Monday 2 March 2015

Visiting Canberra

We made a quick trip to Canberra, Australia's capital city, over the Christmas and New Year period. If you like your fix of mid-century modern then Canberra should certainly be on your list of destinations to visit.

Our short holiday mainly centred around the major tourist attractions for the children. This included a visit to Parliament House, The Royal Mint, Black Mountain, the Australian War Memorial and Questacon. We did manage to squeeze in a mid-century house sticky-beak in the suburb of Forrest with the assistance of a self-guided tour thanks to the Canberra House website.

Looking up through the glass ceiling at Parliament House
Looking towards Parliament House from the Australian War Memorial
Telstra Tower on Black Mountain. The view from here was amazing

Pillars of gold in Civic Square

ACT Legislative Assembly Building in Civic Square
It was a nice gentle family destination and we really enjoyed all the sites. Canberra has an interesting genesis as it is a planned city. It was designed by American Walter Burley Griffin after he won an international competition in 1912 to plan Australia's capital. It is surprisingly easy to get about with a rental car...we only got lost twice which is actually great since I am a dreadful navigator!

Canberra House is a fantastic resource and if we had more time we definitely would have done a more comprehensive tour of Canberra's residential architecture. There is a plethora of fabulous homes to drool over.

Sadly, one of the homes we could visit inside was closed. The Robin Boyd designed Manning Clark House, which is now a museum/community centre of sorts, is where the late historian Manning Clark penned his famous A History of Australia. We contented ourselves with an exterior stick-beak only.

Manning Clark House 1952 in Forrest
Here are a few notable mid-century modern  homes we saw on our brief tour of Forrest.
Sir Roy Grounds designed Forrest Townhouses 1959

Malcolm Moir designed home 1935

Robin Boyd designed home 1952/53
Hopefully our next stay in Canberra will be a little longer and we will be able to spend more time exploring this gem of a city.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Flokati rug is in the mid-mod house

I've been suffering writer's block and Jason hung up his tool belt semi-permanently over the holidays. We'd never make it in those reality TV renovating shows...given our slackness...Ha!

Anyhow, just before Christmas we acquired a new (which means used) rug for the living room. It's one of those Greek shag pile rugs called Flokati. It was time for us to mix things up a bit and become more international. And it was off to Greece we went, figuratively speaking.

Flokati rug in the living room.
It contrasts nicely with the dark timber floors.

Flokatis are handmade from pure wool in Greece and are noted for having a thick and lush pile. It's beautifully soft underfoot and the kids are more inclined to lie down on the floor when they're watching TV.

To clean it all we have to do is shake it out on the patio and give it a light vacuum. Apparently you can wash it with wool wash in a large bath tub or give it a hose. I've also read that it needs a brush every so often to keep its lush appearance.

The shag pile look is very reminiscent of the 1960s, so it is perfectly at home in our mid-century modern pad.

Monday 8 December 2014

McIntosh sideboard

Over the past few months we have acquired a few new (actually old) furniture pieces to reside in our mid-century home. You know how it is when you move have to tweak your furniture to suit the space...Ha! That's the excuse I'm running with!

McIntosh sideboard
We added a beautiful teak McIntosh sideboard to our collection of mid-century furniture. It is Scottish-made and clearly well-travelled as it eventually found its way to Australia, firstly via country Pittsworth and finally to Brisbane with us. We're using it to store our photographs, DVDs and CDs and our TV currently resides on top of it. Our poor old telly was previously on a very low coffee table...

McIntosh sideboard in our living room
I've been trying to find out a bit about the manufacturer which was AH McIntosh & Co Ltd. The business began making furniture in Kirkcaldy, Scotland in 1869 and it was renowned for making quality furniture.

It went through a time of change during the post-WW2 period catering to the demand for modern yet stylish utility pieces.  AH McIntosh began reproducing and reinterpreting Scandinavian designs in teak and their furniture was hugely popular with the aspirational middle class in Britain.

McIntosh Furniture label
Today, AH McIntosh is still in operation as ESAMcIntosh, providing furniture and equipment for the education sector. From what I have read, vintage AH McIntosh furniture is becoming increasingly collectible because it is extremely well made and has the mid-century look that is so hot right now.

McIntosh sideboard

Monday 1 December 2014

I'm back! And window frames...

I'm back after having a month off from Fun and VJs - my long service leave, so to speak...

Really, there hasn't been a great deal going on around here during my little break. The weather has been either crazy hot or crazy stormy. Needless to say the renovating mojo is not strong in such trying conditions.

However one job which is finally finito is the painting of all the exterior timber window and door frames. They were previously cream and now they are white. Surprise, surprise! We are of the white window and door frame school of thought.

Here are a couple of after shots:

mid-century brick with white window frames.
This is the back of our home.

Mid-century brick with white window frames.
This section of the house is where our living room is situated
 And here are a couple of before cream :

It was a relatively small job but it packs a lot of impact. It is fresher and more importantly it is how the house was originally.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Meeting the architects

One of the most pleasant outcomes of participating in Brisbane Open House was how it led to a wonderful meeting with the architects who designed our home. Apparently, the newspaper publicity about the A.F Dawson Residence earlier this month was enough to pique the interest of 82-year-old architect Peter Heathwood to pay me a visit.

And what an enormous privilege it was to meet Peter Heathwood, who also brought along the charming Michael Cardillo, a second year cadet during the time the house was built. Michael's handwriting was even on the original plans. He eventually became a partner in Heathwood's architectural firm which exists today as Heathwood, Cardillo,Wilson, although both Peter and Michael are now retired.

You know it will be a nice visit when your guests bring cake, which they did. They were simply delightful and we had a good old chat!

It was quite a special moment to have the people who conceived the design of the house come back after 51 years. They were very comfortable with the home and could talk with great ease about the design features and materials used in the it was built yesterday. They were impressed at how well the home had fared for its 50 plus years.

I had a number of questions about whether or not certain things were original to the house. It was namely the use of lattice for the verandah/patio screen and balustrade, as it seemed at odds with the modernist style of the home.

I can confirm the lattice is indeed original. It was used as a buffer on the western side of the house to provide protection from the sun. The lattice pattern was also repeated for the balustrade. It is also consistent with many of Peter's other homes which used forms of screening. Michael visited the house just after it was built and remembers it quite well.

Michael said the house is very much how all of Peter's homes were built. The AF Dawson Residence is one of Peter's 'tent designs' which is quite evident when you enter the home with the central pole in the middle of the house.

Comfort and climate were the overriding imperatives in his homes. His philosophy was a home should provide shelter and his homes were designed for the best possible comfort in our sub-tropical climate. And it is a very comfortable home in which to live!

Interestingly, Peter designed all the interior and exterior Perspex light fittings himself because he said you just couldn't get decent light fittings at the time. He was chuffed they were still in the house. The yellow light shades outside were to repel mosquitoes and minimise the bugs which are attracted to white light.

The best line of the day was when Peter entered the refurbished 1980s kitchen and exclaimed, "Well, this is certainly not our work!" You'd understand why if you saw our country style kitchen which is completely out of kilter with the rest of the home.

The kitchen benches would have been much higher and would have had white Laminex bench tops which curved up the splash back and then there was a shelf  for condiments before the overhead cupboards would start. The cabinetry was originally maple plywood with black d-mould handles similar to the cabinets in our bedrooms.

Peter said to give him a call when we renovate the kitchen, as he would be able to help us out. That job has obviously jumped up in the priority list...especially given Peter's age... Stay tuned!
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