4 Ahearn Ave, South Coogee NSW

Retro survivor is right. This breathtaking residence straddling some of the best clifftops in the country is an incredible family home covering 3 storeys, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, lift and terraced gardens. Seemingly unchanged since its no doubt glamorous debut in the 1960s, it remains a picture of pared back elegance with flourishes of parquetry, timber and breeze block on the balcony. With a price tag to match the location, we’re not quite sure if this magnificent survivor can further survive the torrid and vulgar throes of Sydney money. Fingers crossed that this great dame can pull through.

‘Pettit & Sevitt Mark V’ 20 Campbell Dve, Wahroonga NSW

Project homes have long been a staple for us and what was a long marginalised subset of the Australian Modernist story – the pre-designed experiment by renowned Australian architects each attempting their own variety of better home design, better suburb planning and an optimistic new way of living – is now clawing back the esteem it deserves. None more so than the output of 1960s into 1970s firm Pettit and Sevitt, who not only now have a fan club of dedicated owners/restorers but is back in business recapturing this spirit of high Modern design with grounded attitude for a new generation (can we now just all pretend the 1980s and 1990s volume building didn’t happen?).
But let’s get down to it, this particularly beautiful building and a more stunning Pettit & Sevitt home we can heartily claim we have never seen. Those familiar will spot the usual P&S hallmarks; cedar beams, painted white brick and passage-less flow of living spaces however the ‘Mark V’ is the design opus, a P&S offering by way of revered architect Ken Woolley presented to any lucky purchaser as the highest-end option on their books; the most rooms, the most expensive and pure boldness in its 2-storey floor plan. As a result only few were so brave and of the limited figure ever actually built it is suggested that a mere 15 examples of varying quality and originality remain standing throughout the country. This listing, dear Modernist Australian, is what they call a unicorn. Rare, intact, hiding in plain sight on in its glorious bushland address as if it was still 1967, the year of it’s construction. As Home Beautiful stated at the time:

‘If this house was designed as a “one-off” custom built house as an architect’s private commission it would take its place among Australia’s best”

Superseding the throwaway tag of ‘project home’ this expansive and singularly gorgeous residence stands today as a sentinel in architectural expression, daring optimism and collective experimentation – concepts which we still need as desperately today as we did back then. All goodwill and envy to the eventual new owner, what an astounding place for anyone to call home.

All images courtesy of Modern House real estate.

21 Byways Dve, Ringwood East VIC

In keeping with this suburb’s rep for holding a big vein of MCM gold, this second Melbourne listing in Ringwood East is of a more considered design than Rezza. It is unknown the architect at this stage, but suffice to say we can see intention in the flow of spaces and the grin-inducing 70s drama of mission brown (so much mission brown!) beams playing against the white walls inside. Props also to the agents who have come up with one hell of a respectful sales pitch, nary a mention of development, which would have been unheard of a couple of years ago. Progress people, it’s all progress.

691A Gilbert Rd, Reservoir VIC

A double header today with first part in Reservoir, a not usual locale for Mid-Century flavoured fun (with this being perhaps our second ever listing there). And although not the most formally polished nor astute of designs this rambling family casa nonetheless will surely excite those with a penchant for MCM who are pushed ever north by the inner-Melbourne hustle and flow.

49 Eliza Plc, Panorama SA

Great Mid-Century bones and untouched brick and board frontage (thank goodness!). A little mish mashy inside, with the obligatory 80s colonial kitchen cabinetry which has no business being there however it’s easily (and pretty much half-way already) converted back to its design roots. All good.

22 Dargie St, Everton Park QLD

Whilst so many homes have come and gone in the past few months, this rather forlorn listing has remained unsold, so today we give it its due. Although there is no floor plan and those rooms seem a little dark, we suspect there is a rather nice Mid-Century home to be found here, once you beat and slash your way behind the candelabra.

61 Somerville St, Spence ACT

Yet another long-held family home hitting the market this week, this one a glorious exemplar of 1970s warmth and premier project home design which is now coming full circle, gathering appeal among those who vaguely recall such light-filled, brick and timber environs in their early childhood mind’s eye. Built in 1974 by project home company Civic Constructions, a burgeoning forerunner and rival for the Pettit & Sevitt audience (oh what we wouldn’t give for a bit more of this kind of competition today!), this is a beautifully intact version of their ‘X2’ design by architects Cocks Carmichael. With full deference to the winter sun, living spaces enticing in their earthy, elemental craftsmanship including timber ceilings, expanses of glazing and era specific joy such as cork kitchen flooring and Yves Kline Blue bathroom this particularly inviting residence has got the lot, ready to move in and feel like a well worn and loved home instantaneously .

7 Janet St, Brighton East VIC

A super interesting transformation of a neglected Brighton home which so easily could have been lost to subdivision10 years ago but instead has undergone a renovation/extension of enormity in every aspect. Though at its core it’s a different building altogether, the high-end architects employed by the vendors demonstrate their savvy to utilise the classic 1950s skillion-roofline as the primary character reference and even more remarkably retained the cream brick (praise be!). The pool and stone paving has remained, as it always was, c’est magnifique and this home in the whole now presents as supremely flash, contemporary Brighton abode which cleverly straddles the duel concerns of paying homage to its heritage whilst continuing in the socio-economic expectations of the area and market.

46 Morley Avenue, Wye River VIC

Yet another class-A example supporting our foundation theory that the Australian post WW2 beach shack is a distinct subset of Twentieth-Century Modernist architecture.
This holiday house undoubtedly the location of decades of salt and eucalypt flavoured adventures in its simple structure and plan has far more in common with the functionalist designs of early Modernist Europe than perhaps anyone wants to see. However to those who have poured over endless MCM books in their lives, it instantly smacks in the face: This house was constructed as an unadorned, raised rectangle shape to feed, bath and doss a bunch of seasonal residents (form follows function). The materials were drawn from a slim range of rationed options, the more mass produced and easy to assemble the better (new options in technology and industrial answers for domestic builds). The windows are large and the living/kitchen open plan to take in the stunning beauty of the surroundings (site is paramount and flexibility, ease of living spaces a priority).
Unlike most hindsight, the retrospection of immense creative change of nearly a century in age is diffused and never 20/20. Many people these days are simply unable to grasp the sheer groundbreaking aspects of this backwater, antipodean architecture for its day, nor its high-theory forbears of the proceeding decades overseas, nor indeed can many see how the two could ever be related. However when the starting points are the same and a rejection of old building traditions and ideals have been cast aside (for theoretical, practical or societal reasons) then the end products, the finished buildings, we believe share a strong sibling relationship and the family likeness is very much there.