The year was 1957.
“Dome Constructions Pty Ltd Subdivided the Hillcrest Estate out of the lemon orchards that run between Park Road and Deep Creek in Mitcham, now Donvale. The estate ran the whole length of Lisbeth Avenue and took in parts of the side street….Alistair Knox provided plans and built houses as required on the subdivision. He appears to have built 46 houses in all. Almost all still exist though many have been altered and added to, some in rather extreme ways.” – Alistair Knox.org
This home, dear readers (lot #13 on the original plan) is not one of the altered. A testament to the elegant, site specific designs Knox devised for this A-Little-Eltham-in-Mitcham estate, it stands still in the hands of the owner who built it c.1962 and though tired, it is simply lovely. We have been contacted by a neighbour who stated upon viewing that he nearly cried it is so original and beautiful. This house is nothing if not a bona-fide MCM gem in the urban bush which sweeps down from the north facing deck into a magical treed garden boarded by The Eastlink bike trail. It is unable to be sub-divided (hoo-bloody-ray!) though it is in clear need of a steady and knowledgeable owner to carefully revive it and reap the rewards. Those with the skills, and only those with an understanding of such design and history, need apply.
The year was 1957.
A glorious rebirth to get the weekend pumping for you all. Though we privately prefer our nuts and berries, Alistair Knox homes to stay nutty (read: Keep that brick and that ceiling guys!) we totally understand the move to a slicker look and really with a swirling discussion right now of celebrating Modernism and promoting its allure to those uninitiated, this home may possibly do more for the MCM cause than some unintelligible and instantly filled away council paper on the subject. By employing an accomplished architect who ‘gets it’, keeping the design integrity of Knox’s original, Modernist vision with little adjustment to the main floor plan, promoting some of the gorgeous internal timber and beamed ceilings as a feature, banishing the faux-colonial kitchen and then splashing out on all the zhush (not least some spectacular landscaping) to send those with the cash into a frenzy, these owners have achieved a good balance of preservation, celebration and exultation to be admired and cited as one way to get the message out there.
A number of you have alerted us to this lovely residence, a warm brick and beamer by everyone’s favourite non-architect, Alistair Knox and only one of three apparently in this suburb (which is usually the locale for earlier era MCM gems rather than bushland babies like this) and of these messages has stood out – from Emma, who grew up here and like so many of you out there has parent’s farewelling the long-held family and does not want to see it fall, as she writes;
“My parents have listed this house, which they bought off the original owner (the brother of Peter Jackson, of suit fame) 20 years ago. This house has so much scope with beautiful bones. 7 children grew up in the 3 bedroom house (the 5 boys had the large bedroom at the end), and the backyard was used to learn to drive………….We really want the house to be saved from the wrecking ball…”
(Who doesn’t love a little local celebrity colour!) But we need to act fast – this home goes for auction tomorrow, we sincerely hope there may indeed be a new family waiting in the wings already, ready to pounce and Knox it up for another few decades.
If there is one sure thing in this crazy, mixed-up world it is this; if we had any financial means whatsoever to purchase this standout, stomach-spinning residence of exquisite later stage Mid-Century Modernism (and we’ve had quite of few over the past weeks) then you would not be seeing this listing today. We would have called the bank 2 days ago and be signing the papers right now. And this never before sold, executor’s auction estate is nothing if not a gold-plated testament to its owner, for we have rarely seen such a stunning home of progressive design and materials in such beautiful condition. To our minds – with our own predilections within the entire MCM canon – there is really nothing you could do, make or say to improve on this corner home on on the Yarralands. It is the Alpha and the Omega.
The prolific Mr Knox strikes again with this wonderful, c.1966 Eltham retreat. Some of you may notice a striking similarity between this and another of everyone’s favourite bushland designer recently featured in Design Files. In any case here’s your chance to cosy down in those exposed brick walls, timber features, soaring ceilings and windows he is revered for. Elegance au naturel.
Like so many design and architecture practitioners Mid-Twentieth Century Australia, Alistair Knox was involved in the project home movement. Though well known in Melbourne for his gorgeous bushland residences, according to this excellent post from Mid-Century Domestic Architecture he actually is responsible for an entire (and hitherto unknown to us) tract of homes, a subdivision in Donvale, built in the late 50s to early 60s and totaling all up 46 glorious plan houses. See some of the the options in the post floorplan images* and indulge in a little playing ‘just-married-in-1957-Melbourne’ – which would you choose? Many of these homes still stand, in varying condition and here is one example currently on the market. We could dwell on it’s chances of survival in this developer led-market or we can decide to simply enjoy the beautifully progressive design and imagine what could be with a thoughtful head and skill hands, lets go with the latter.
*with many thanks to Steven Coverdale
As the bone chill slowly lifts, our eyes turn to the distant horizon and the brightness of summer. Look! Here comes the perfect home for such seasonal observations. A gorgeously modest yet perfectly formed, fan shaped residence constructed with fire elements at the fore: terracotta tile, timber and our hardest crush at present; the ‘Clifton Grey’ brick, at one time a standard of a certain 70s, nature-influenced home building. We thank Secret Design Studio for pointing this one out, the work of local favourite Alistair Knox (from one Alistair to another!), and situated in one of the great hidden joys of this state, the Cowes end of Philip Island, with an Enid Blyton-esq address.
It’s been a while since we’ve showcased an Alister Knox home or something from Lower (AKA the land of) Plenty for that matter. So tonight for your Saturday evening pleasure check out this astonishing home, dripping with rustic charm and Modern aspiration from every piece of rough hewn stone, terracotta and timber. A 1952 breath-taker of nature and design.
This stunning home by the notable Alistair Knox is not only immaculate in it’s presentation and magical in it’s timber interiors which, hallelujah!, has escaped with nary a coat of white paint in sight, but also boasts a garden by the the visionary and, dare we say, sorely overlooked Ellis ‘Rocky’ Stones. It’s very rare there is zero to do with any home changeover, let alone one which is most like 40 years old – but then that’s brilliantly executed and maintained Australian Modern for you, move right in, you’re done and dusted.