Benjamin Matthews and Katherine Williams have spent two lovely years living in Cooks Hill. The two-bedroom one-bathroom open-plan apartment has two balconies and is a short bike ride from work, town or the gym.
"We didn't want to come and look at it, but we had a really nice agent who called us five minutes before close to show us," Williams says.
They both liked the high ceilings.
"The vaulted ceilings catch the cross breeze and act as a heat vent. We only put the AC on twice in the whole summer," Matthews says.
The house suits their needs perfectly, and they've filled it with all the things that represent them.
Williams is originally from Germany and has lived in Newcastle for 10 years. Matthews too has lived in Newcastle for years. He grew up in rural NSW.
The pair met a few years ago at Innx Hub when she was working as a freelance photographer and he was a media consultant.
Now Matthews is a lecturer at the University of Newcastle in the school of creative industries. Williams is still a photographer and is studying social work. She's employed as a disability support worker.
Photos by Williams and her friends are on the walls. Two photos in her lounge room are by Sian Grahl. They're part of a series called Phoenix, about one of several near death experiences. Grahl had an exhibition raising money for young adults in hospice, but she sadly passed away before the event.
"She was a great photographer," Williams says.
"It's really nice having photos by people you have a personal connection to.
"I have a few of my own, but I try to put ones up that are not necessarily my work, but are associated with good memories."
Williams' photos include two in the lounge above the chairs. These were photographed when she lived and worked in the Northern Territory.
Matthews is a musician, so his guitars are in easy reach, and they both have stacks of books. Matthews contributed to three of the books in their home: a textbook about journalism, a book about creative industries and a third about art.
The second bedroom is their office, with thick curtains that turn it into a darkroom for Williams.
Here Matthews built the plywood stand-up desk and bookshelf.
He had a zero-waste plan and built the piece in a day.
"You could probably park a car on top of it," Matthews jokes of the desk.
"The planning took a while and was very meticulous and glue-free. It's totally over engineered, but I'm more pleased with the bookshelf."
Another photo by Williams in the office immediately catches your eye.
It's really nice having photos by people you have a personal connection to.
It's gigantic. It's of a young Carrington father with his newborn baby. It won second place in the National Photographic Portrait Prize 2015 and was in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.
This photo helped spark the pair's latest project, Children of Anthropocene. They're working on it from their home in their spare time.
"It's about how people reconcile their desire to have children with their knowledge of climate crisis," Matthews says.
They set up a photography studio a few months ago, with an open invitation to anyone in Newcastle to come and share their thoughts and feelings about climate change and the future.
Happy plants are everywhere in the apartment.
"They have one watering day a week," Williams says.
The balcony too has plants and a worm farm, with furniture made from timber packing crates.
Matthews and Williams planned their wedding in Bathurst over Easter, but sadly it has been delayed due to Covid-19. However, their lovely life in their home on the hill is keeping them going.