This is a listing of two parts; the first a breathtaking residence in Kew, a late entry for MA house of the year by longtime fav Anatol Kagan. Owned with love and pride for the last 50 years by the same family, it has remained as integral, light and beautiful as when it was built for German wartime fleeing Klaus Anschel and his wife Gertrud in 1953/54, and it is here we defer to Simon Reeves author of the only book on the life and work of Kagan (and also the source of the post floor plan historical images above).
“For the sloping site in Carnsworth Avenue, Kagan proposed a skillion-roofed brick dwelling split across three levels, with the entry foyer opening onto a split staircase providing access to the bedrooms below and the living areas above – an innovation that led to the completed dwelling being described in the press as “the upside down house”. To take advantage of the views to the rear, there was a glazed gallery at the lower level and a generous sundeck upstairs. Typically of Kagan, the house included much finely-detailed built-in timber furniture, including built-in liquor cabinet (intended to conceal a ventilation duct), built-in desks and built-in bunks in the children’s bedrooms.”
The second part of this listing is Australian social history of the most gratifying kind for the Anschels, as part of the European diaspora in the 40s and 50s, were central figures in we now refer to as bohemian Melbourne. Knocking around with Boyds, Moras, Percivals and all associated friends and lovers, this home became a ground zero of parties of the scene. But don’t believe our word for it, take a look (just do it!) at the home movie taken here, one of many shot by Gerty Anschel (and described by Philippe Mora) around 1955, generously donated to and now part of National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. What we bear witness to in this glorious footage is not a form of fashion; a hipsterism defined by hairstyles and conspicuous ‘indie’ brand consumption but rather a life of vitality; challenging, disobeying, making and being, lifestyles so foreign to a conservative, Menzies era city at the bottom of the earth as to be another land entirely. Some highlight include;
– Mirka Mora can-canning and then dare deviling over the high balcony, the relatively bald hills of Kew, dotted with mansions in the background drawing to mind comparisons with the canyons of Hollywood.
– Joy Hester, Gray Smith, Charles Blackman, Mary Boyd (then married to John Percival, later to marry Sid Nolan) and baby William Mora toddling around, just enjoying the vibe (like his, yet to be born, brother)
– A couple of African American dancers (the man possibly identified as Antonio Rodrigues) then on tour with a dance company, also just enjoying the day with like-minded artists.
– Hollywood star (few years later Oscar winner for, to our mind the best Paul Newman flick, Hud) and intellectual Melvyn Douglas, escaping the heat of The House Un-American Activities Committee in a Melbourne run of a Noel Coward play and downtime with the Angry Penguins, as you do. For further internet rabbit holing look up excellent podcast, You Must Remember This’s ep on Douglas’s congresswoman wife, Helen Gahagan Douglas’s political career.
– John Percival drawing dick pics (we don’t think Premier Bolte and the Collins st set would have approved!)