Stories on the Wall
A result of a lifetime of experiences, an eye for beauty combined with an artistic background, travels, and life in 3 different continents.
Chance has been kind to Paul and Bonnie Atlan. It brought them together in the first place after Bonnie set off for Paris as a young American model in search of success in the City of Lights. She found it, and also added a dashing Parisian to her portfolio. “When he spoke to me in French I couldn’t understand a word,” Bonnie recalls. “I could imagine that he was saying, ‘You’re beautiful, I love you’.” Within months they were living together, and a few years on they welcomed the first of three children.
Years later, after stints living in France and California, where Paul worked for a luxury sportswear label and Bonnie indulged her passion for painting in vivid colour, the couple was on the cusp of relocating to Florida for better education opportunities for their now teenaged children. A conversation with friends diverted their path. “Our friends spoke of Perth, and it seemed like a great sea change,” Bonnie says. “So Paul and I came for a visit and within three days we were filing applications for visas.” Paul opened a couple of stores for his clothing label and Bonnie found inspiration for her art in spades. They soon combined their talents and opened Stories On The Wall, a gallery and bespoke and recycled furniture space in the historic village of Guildford on the Swan River, where they were living at the time.
But chance intervened again on a Sunday afternoon drive. They’d just renovated a cottage not far from their gallery, and had no intention of moving. “Bonnie spotted an open house sign on a side road,” Paul explains. “She insisted that I make a U-turn, and suddenly we were in front of a broken picket fence with several huge gum trees. There was a yard with a wooden house way back from the street. Bonnie and I looked at each other and we knew this would be our next house before even checking the house. It was 5pm and the selling agent was leaving. We told him we wanted to put an offer on the house after five minutes. He did not believe us. We signed the offer on the following day.” It’s exactly the kind of carpe diem move that typifies their globetrotting life together.
Adjoining the house is Bonnie’s studio, where she busily creates with every spare moment. Both Paul and Bonnie also love getting their hands dirty in the garden. It was one of the first things that appealed to them the day they spotted the home, long before they discovered it was once a happy playground for a young Heath Ledger, who would visit his aunt and uncle when they lived there. “Heath was often seen playing in the yard and using a stick to make noise to scare the snakes,” Paul says. “When we started the renovation we found a drawing of a red racing car on the wall signed Ledger. I still have the piece.” They met the star’s relatives at their gallery after they spotted a painting Bonnie had done of Berry House. “One day I saw this couple walking into the shop to buy that painting,” Paul says. “They told us that they lived in Berry House, it was very touching.”
You can see all of Bonnie and Paul’s beautiful work at their website storiesonthewall.com.au
The complete story was originally published in Australian Country issue 21.1. Click here to subscribe to our magazine
Words Tamara Simoneau
Photography Claire NcFerran