34 Harlen Rd, Salisbury QLD

From the land of the Queen and on this ceremonial weekend birthday, we present a ground-up, sleeves-up renovation rescue calling for grit, cash and vision. A hybrid of Mid-Century and Queenslander traits where the enclosed sleepout with louvered windows overlooks a breeze-blocked pool and cabana set up this residence has much going for it (asbestos extension aside) including parquetry flooring, the bathroom tile, an open breezy plan and of course the aforementioned pool and gardens. Many of you will click on this one and shudder at the work, the materials or question the design value but we feel there is significant and integral Australian charm here and is worth a crack at least. 

The Flip n’ Fail

Every so often we allow ourselves the indulgence of savaging the current state of Mid-Century homes and the obsession of mass-class renovation within this ‘flip’ market. While sellers’ aspirations may now be forced to move down a gear (who ever knows the future?) one thing we do know is the parade of irksome examples in which bespoke originality, warmth of materials and bursting potential is wilfully destroyed in place of ‘consumer-driven’ neutrality and feckless banality continues unabated. 
We suppose on some level we should be happy that this Frankston home (of admittedly poor condition at time of sale 4 years ago) is still standing and structurally the same but we cannot help bemoan all the missed chances to make the interior a delightful expression of home and hearth using its original materials without resorting to a tiresome snowbound theme, wiping out all traces of inbuilt joinery and exposed brick (original light fittings not withstanding) and which in the process has changed a lovely Mid-Century residence into just another display house of overarching dullness. 

Before

After

That said, that common garden variety ‘renovation’ isn’t nearly as offensive as this next abomination.

Imagine having the financial power (a lazy 3.5 mil in this case) to purchase a wildly designed, miraculously cantilevered waterside residence. Architecturally alluring and bold, built in the form a french curve with a swimming pool and entertaining at its heart, as listed here by us some years ago. 

Now imagine having no ability to conceive of refurbishment without ignorantly clinging to the most repellant hallmarks of commercially driven ostentation, pathetically confusing it for elegance. The result is here – a gangly mess of severe surfaces and depressing schema of metal, grey and ice contrived to appeal only to those with Patrick Bateman depths of sociopathy and other empty vessels for whom prescribed, high-gloss and over lit ‘luxury’ (but worthless liveability) is a deeply misguided yet viciously contested goal. And yes, they’ve filled in the pool.

This once lovely home of unlimited appeal and transcendent form now simply a cold mausoleum, a blockish monument to the worship and display of ‘capital’ at the expense of everything human, everything felt and heard and experienced.
We suspect a ‘make over’ provoking such visceral recoil purely from the online images feels like a house of clinical horrors in actuality and hence it comes as no surprise it’s been sitting on the market for quite while now. C’est la vie.

 

TEASER – In order to address this chronic problem in future and offer practical alternatives to this frozen pandemic, we’ll soon be launching a new aspect to Modernist Australia  – a companion and resource to locate the right practitioners and products to help anyone in their quest for sympathetic home renovation and refurbishment. Keep your peepers peeled people!

10 Stanillon St, Aspley QLD

Modernist Australian and (judging by his insta) Mid-Cenutry allrounder, Andrew, has spent the last few years turning down a veritable venue of vulture developers in order to transform this 60s bungalow into a contempo-retro gem with landscaping to die for. Now off to greener pastures he wants to ensure the hard work appreciated by someone of similar ilk. Lets make that happen shall we?

‘Nissen House’ 56 Cloris Ave, Beaumaris VIC

Sweeping the socials in the last day or so is this unmitigated triumph of preservation and restoration, totally worthy of celebration. The vision of local Beaumaris resident architect Barnard Hanmer for a Dr & Mrs Nissen who commissioned this dynamic home of daring split levels, soaring voids, built in furniture, planters and sensational ‘Besalite’ brickwork in the late 1950s and was completed in 1961. Rare and progressive back then, it made the pages of House and Garden magazine in 1963 who stated:

“Split level designing, open planning and high ceilings give unusual architectural interest to the home of Dr and Mrs Nissen in Beaumaris. Architect B.K Hamner designed a house that is distinctly apart from run-of-mill planning because that the way their clients wanted it.”

 And now in full restored and expanded bloom at the hands of appreciative and knowledgable owners, it once again makes waves having appeared in the recent Beaumaris Modern Book which featured some of the best MCM homes (still standing) the suburb has to offer. We cannot stress how much of a success this home is – already of esteemed architectural brilliance it has run the valley of developer death and come out not only saved but victorious at the other side and is now selling in a market much more receptive to such glorious Modernist dwellings (with no small thanks to readers like yourselves and owners like these). This residence is a showcase one for us Mod folk to enjoy as an excellent example of Australian architecture and for those yet uninitiated, to clearly see why we love it so. 

*Thanks to MCDA for the vintage image and Home Beautiful quote.

5 Hyton Cres, Croydon VIC

Refreshing, refurbing, renovating. This, without exception, is the most common topic of inquiry we receive here at MA. Where to start? How to do it well and who can help in every aspect? So much so that coming soon we shall have an exciting new aspect to the site. But that announcement is for another time. Meanwhile clap your eyes on one masterful example of MCM sympathetic renewal. Owners and renovators – take this as your lead and inspiration into knowing what you have on your hands, what to retain, what to enhance and all within an everyday budget. The owners in this instance snapped up a c.1966, architect designed*, though woefully unloved beauty before we ourselves could list it a few years ago. It was suggested by the selling agent at the time (in their typically philistine nature) to “slap over a bit of render and she’ll get 40 more grand”. Our heroes of the tale replied that render is what was wrong with Australia – bam! And since that moment they have researched, peeled back, cleaned up, landscaped and highlighted so many gorgeous aspects of this home residence; timber feature walls! lighting! split levels! kitchen! that it now simply shimmers as a beacon of Mid-Century Modern living in the now. We raise our glasses, and our voices in kudos to this brilliant revival so well executed, one which not only saves a great home, but sends it forward with a bright and intact future. Bravo one and all!

*Architect: L H Reid for Ringwood Home and Planning Services.

95 Mather Rd, Mount Eliza VIC

Another result of hard toil by a dedicated owner with drool-worthy results. It’s been a while since we’ve showcased some mount Eliza magic, but we can always rely on that particular peninsula pinnacle to never fail in delivering the most sublime spreads in the entire state of Victoria. Once gain our internal monologue confidently claims “this would do us quiet nicely, quite nicely indeed.”

White Australia Policy

Australia, we have a white supremacy problem.

We have witnessed with a keen eye the rise of home coveting (of which we can certainly take part blame) and ‘improvement’ to the point of fetishisation. We’ve seen the ascension of a privileged class of ‘designers’, cum lade graduates from the school of ‘I Saw You Coming’, a veritable flock of stylists over substance whose modus operandi is of very limited scope and can be best expressed in the the following terms: Antique, Vivid, Whisper & Natural. It’s time to put the brush down.

Arh! Our eyes!

As Australians we are quite rightly addicted to light. Those who have spent time in autumnal European climes will have pined for the brilliance of even a mid-winter Hobart sun. It is piercing, it is warmth, it is magnificent. Going full Trump we’ll happily state: we have the best sunlight, the best. In this knowledge and also knowing the role natural light plays as a defining feature of Modernist design, Australian Modernist homes have reaped the rewards. Other homes which have paid no heed to such elemental foundations and which continue to rise today in greenfield estates across the nation have instead embraced white as a way to bring extra light into the build. Refreshing older modest or mediocre homes generally involves a paint over of white. Thousands, perhaps millions, of kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms have been de-dagged with white tiles, paint and surfaces. To this end and within trend, this is maybe not such a bad thing. The bad thing occurs when white takes over. When it becomes the default. When not only average homes are snowed under, but also those with beautifully considered places of shadow and dark. Where cheap and nasty surfaces smother and destroy original raw brick, natural timber and coloured tile because of lazy, mass-market ideas about white supremacy, instead of carefully considered concepts of dark and light and material interplay.

34 Yarraville Rd, Kew (a Robin Boyd Home deformed into unrecognisable white space)

The plain truth is we are starting to have our retinas burned by blanc. Cosy spaces of depth being turned into Wonkavision studios. Elegant rooms ever changing with the sun’s rotation transformed into static labs. White is clean and sleek but it can also be cold, impractical, hard and above all, not the intent of the original architect and/or owner. Sometimes it’s just not the vibe and should it never be forced, and right now we believe it requires en masse restraint.

Fern Tree House by McGlashan Everist (c.1969) illustrates gorgeous dark and light and the irrelevance of white interiors.

Light is essential and the use of white in interiors can be magical but trends come and go, materiality plays a role and darkness is not something to shunned out of hand. We like to see those who call themselves professionals and/or ‘influencers’ in the world of home and interior design check themselves, understand the nuance of white and dark and work to curb the white walkers mindless advance. What say you Modernist Australians?

‘Four Winds’ 57 Hughes Rd, Blairgowrie VIC

Today we have outrageously beautiful grounds hosting a gorgeous late 50s Modern home, the stuff of genteel holiday dreams. The floor plan with all living spaces and overall countenance pointed north clearly indicates this was built by true sun, sea and sand worshipers; progressives of a greater Melbourne rising out of wartime grey into post-war lightness and new ideas. We particularly wanted to show off the owner’s toil –  peeling back what was once a chintz and floral soaked house (see the before shots) to a more minimal, contemporary abode. The removal of these layers of heavy peach, frill and bulkhead textiles and the replacement of that colonial kitchen (urg!) with a super beachy,  painted timber version not only reflects the present owners styling savvy in creating a Hamptons dream with an indigenous Modernist base, but reveals just how timeless this 60 year old design really is. Those huge windows, that stone courtyard, the open-plan living all singing proudly as originally intended and calling us down to the tea-treed coast with its song.

7 Fairholme St, Kenmore QLD

Time to pump up the Space Jam Modernists, because you better be ready for this. Some seriously savvy owners have picked up one already breathtaking MCM home in one of Queensland’s most solid suburbs for such and heaped on the chic till it can’t chic no more. With clearly some good money spent so the new owners don’t have to lift a pinkie, this unmistakably 1960s era house is proudly punching into this new century due to its So-Cal design and some dedicated appreciation, which is so sorely needed everywhere else. How many homes have been destroyed which could shine like this one? Well at any rate this house, a renovation vision splendid, is cause for celebration as it morphs into one more tiki light illuminating the way for others; showing the masses in reality what we’ve been imagining in our house inspection fantasies for years. Party on.

8 Goble St, Hughes ACT

The cavalcade of resplendent sympathetic renovations rolls on with this fresh-as-a-daisy do-up in Canberra. According to the owners they bought it as a rather tired little home, marketed as a knock down, even though it is actually the work of the regions beloved MCM architects, Neville Ward (c.1965). As you can see knocking it down was not on the cards and the home has been spectacularly brought up to date with an attractive touch of white-washed, desert adobe to go with the beautifully renewed gardens and sleek mid 60s lines. Double points for making doggy and even a garden shed look chic. In updating this home, for the most part cosmetically, there is a lot here to grab the attention of those who are more contemporary snazz than Modernists at heart but this only reaffirms the timelessness of the integral design and features – for the simple enjoyment of the elements which make our earthly realm; light, air, warmth, textures and fragrance never really goes out of style.