The time-machine quality of the internet, when perusing real estate listings, is an emotional rollercoaster. We can view changes to our environment good and bad in full colour and are then left to to digest such change. Sometimes that digestion gives us hope, sometimes heartburn, but no amount of Gaviscon will help us with this example we present today: Prunella Close, Doncaster, in Victoria.
A magnificent, palatial proportioned residence by local architectural masters Chancellor and Patrick, this residence was always going to attract a big spender when it sold just over 2 years ago and it seems that big spender fancies themselves as an ‘interior designer’. Well, pardon our venom but what they have achieved in that time signifies a design intellect and capability informed exclusively by hubris and a bank account. Being a fan of The Block and adopting the features of insipid, high-end, chain hotels does not a true interior designer make. Because, lets face it, any aimless person can scatter some cushions round their living room, post it on Instagram and call themselves a stylist or interior designer these days. Why devote thought and quiet time to deeper considerations? Shopping for stuff is the peak of creativity, all that maters is surface and how expensive (or cheap) it was right?
We know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
What we see here is the damage done by this mindset – wonderful homes with an architect’s considered materiality and deference to the quasi-bushland environment – earthiness, texture, dark lushness and light interplay – turned into an echoey, snow-blind ‘contemporary home’ (TM) with all the apparent ambience of a Westfield food court. Add more down lights! Plaster that brick! Rip up that soft, tactile carpet and slap down those dull grey (always grey) tiles, clattery throughout! Rip out that gorgeous (and valuable) hardwood kitchen in totality and put up some veneered MDF! Don’t forget the marble because we are classy and marble is what classy people do. FFS.
The most disappointing thing is, when the wheel of fashion has turned once more, when white is ‘out’ and exposed brick is ‘back in’ (when mainstream tv shows announce it so), when people are finally reminded to consider warmth and sound, this home will be recognised as being altered very badly, but bringing it back to original will be close to impossible.
In the excellent essay ‘How Beige Took Over American Homes’ by the much admired Kate Wagner AKA McMansion Hell (if you’ve never seen – be prepared to cry with tears of mirth and recognition) theorises about the North American cousin of such interior styling; the ‘Pre-GFC Beige Out’, a staple of the 2000s renovation craze, her succinct point (and rather ominously for us with the Australian housing market in its present state) was;
“Our houses lost their personal worth and touches; they were worth to us only as much as they were worth to others. Our houses were painted beige because beige enabled the prospective buyers we (even unintentionally) were designing for to picture their own lives in our houses. Beige is a blank slate – a canvas upon which anyone’s personality can be painted over………….. After centuries of the home being primarily a place or a space, during the 2000s it was seen as primarily an object or, more specifically, an asset. At a time where mortgage speculation made our houses disposable and impermanent, beige slipped happily onto the walls of millions of Americans, who wanted easy ways to make their house “worth more” at the behest of HGTV and other media, who treated the home as a thing to be changed, or disposed of on a whim”
Swap the word ‘beige’ for ‘white’ and this is what we see happening here right now. Give it some plaster, a TV approved luxe-over and then a flip. And though we’d gladly concede in some cases a freshen up for a mediocre or falling down residence is a chance at new life, and in many cases appreciate a contemporary rescue over the wasteful growl of a bulldozer – we do not accept such DIY forays with masterful originals. Not with Chancellor and Patricks. Not with such already beautifully appointed interiors and mature gardens. Leave them alone, they are beautiful, they are homes for living in. And if you have the itch? Go try your designer hand with something more comparable to your skill set: like a one bedroom, 1980s brick veneer flat and then see where that takes you.