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
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
MATZ table by Mads K. Johansen
Optimist and pessimist ornaments from Royal Copenhagen
Red Parker chairs
Painting on the wall
Right: Photograph by Jacqui Ferry
Art by Jen Harkness (Eva’s daughter)
Pregnant woman sculpture
right: Georg Jensen cutlery
Rocks and stones in old Royal Copenhagen ashtrays
Danish barsel krukker
See more home tours on The White Room.