Inside JARtB House, Billy Kavellaris’ Museum-Inspired Home

jartb house sixtysix magazine

Thirteen murals by international artists PichiAvo, whose work Billy says explores contemporary graffiti interpretations of classical Greek mythology, make up JARtB House's facade. “We stitched all of the 13 murals together into one continuous piece of work around the glass facade. The facade is a two-way facade and can be experienced internally and externally.” Photo by Peter Bennetts


December 31, 2020

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Part house, part art gallery. That’s the premise behind JARtB House, architect Billy Kavellaris’ family home on a tree-lined street with an eclectic mix of housing typologies in Melbourne, Australia.

Completed in 2020, JARtB House is an acronym for all the members of his family—Jorja, Alexia, Rosalba, and Billy. “The T makes up the ‘art’ in the name of the house,” he says. He designed and filled the 1,500-square-foot residence with more than 30 works of art—sculpture, paintings, poetry, photography, and large-scale installations alike—made by him and other artists all over the globe.

“Some of the works are my own and the others have been commissioned from artists all over the world—Spain, Belgium, Philippines, Austria, Indonesia, Mexico, and Australia,” Billy says.

From the moment you pull up to the house you’re struck by its grandiose nature. “The house is a contemporary narration of Baroque ideas, and the entry was always an important experiential moment in a building,” Billy says. “Baroque architecture was a fusion of all the arts, sculpture, painting, and it challenged the traditional propositions of the symmetry of classical architecture.”

Billy started Kavellaris Urban Design, or KUD, in 2002. He says the firm focuses on delivering conscientious environmental design with clever, surprising, and smart architecture. “We are interested in architecture as an intellectual and philosophical construct founded on ideas that are materialized and translated into an architectural language,” he says.

He says people in the 21st century seem to have forgotten that art and architecture are the same discipline, but JARtB House seeks to remind them of that. “As an artist, photographer, poet, and architect I wanted our family home to reflect our cultural and aspirational values and live inside art.”

You’ll discover Billy’s own works of art at the house from the moment you reach the front entry, where you’ll encounter his “Decorated Duck” sculpture. At the end of the property is Billy’s “Surrender,” a bluestone layered sculpture. He’s also the artist behind “Red Column” (seen in the basement), “Lights On” (the light installation on the basement ceiling), and “Simbla” and “Koumbo,” the giraffes named after his oldest daughter’s imaginary friends when she was a toddler.

Billy, who has also taught architecture at the University of Melbourne, says he’s not simply an artist or a designer. He works across mediums. “I produce poetry, sculpture, photography, and architecture. They are all sharing stories and culture through different mediums, but ultimately they do the same thing.”

A version of this article originally appeared in Sixtysix Issue 05 with the headline “Livable Art.” Subscribe today.