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.
It’s nearly five on Friday arvo, time to grab that knock off, lean back and click through some MCM fantasy-camp fodder of the highest order with this jaw-dropper, proving once again that our capital is all at once political cesspit and progressive architectural place to be. We won’t say too much – the photos are again rather good – but to note that the more crafty homes (that neat-o thatched ceiling & stone paving) is especially alluring to us right now, softening those gorgeous straight lines and high-minded Modern design with a bit of Canyon Lady courtyard breeze.
Can we confirm this is a real Beachcomber? No, not the salty-flavored, wood gathering boho Liz Taylor from The Sandpiper type, but rather the Nino Sydney house plan adored by owners and Australian Modernists alike? To our untrained eye we believe no as the floor plans have a marked difference with some living and the kitchen downstairs in this one and true Beachcombers generally are all business on the top with only laundry below. This difference however – if you count in sharing a home with a gaggle of squealing children – is rather enticing indeed as places for generational banishment do come in handy. In any event, who can go past the striking profile, patterned block terracing, the elegance of that floating staircase (even with installed chair lift- bless), that upstairs living complete with beautiful joinery and windows which go on forever? This one is an unreal under-the-radar ripper just ripe for a mini clean up and some sun- soaked zing – fire up the barbie and get those party lights up stat!
We got word of this one less than 24 hours ago and we’ve become so obsessed with this dreamy offering we have to get it up right here, right now. So, for your consideration; a large casa for families, never before sold. In unfathomably brilliant condition and intact as the day it won top honours in the 1971 Melbourne House of The Year awards. Designed and built by notable eastern suburbs progressives (and historically recognised) brothers Sibbel, and simply jaw dropping in its deployment of timber (including Oregon beams), glazing, tile and space. With beautiful orientation (don’t let those dum dum agents with their incorrect compass on the floor plan trick you – of course the living aims North), a half acre of landscaped gardens and pool this is not only a stunningly designed home, but an expansive one for true MCM wonderland-in-the-‘burbs lifestyle. A home of celebration, warm friendship and family. As Megan, a family member, attests:
“….My parents were great entertainers. Fondue parties by the big open fireplace in the lounge with friends, kids running wild while adults drank claret from goblets on the front terrace and BBQ’d sides of beef and listened to jazz records on the state of the art record player. My brother even got married there! At one stage we even kept a horse in the back garden for a weekend. So many wonderful memories.”
Now is the time has arrived for a similarly minded family to take over this impeccable home, make it theirs and continue on such traditions of the best life. We put it out there and make the call in all sincerity, that it may be answered by only the most appreciative and best suited.
PS – Now, we know agents gonna agent but we’re firing another shot over the bow of that ‘immersive experience’ DIY feature they keep pushing. On an historical home like this? Just no. We are doing our best here to curb a culture which encourages wilful destruction wrought by self-anointed interior ‘specialists’ who believe that replacing solid timber and tile with white-paint and Bunnings jank is somehow ‘home improvement’, when it’s nothing but the nauseating effluvial backwash from watching too much commercial TV. In other words – if anyone even thinks about changing up those interiors, because their cognitive shortcomings can’t identify quality and timelessness in front of them, there will be white-hot rage emanating from us, guaranteed.
A common trait to highly considered, Modern designed residences and an aspect which makes them so inciting to fans is the low-key, almost hidden, countenance. Not bound to conventional streetscapes of the 19th century and before, Modernist homes aren’t compelled to ‘face’ the street. They shrug off the banal template of endless front yards, leading to endless front doors, front rooms, hallways side to side then out back and, as such with their more site and living specific layouts, their ‘frontage’ can confound the uninitiated but more importantly obscure the marvelous interiors which await. This home today is a wonderful example of such. Like the handsome stranger at a party, not saying much but hinting at depth and intelligence once acquaintance has been made, this home doesn’t give much away.. But once inside? Oh baby, we’re swooning.
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.
Retronauts blast off to a sensational residence dripping with so many the fabulous-to-have elements such as stone feature walls, timber lining, original kitchen, skillion roofline, walls of windows, open bedroom shelving, easy room configuration and unbeatable northern orientation. Once agin only the most lightest of touches is required her to bring baby up to scratch (noting the wall paper has already gone to god) but nothing which a little elbow grease and minimal cash calls can’t achieve, and for real die-hards kitty-cats there is plenty of perfect backyard for that ultimate bar/pool combo too. Dive in!
For all our gushing adjectives and talk of rarity, today we present one of the truly singular homes of our Australian Modern architecture heritage; the sprawling, terraced-in-rock home of legendary architect Neville Gruzman designed for himself and family in 1958 (and extended in 1963 and the early 90s). ‘Gruzman House’ is an example visited by architecture students, fawned over by fans and described by Jørn Utzon as having “The best living room in Australia”. A masterpiece of timber, space, light and dark which most instantly prompts comparisons with Frank Lloyd Wright and (by extension) Edo period Japanese architecture, this compound of 5 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms also comes with an additional 4 apartments as part of the deal. Now, it wouldn’t be a first-class pedigree residence in our biggest city, asking a likely 8-figure price tag without it also having a tumultuous history. A difficult genius architect (Gruzman apparently going from one lawsuit to another during his entire career) which inevitably begets strong-willed descendants and relatives holding arguments over money, heritage concerns, upkeep and market movements. Suffice it to say at this point, though nigh on famous and flagged for heritage protection for many years this house has nothing of the sort. It remains completely in the hands of the open market. We’d like to think that its architectural merit, its historical stature and landmark place in the minds of locals would keep it from destruction and/or some horrifying ‘renovation’, but nothing in this world is certain with the sales pitch (in traditionally grubby fashion) calling for among other things, a ‘visionary developer’, once again reminding us that for some people nothing is sacred. As such, and though we feel rather impotent and tardy about it, we take the lead of Rebecca Hawcroft (AKA Othermoderns) and suggest to you all to submit a nomination to get this residence on the heritage register and assure its survival. It’ is the very least we can do to hold onto such a magnificent Modernist architectural endeavor in our own backyard.
Lets knock around Canberra a while longer as there is a flood of primo MCM homes up for grabs right now and who doesn’t adore pouring over those native streetscapes? And stepping back a decade from yesterday’s Waybelena Grove example is this clearly earlier but no less lovely,1964, Lend Lease MCM project home looking as spiffy as the day it was built. We dare say the volume built homes of today’s new suburbs will never withstand 55 more years with the timelessness nor class of this absolute winner. Kudos once again to the vendors with a very respectful update keeping the essential features of this home intact (special mentions- the ensuite bathroom and canvas awnings) and also the agents selling it for its simple delight with good photography. A ripper all-rounder for sure.
2018 is fast revealing itself to be the year of the real estate/architectural photographer with yet another listing of considered design and elegant execution being brought to the fore by some straight-up beautiful snaps.This townhouse by notable architect Michael Dysart in his progressive housing cooperative ‘Wybalena Grove’ of the mid-1970s is not only a stunningly realised residence of inspiring and unapologetic Australian expression with its Sydney School materials, landscaping and sunlight focused design, but remains a pivotal lesson to this day of what medium density living could and should be. We are now only clawing back these elemental considerations of ‘livability’ with a handful of residential projects today; an approach for long-term, higher value housing not conceived from concerns of return on investment, below code materials, jerry-rewarding build time frames and flashy marketing to cloak it all, but rather as homes of air, light, insulation, community, accessibility and the nourishment of nature. Indeed it’s rather an honor to finally post up a home from this development, as we believe it’s a higher level we all should be striving for.