch style that Marc has employed in his Fairwater flat gives him a uniquely contemporary space to relax and unwind in
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 30, 2011
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