32 Warringah Cres, Eltham VIC

The wild permutations of this swirling world are creating schisms in the fabric of our reality. One could easily slip through a finely worn section, back to 1967 and make a home here – a textbook example of a Graeme Gunn designed Merchant Builder’s home which has never seen another owner from those who built it that year.  Pristine in its purist, Australian Modern design, without a single superfluous angle, line or space and made of neutral earthbound tile, timber and brick this home provides elemental solace and spiritual succor for these, our heady times.

28 Lucas St, Brighton East VIC

For all the money, position and supposed savvy the bankrolled of Brighton assume, we sadly continue to spy example after godawful example of the tired trends and the repellent rebuilds in this suburb, often as prescribed by the most banal of the breed: the B-list celebrity. So when an insanely original, neutral-toned c.1968, Merchant Builders residence by legendary architect Graeme Gunn presents, as this one does, the alarm bells ring and the haunting spectre of a high-gloss, tinted-windowed, snow-white ‘renovation’ rises from the depths. Either that or  worse –  destruction in totality of every beautiful brick and valuable raw timber with one (r two) monstrous ‘luxe’ villas constructed in its place. Lets us try to not go there. Lets us dream that there is someone with both the integrity, the finance and the eye to grasp the rare beauty and seek to advance this truly wonderful family home in the sympathetic and creative manner it deserves. 

3 Keraboite Crt, ‘Keraboite Gully’ Mount Eliza VIC

An unrivalled bushland bonanza of no ordinary origins here but rather a c.1975/76, mint condish Merchant Builders/Graeme Gunn colab within their planned mini-estate of Keraboit Gully. You can read the full intent in the original sales brochure here. But below is a taster

The Concept. We don’t think of Keraboite Gully simply as “a development”. We think of it as a planned community of individual houses, where every detail- will contribute to an overall sense of harmony. Our principle aim is to make the most of the natural environment, and. to offer an attractive and workable alternative to the monotony of conventional development.”

How utterly familiar in intention and spirit this is to anyone taken by contemporary architect-led developments of higher ideals* (over simple return for financial investment) in this day and age. How trailblazing and yet sadly so cast by the wayside these concepts have been for the last 40 years!
Owner, Richard, has done a considered job of keeping this marvellous example of late Modern project housing intact with the a modest kitchen update merely reinforcing how such an aged residence remains timeless and seamless with its elemental materials and deference to the environment. We’d like to assume the new owners take on and embrace the similar spirit and immerse themselves fully in this home’s shining success in tranquil, comfortable and elemental bushland living.

*And if great architectural/development groups reading this want to branch out into regional Victoria to continue this particular bushland, lower density housing legacy – we’re on board – just sayin’.

4 Berry Crt, Highton VIC

Playing catchup with our listings backlog and sorry to advise but this one has just been snared, rightly so with such elegant architectural lines*, potential for restoration and ample yardage it’s all a bit too enticing for $500k. Once again we have another example of wonderfully conceived and built Modernist domesticity popping up in an unassuming regional suburb. 

*Thanks to Steven Coverdale at MCDA for clearing that up – this is a project home design for Merchant Builders called ‘The Patio Home’ (c.1970) from the lauded architect Charles Duncan

78 Derinya Dve, Frankston South VIC

Only for those with rose coloured glasses (or maybe glasses half full) comes this broken down beauty. Beyond the obvious cavalcade of dereliction, water stains, tile grime and the echo of boots on grainy floors is the promise of a dreamy half-acre compound with a centrepiece home (merchant builders perhaps?**) complete with timber ceilings, wonderful intervals of brick and glass, open flowing spaces of an utterly modern sensibility. Anyone driven by imagination, passion and elbow grease? This is a more than worthy contender.

**Update: ‘Tis confirmed! It’s a ‘Terrace House’ designed for Merchant Builders by our main man Graeme Gunn (cheers MCDA!)

14 Crampton Cres, Rosanna VIC

We’ve had a numerous folks send this no-nonsense, Greame Gun (by way of Merchant Builders) beaut, not least the owners themselves. We’d like to thank Johanna for contacting us and offering some gorgeous insight of Melbourne now long past;

“This example of Graeme Gunn’s Courtyard House was built for my parents by Merchant Builders in 1972 in the Rosanna Golf Links estate along Salt Creek parklands at a time when most blocks in the street were still paddocks. As children we played in the life-sized ‘cubby’ houses being built around us.”

And also props for sending through the original elevations, quotation, manual and flyer for the estate, still in their possession for us to pour over at our MCM nerd pleasure. Trusty ol’ Gunn, this home remains as pleasant, practical and truly indigenous as they come.

10 Aldersyde Ct, Ocean Grove VIC

There is nothing which celebrates the luck and beauty of the Australian lifestyle quite like a bushland spread 3 minutes from the surf. And the value of such homes on the Bellarine though inherently priceless to the spirit are also certainly creeping up there in the bank, though compared to the major cities this place offers so much more for the moola. One acre filled with towering gums (and the occasional strolling echidna), the enjoyably scruffy tennis court (OG is proudly not Portsea), the end-of-court pocket where it is located, the tradies-grade garage housing a few boards, the car, perhaps a ping pong table/home brew set-up and of course that solid yet elegant Merchant Builders home* of brick, slate, ply ceilings, expansive glazing, feature fireplace and purist floor plan. This home which has undergone a little contemporary zooshing blessedly highlighting the best of this 40 year old solar passive design and materials (no render- no worries!) now ticks so many boxes it will tick some you never knew you had. Go get it!

*The architect behind this particular design was Sydney Schooler Terry Dorrough.

Vermont Park Open Day

It’s been a while since we checked in on the Boyd Foundation’s bustling events calendar but this weekend is a particular ripper for those who revere progressive architecture but who, like us, are perpetually irked that civic planning and more highly conceived ideas for estate housing have completely fallen away amid the hoopla of real estate booms and urban growth.

Unlike today’s housing estates thrown up with the main focus of marketing events, shopping convenience and godawful street naming conventions (Mews? Passage? Way?) the heady experimental times of the 1970s saw several high-profile architects and building firms collaborating with other professionals in landscaping to deeply ponder the broader philosophies of community, movement, place, embracing the natural Australian environs and a push to develop housing tracts as a direct response. Winter park was one such ideological dream made real by Merchant Builders (originally founded by David Yencken and John Ridge) completed in 1974. This was followed up by the establishment of Vermont Park (confusingly in Nunawading) in 1977, a collaboration with Tract Consultants. As described in Architecture AU by Andrew Saniga:

“They converted a four-hectare site, formerly an orchard, into a residential complex of forty-three homes with shared access, open space and a community centre that had barbecues and a swimming pool. Tree preservation, new plantings and small garden spaces together gave the impression the houses were set in a forest.”
A community clubhouse! Perhaps a perfect, though unusual, marriage of exclusivity and communal space. Party down!

An open day this Sunday at Vermont Park, proudly presented by The Robin Boyd Foundation, offers us all a site-based insight into this project;

‘6 key houses from this award winning development will be open along with the residents shared Clubhouse All landscaped areas of the development open for exploration Exhibition panels showing Merchant Builders Chronology and exhibition catalogue on display Open Day insight catalogue provided to each attendee featuring essays from David Yencken.’

40 years on many of us pine for living options which offer such joys as rambling forests built for childhood adventures, community connection and natural bonds holding gorgeous, yet sustainable architecturally designed abodes. *Sigh* And though there is a new resurgence in architect led, community focused, residential developments such as Nightingale Housing it is truly a rare treat we get to look, inside and out, at a fully realised original.

For tickets check the Robin Boyd Foundation.

22 Orchard Gr, Heathmont VIC

Our third example has seen a bit of a refurb. The white will be polarising (see what we did there?) but is it perhaps original after all? Love it or loath it we’re just impressed the bathroom tiles have pulled through (usually the first to go in a contemporising sweep) and, in any case, no amount of cosmetic fixes can alter the light-filled, yet sturdily constructed and elegantly casual spaces. Merchant Builders strike again!

9 Coltain St, Vermont South VIC

In Victoria the term ‘Merchant Builders’ has become descriptive shorthand for these homes we feature today, whether actually the product of this historical collective of project home builders or not. And here we see why – an actual Merchant Builders construction and a classic one at that in beautiful original state, including cork floor kitchen, though that poor scrabby garden is doing nothing to alleviate the danger of demolition here – sheesh people! Get out to Chris and Murray’s sometime whydontcha?