Neel relaxes on the mezzanine level, where exposed beams are painted lime green and a furry wool rug adds a cozy factor. Masks and a Chayang Mas portrait hang behind him.
Upon entering Neel Morley’s Melbourne abode, you’ll be instantly struck by the abundance of vibrant colors and zany patterns. You’ll quickly understand that the converted Brunswick warehouse belongs to a happy man, one who derives unadulterated pleasure from the energetically rainbow decor. But only once these observations have sunken in will you begin to see the many faces that fill the space.
Masks from around the globe cover an entire double-height wall. Neel, a bubbly English transplant who owns Australia’s first curly hair salon, started collecting them when he moved Down Under in 2010. He found them in thrift shops, picked them up while traveling, and received them as gifts from friends and clients. “I think I’ve got over 300 masks in my house now,” he says. “They’re literally from all over the world: Japan, Mexico, India, Papua New Guinea, Korea, Africa.”
“My whole life is pretty colorful, and I wanted my house to feel like an extension of that,” Neel says. “It’s the social house where people want to congregate and hang out.”
Neel stores a variety of colorful glasses in his cotton-candy pink console. Each guest who visits is required to choose the vessel that represents them best.
One of the first pieces Neel bought for his home, this shell-back chair, was recovered in salvaged fabrics.
But the masks are simply the most obvious example of a theme that’s intricately woven throughout the home. Faces are everywhere, from the Day of the Dead–style calavera pillows to the youthful Buzz Lightyear bust to the vintage wood table with elephant heads for legs. “I love faces,” Neel confirms. “I love people, and I like costume parties and festivals, so I think that’s why most things in my house have got a face on them.”
A floral mural by David Lee Pereira dresses up the exterior front door, which opens to a rainbow staircase.
The interior front door is obscured by a cheerful jungle mural by Pedro Arteaga.
The largest and most impactful faces appear in the murals Neel commissioned by local graffiti artists. The smiling, exploding sun above the staircase was crafted by Sebastian Berto, who is also responsible for the homoerotic Greek gods in the bathroom. Veins created the three calm women in the primary bedroom, and Pedro Arteaga painted the bright smattering of masks located in the courtyard equipped with an outdoor shower.
Neel’s Pricasso portrait mingles with kittens, Darth Vader, and Buzz Lightyear.
“Oh my God. I took one this morning,” Neel says of his outdoor shower. “Joyful. Absolutely. That has elevated my joy. Nudged it to the next level.”
Elephant trunks make stunning table legs.
Smaller and subtler faces range from a Mr. Potato Head and a series of religious statuettes to personified tea cups that look like Chip from Beauty and the Beast. The most avant-garde face is the portrait of Neel by Pricasso, an artist who paints using only his penis as a brush. It rests on a ledge in good company, juxtaposing a Darth Vader effigy and a trio of barrel-chested figurines.
Neel channeled 1970s New York bathhouses and Mykonos nightclubs for his enchanting bathroom.
Even Neel’s faceless belongings breathe life into the place, with their vivid hues and playful prints. To achieve a whimsical kitchen, he installed a bright orange refrigerator, a lemon yellow range hood, and a color-blocked faucet. “When I saw it, I squealed,” he says of the water fixture. “It makes washing up a lot more jolly when you’ve got a tap of six different colors facing you.”
“My colorful aesthetic was elevated when I moved to Australia because wearing colorful clothes looked so much better in bright sunlight,” Neel says.
Neel’s bevy of antique mirrors, which he bought at Sunday markets and then spray painted in neons and jewel tones, provide a similar level of delight in his sleeping quarters. The bold, reflective treasures are balanced out by a fluffy, white bed, which offered tranquil comfort when Neel was on dialysis. Now that he has recovered from his kidney transplant, he appreciates his technicolor space even more. “I’m the opposite of Marie Kondo,” he declares. “It all brings me joy.”
“I wanted one of the girls to have got her boobs out, but I also wanted her to have curly hair because of my obsession with curly hair,” Neel says of the mural. “I just like the faces. Every morning when I wake up, I look at them and feel very happy with myself.”
“I’m lucky, honestly,” Neel admits. “I’m pretty vocal about my kidney transplant because if people aren’t on the donor list, I’m like, What are you gonna do with that? What’s that to you?”