Meredith Booth, courtesy of The Australian October 2017, where the article is entitled “Art’s at the heart of Paula Nagel’s Walkerville home”
Television, education and arts identity Paula Nagel has called Walkerville, in Adelaide’s leafy inner northeast, home for the past 17 years. The modern red-brick home sits at the centre of a thoughtfully disguised triplex belying a trove of art and treasures hidden within, reminders of Nagel’s extensive travel and varied career. “Everything in this house is me. I love maps and exotic things,’’ she says from a kitchen that holds decorative Russian spoons, tins and plates collected from her frequent trips to Greece and Moscow in the 1980s.
Walls are laden with paintings, prints and sketches, gifts and work collected across a lifetime, reflecting her direction and support of State Opera of South Australia, the Jam Factory and Adelaide Festival of the Arts. Among them are works by some of SA’s finest artists: printmaker Barbara Hanrahan, glass artist Nick Mount, and landscape and still-life painter Dee Jones. All come with an anecdote or bear a personal message from the artist.
“I have my sense of style. My friends call me St Paula of the Armani because my style is simple and slightly classic. I like block colours, no paisley,” Nagel says. Her favourite space is the “white room”, where she thinks she has channelled her friend Sheila Scotter — the founding editor of Vogue Australia who died in 2012 — with mirrors, furniture and flowers placed strategically.
The state’s first female presenter of ABC television’s This Day Tonight, Nagel had a 20-year career with the ABC before moving into the boardroom. Her connection with Aunty remains strong, with the house used as a set for 30 of Peter Thompson’s Talking Heads programs with interviews held in different rooms of the three-bedroom home.
She bought the home in 2000 from its Greek-born developer, who originally quarantined the centre of the set for himself. His plans changed and it became her 11th home and one in which she has spent the longest time. She loves the Greek overtones on cornices and window frames, smaller French-style bricks, and the tall french doors to three gardens that give plenty of natural light.
The living rooms have seen their fair share of parties, converted to cater for dozens around the table and most recently hosting a significant birthday for friend and radio personality Peter Goers.
Although she lives alone, Nagel entertains often, and once was a regular host to visiting dignitaries as part of her work as chairwoman of the state’s international education marketing agency and international education adviser to Premier and Cabinet, which led to several missions to Europe and Southeast Asia.
“We had parties here for the missions that came. We packed the house with 50 people. I loved those parties,’’ she says.
Travel took a back seat when Nagel spent time recovering from two bouts of cancer, in 2005 and 2007, but recently she has begun commuting to Sydney as she launches a new business, her own make-up collection for the mature complexion, called Paula’s Secrets.
“I’m determined to work ’til the day I die. I’d be bored out of my brain,’’ she says.
Her Walkerville home is her sanctuary, though, a good base from which to launch her adventures. “It should be the place you retreat to from the busy world, and if it’s not a retreat it’s not a home. It’s just a house,’’ she says. Should a fire take hold of all her precious possessions, Nagel has a plan.
Her beloved poodle Luca comes first; then, a precious golden icon from Bartholomew, Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, that sits prominently in the hall, close to the door, and that was given to her on a birthday by her friend Sister Deirdre Jordan, the former chancellor of Flinders University.
PAULA NAGEL was Honorary Consul for Sri Lanka in South Australia for a while if my memory serves me right