Interiors

The White Room: Scandinavia in the Tropics at Eva & Col’s Townsville Home

Long before moving to Copenhagen, my first introduction to Danish living came from Eva and Col Harkness. Their home in Townsville, in tropical north Queensland and the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, is full of Danish design classics. It overlooks the Townsville Strand.

Eva moved to Australia from Denmark in 1971 and brought with her a Danish sense of design and interiors. Like many Danes, Eva regularly moves the furniture in her house around, bringing fresh energy and life to the home. In the early 2000s, Eva started bringing containers of Danish furniture to Australia for her own home, then briefly imported and sold Danish furniture to the Australian market.

As for smaller decor items found around the house, Eva says, “I just have a few knick-knacks from travels, but not much. Col has quite a bit of New Guinean stuff. He has friends up there and spent quite a bit of time there before we married. He brought some wonderful old pieces back.” Col remains one of my heroes because he drove from Singapore to England in the 70s on a bet, after suggesting that he could make it there faster than the typically-used boats.

Simply put: their home has soul. Everything has a story, but Eva and Col don’t cling to nostalgia. The live in the present, continuing their adventures and travels, always open to new experiences and change.

I spoke with Eva about her unique take on Danish interiors and bringing Scandinavian style to the tropics:

Do you feel the need for hygge here in Townsville, with all this light?

I don’t think that way. I do like a place to be home. When we moved into this house, we took everything with us; to me that’s our home. That’s what I think makes a home – what you have in it and what you make of it.

 
 

What are your favorite pieces?

I love my Hans Wegner seats, and I love my new table. I love chairs.

 

That’s very Danish!

It is, isn’t it! I don’t get really attached to any one thing. I love paintings on the wall.

 

Aboriginal weaved fan on wall

“This is from Maningrida in the Northern Territory. My daughter Pia has a friend that runs an art gallery there. I like pregnancies and there are two babies inside. It’s lovely.”

 

For a few years, you were importing furniture in Denmark. Where did you source it from?

Lauritz! I bought it on the net, and my brother Carl-Eric collected it. Their website is wonderful; so easy to work with. My brother collected it over time, and when he had enough I’d go over to Denmark and we’d pack it up. He was a very good packer. You wouldn’t believe what we could fit into a container.

Then I sold it on the internet here in Australia. I didn’t send much to Townsville; the majority went down to Sydney and Brisbane. I eventually rented space in a warehouse in south Townsville and for a while I had them on display. We had a lot of furniture, but I sold it all.

 

 
 

Are many of the pieces you have in your home from that period?

Everything! All these chairs, the sideboards, the cupboards; everything except for a few pieces. All the teak is from that period.
 

Do you have a favorite room?

The living room. That’s where we spend the most time; that’s where we live. Everything upstairs seems to sort of just be there. I’m still swapping stuff around and keep changing the rooms around because I haven’t really got it.

 

That’s seems to be a very Danish thing: redecorating and moving things around

I do that. I did that a lot in our last house too, but with this new house it isn’t as possible downstairs.

 

You’ve stuck with the red theme

It just turned out that way. Things like that I’ll probably change.

 

So you’re open to changing the color?

Absolutely, absolutely! I’ll reupholster them eventually and it’ll change all over again.

See more of Eva & Col’s eclectic Danish interior:

Otto Møller #78 Dining Room Chairs

“I wove the dining room chairs myself because they really needed it. I couldn’t get the stuff to do it here in Australia. When I was in Denmark I visited a guy not far from Viborg who does it for the big firms. I bought the string from him and told him that I wanted to do it myself. He said, yeah yeah, you easily can, you just need to do this, that, and the other. And I did it, and I loved doing it!”

MATZ table by Mads K. Johansen

“Have you seen my new table? I bought at at Great Dane here in Australia, but it was made near Silkeborg (in Denmark).”

Australian Wattle

“I picked up the wattle on the drive between Hughenden and Charter Towers. They were really blooming out there!”

Optimist and pessimist ornaments from Royal Copenhagen

“I brought these back from my mum’s place in Denmark. The optimist and pessimist from Royal Copenhagen. There’s a small chip on one but I love them.”

Red Parker chairs

“These are Parker chairs but they look very Danish. On them is an inscription in memory of Professor Roderik written in latin on the arm.”

Painting on the wall

“This piece here is aboriginal. I bought it in an exhibition here in Townsville. It’s from Utopia in Northern Territory.”

Right: Photograph by Jacqui Ferry

“This is Jacqui’s image from Dance North. It looks like there’s only two people but there’s actually three.”

Art by Jen Harkness (Eva’s daughter)

“There’s a lot of art by Jen. She said I can’t have any more! She says I have too much.”

Pregnant woman sculpture

“And that pregnant women sculpture – I brought that back from South Africa. It was actually at a market in Johannesburg. I love it. Again, I love pregnancy; it’s in a lot of our art.”

right: Georg Jensen cutlery

“I have three sets for my grandchildren. Georg Jensen. They only made them for their jubilee in 1979. I just love them. I bought them at auction. The way they make them is just so beautiful.”

Rocks and stones in old Royal Copenhagen ashtrays

“I like to collect stones from different beaches. That’s from Cloncurry. That’s from Bornholm.”

Danish barsel krukker

“These are barsel krukker. They’re from the olden days. People gave birth and friends came around with food for them. They’re very old Danish. You don’t often see them or hear much about them. My brother had some; I really like them.”

See more home tours on The White Room.

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Freya August McOmish

Co-founder & Creative Director. Half Danish, half Australian. Background in law, film and philosophy. Now lives for communicating ideas visually through film, photography, illustration and graphics. Colour enthusiast. Wannabe designer.