‘Herbet House’ 6 Orion St, Balwyn North VIC

Oh our stars! This is exactly the type of real estate offering which kick started Modernist Australia in the first place – incredible Mid-Century style, progressive, modest yet exhilarating design, jaw-dropping original interiors but also the pit-of-the-stomach fear that it’s in grave danger. Though its architect is as yet unknown (solved! See update 2 below) we don’t need a big name attached to know it commands saving and restoring. That parquetry, hardwood ceiling, mosaic kitchen tile and of course, that simply awe-inspiring suspended fireplace. These are all features which if to be rebuilt would cost an absolute fortune, yet here they are in lovely condition in an all round breathtaking residence. The lack of photos, floorplan, it’s location (one of the most deadly for original MCM homes in the country) and general encouragement of destruction from the agent (grrrr) sounds the alarm. People! Someone! Anyone! Please take over this home and treat it with the love and care which has seen it through thus far, for it is a gorgeous landmark and must be preserved! 

Shout out to Steven Coverdale and his gang at MCDA for unearthing this one.

**Update** Thanks to Simon Reeves who has scratched up the existing plans (c.1957). Mr Reeves has commented elsewhere that in a heritage study some years ago he recommended this little section of Orion St would be worthy of protection as a heritage precinct.
Of course, they paid no heed to that. 

**Update2** Current tenant Tim has contributed some pics and commentary on unseen aspects; “These photos are OK but it doesn’t get across how good this place is to live in. There are some fantastic design features in this place…………These concrete steps up from the garage are cantilevered. These stairs run up the side of a 90 degree pie shaped conical grotto, lined with volcanic rock. This area is always shaded and remains cool on the hottest days….”

Update 2  – Architect discovered to be one Mr P.P. Packer.

‘Stargazer House’ 1/2 Taurus St, Balwyn North VIC

We’ve been dancing around this one for weeks trying to figure out the right tone in which to deliver this remarkable listing. A benchmark in Melbourne, indeed Australian, Modernist history: the first residential commission for architectural legend Peter McIntyre (c.1950-55), one of our first post-war homes to gain a heritage listing (in 1991) and an outright gobsmaking landmark not least because of that boldly pitched roof of soaring windows, including some experimental cantilever construction, created at the behest of the clients who desired a view which did not include the ocean of tiled roofs which engulfed the landscape.
Now, with such glorious history, prodigious design, miraculous build and formal recognition in mind, how to we reconcile it with the litany of refurbishment offenses to which it has since been subjected? Do we take a light-hearted ‘there’s-no-accounting-for-taste’ attitude and pray that the next custodian can peel back the layers of grey daubed paint, baroquery and downlights which litter all surfaces? Do we dive into headlong into culture wars over the dictated ‘must-haves’ of inspirational, anti-design dead-eyes citing media-rooms as a primary offender (a conversion to this home we simply didn’t have the stomach to display in our write up – check the agent link if you dare)? Do we celebrate the possibility that this variety of heavy handed refurbishment which pays no heed to a building’s original intent, ambiance or materials is on its way out (hey, maybe a housing bust really is on the cards!)? Or do we just sigh, shake our heads and utter ‘We just can’t even’?
We’ll let you decide today, dear reader.

*Much of the historical information and all the non listing images are attributed to Simon Reeves and his wonderful knowledge of this home in his group – Victorian Modern – join up for one of the most learned and amusing commentaries about our Modern heritage in the digital ether. 

7 Lucifer St, Balwyn North VIC

The waft of sulfur emanating from the hills of Balwyn as it rises from bloated temples of excess made manifest by temporary, lucre-chasing demons who have naught but dollar signs in their shimmering eyes, continues unabated. Down on Lucifer Street the satanic chant of STCA* calls us ever closer to bear witness to yet one more sacrifice on the dark altar of avarice. We bid farewell to our world and journey ever downwards into the development abyss.

*If we say STCA backwards 3 times in the mirror at midnight, will that conjure a protective covenant for this home we wonder?

‘Wood House’ 12-14 Tannock St, Balwyn North VIC

A piece of Melbourne history has just popped up playing its chances on the market. With thanks to Steven at MCDA for the info This 1940s Robin Boyd which was subsequently updated twice more by the architect at the owners behest, now stands on the precipice. Not helping its case in the slightest is it’s location in Balwyn North, essentially the Azkaban for Mid-Century homes, as we’ve lost count how many were built there in the first place and have been destroyed in the past decade, perhaps more Australian MCM history lost than any other suburb in the country. Let us not dwell on that right now, but rather luxuriate in the classic Boyd lightness of build and progressive design prioritising the site. Let us remember that this home was built in a time before television, before rock and roll, when everyone wore hats and gloves and was called Smith or Jones or Harris that is to say this is the future as born in the olden days.

1 Page St, Balwyn North VIC

We think we’ve all seen enough of these transactions to adjust the ol’ maxim of hopelessness to “A mid-century home’s chance in Balwyn”. For the simple truth is this house will not be standing in 18 months time, most likely replaced with “a substantial luxury residence” like this. Ew.

88 Longview Rd, Balwyn North VIC

‘Delight’ – great pleasure

‘Simple’ – easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty.

‘Redevelop’ – construct new buildings in (an urban area), typically after demolishing the existing buildings.

‘McMansion’ – a large modern house that is considered ostentatious and lacking in architectural integrity.

‘Lucre’  – money, especially when regarded as sordid or distasteful or gained in a dishonourable way.

‘Buckley’s’ – (slang)  means, ‘no chance in the world’ or about the same chance a snowball would have of keeping its cool in hell.


24 McShane St, Balwyn North VIC

In the epicentre of off-leash and unholy vandalism, even the agents concede the supremacy of this place. Sure there is the compulsory mention of ‘redevelopment’ but the sheer unblemished perfection of this residence suggests even their steely hearts aren’t in it. Still, our emotional walls flip up, the cynic takes over and we declare we’ll be surprised if even this is still standing this time next year. Those burghers of Balwyn really enjoy ruining their patch for short term gains, we’ve seen this all before.
Architect: Jack Wing Shing

**Update** Though not wanting our pessimism to win out the day, it has. Now completely demolished and on the market as vacant land. Obi’s got it right when he speaks of a place where ‘You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy’.

‘Kremm House’ 3 Alpha St, Balwyn North VIC

A shout out from one MCM owner to Melbourne hunters – please buy our house! From the wonderful words of Bruce over on social page ‘Mid-Century Domestic Architecture Melbourne’ (join today!):

“…..our wonderful house by John F. Tipping ……… is available for purchase by the next curators/custodians…….(we) are fortunate to have had the pleasure of living in and loving this fantastic house. I have woken every morning, looked around and out to terrace and smiled.
We have been reflecting on the years we have lived at 3 Alpha Street, and just the workmanship instilled by Tipping let alone the design is exceptional. We take great pride in leaving a stunning, well maintained house by the Kemms, better and ready for another 50 + years.”

C’mon people, lets guide this one through a deep valley of developer darkness and once more into the light.