Thursday, 31 October 2013

Beachcomber Homes

You gotta love a modest mid-century project home. I know I do, especially after visiting one of the most famous of project homes - Beachcomber House -  in the idyllic locale of Avalon in Sydney.

The Beachcomber houses were designed in the 1960s by Croatian born architect Nino Sydney when he was the chief architect for Lend Lease. He really ought to be a very well known figure in Australia given how popular his homes were.

The homes were cutting edge for the times - the use of floor-to-ceiling glass and the simple suspended box-like structure meant the average person could buy a stylish architect-designed home for an affordable price. Bauhaus on a budget!

Beachcomber Mark 2 in Avalon

About 200 Beachcombers were built during the 60s and 70s in and around Sydney and you are still able to pick out the distinctive Beachcomber shape as you travel around certain areas.

Sadly, not all the remaining Beachcombers are intact with many owners not realising what they have and 'renovating' these homes beyond recognition...some have been given Roman columns...while others have been given gables...Ha!

Luckily, there are some Beachcomber owners who know exactly what they have in their possession and are respectfully restoring their homes, embracing the original design with gusto!

It seems like there is a secret Beachcomber society developing amongst the more savvy owners. You can read more about these fabulous mid-century homes from the blog called Beachcomber . Such a fabulous resource with historical photographs of these homes!

This Beachcomber's garden was recently landscaped
Many thanks to Helen and David for their hospitality last weekend!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Jack House

I had the absolute privilege of visiting Jack House nestled in the leafy suburb of Wahroonga in Sydney during my trip down south. Jack house is the 1957 Sulman Award winning home designed by Russell and Pamela Jack and now in the loving custodianship of designer and educator Annalisa Capurro.

Front entry to Jack House 

The L-shaped home is the epitome of understated restraint, but exudes an overwhelming warmth that is hard to ignore as you first enter its doors. Built over a natural creek bed, the home is a study of how architecture sits in harmony with its environs rather than rudely intruding into a peaceful setting.

During rainy weather a cascade of water flows through the masonry arch as a natural stream runs through the property
The hallway to the living areas
Annalisa kindly opened her home to a group of about 30 design enthusiasts on the weekend, giving us a tour of the place that she now calls home and explaining many of the intricacies and quirks of the iconic Australian home. The home is very much intact and was recently given a State Heritage listing in New South Wales.

Annalisa (wearing black ) is giving her guests a tour of the office.
Nino Sydney, architect of the Beachcomber homes, paid a special visit  and is the white-haired gentleman to the left of Annalisa

Here are some of my photographs on the day. They barely do justice to this beautiful home...

The living area. Some of the furniture pieces came with the home when Russell Jack sold  it to Annalisa.

Small sitting room behind the fireplace

Annalisa has collected mid-century furniture for nearly 20 years.
She said that many of her pieces have slotted into the home perfectly.

The office/study with original wallpaper and built-in cabinetry

The silvered timber deck with two Hardoy chairs

The dining room 
This home was yet another highlight of a rather excellent trip to Sydney. A trip made in heaven for someone like me!   

Monday, 28 October 2013

Rose Seidler House

My whirlwind tour of Sydney was a blast! Or should I say, blast from the past given the amount of mid-century house tours we squeezed into the weekend.

I've sneakily composed this photograph to edit out the scaffolding that was on the front of the building. The  home is continually maintained.
One of the many, many highlights of my trip was visiting the Rose Seidler House for the first time. It is well-worth the trip to Wahroonga to see one of Australia's best preserved forms of mid-century architecture.

State of the art kitchen for 1950 which cost more to fit out than the rest of the house. 
Designed by Vienna-born architect Harry Seidler for his mother Rose, the Bauhaus-inspired house was ahead of its time in post-war Australia; built between 1948-50 in a time of austerity and building restrictions. It was considered such an oddity that uninvited visitors lined the driveway to marvel at this futuristic house.

Hardoy chairs against the modernist mural backdrop 

The modernist home is now a museum managed by the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales and is open to the public (admission is a small fee) on Sunday between 11am to 4pm.

I'd be reinventing the wheel by writing about this home in too much detail, so instead I'll just refer you to the far more comprehensive guide book to the home here if you want to know more.

Saarinen and  Eames furniture were brought out from New York where Harry Seidler had been working 
Rose Seidler house is a timeless piece of architecture. For the uninitiated, the house exterior could be mistaken for a contemporary home rather than a house of the 1940s. With the interior, the use of large glass windows, the open-plan living and the selection of materials and furnishings...squint (and ignore the kitchen) and you could be in 2013.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Sydney trip

This weekend I am heading down to Sydney. I haven't been to Sydney since 2001, in my life before children.  I wonder if much has changed in the city? Is the monorail still chugging along?

Anyway, it just so happens that my trip coincides with the opening of the Danish Design at the House which is part of the 40th anniversary celebrations for the Sydney Opera House. And given that I am the same vintage, it's only fitting that I continue the forty festivities!

Danish Design at the House is a conceptual exhibition that presents a foyer and six windows of Danish design, art and architecture. Think Georg Jensen, Lego, Scanpan, Louis Poulsen and Bang & Olufsen - all of my favourite things and more! The exhibition is free and is on until 11 November.

While in Sydney, I will also be visiting a few modernist homes which I am thrilled to be seeing in the flesh. On the list is Jack House in Wahroonga, Rose Seidler House and a Beachcomber project house in Avalon. I'm very much looking forward to getting my fix of house porn this weekend. Yay!

Jack House image from here
If you want to join me on my trip, make sure to follow me on instagram here. I promise not to take snapshots of food, okay?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Front garden spring makeover progress

Sponsored by Masters

Our front garden spring makeover has great promise!

A before and after of the garden is a bit premature since we’ve only just planted the garden. It needs time to grow. You can however see some before shots HERE.

It might not look like much at the moment because the plants are fairly small… but, in time, with plenty of water and fertiliser we will have a beautiful screening hedge. Jason and I couldn’t be happier.

The wire fence  on the side is a bit of an eyesore, so it will be great to have a nice green and leafy screen

The plants are quite small but we know we have time on our side

It really is a great time of year to get stuck into the garden before the summer heat really stings us. We’re not looking forward to yet another hot summer - we’re glad we’ve tackled this front garden project while the weather is still relatively mild.

Nice and easy is how we like to do things around here, so shopping online with Masters Home Improvements was just the ticket. The Masters Click and Collect service is quite awesome. After I ordered and paid for all of our gardening requirements online one evening, I received an email the next day to say it was ready to pick up.

Loading all the gardening things into the car

You pretty much just go to the Masters store with your order number and within about 10 minutes everything is wheeled out to you on a trolley. And in our case a very big trolley! In and out within 25 minutes… by the time everything was strategically loaded into the back of the car, of course.

So what did we order?

We ordered 20 Murraya plants (14cm) to create a border up one side of a boundary fence. At $5 a pop, the plants are a nice tidy investment for the garden.

Twenty murrayas squeezed in the back of the Subaru
We also ordered a couple of bags of blood and bone to help condition the soil and help fertilise the plants when it came time to plant the little blighters.

Sugar can mulch from Masters

Bales of sugar cane mulch were another must-have for our garden.  I underestimated how much we would need and had to go back a few days later to get three more bales.  Masters has a ‘three bales for $30’ deal which is not bad compared to other hardware places.

Mulching all of our garden beds has really tidied up the front yard. It will keep the weeds at bay, retain the moisture in the soil and will help our new plants thrive.

A good hose makes a good gardener

We bought a new hose to replace a very badly kinked hose that annoyed me every time I used it. The old hose was thrown away and replaced with a shiny new orange hose.  Good hoses make good gardeners is our theory…let’s hope we can prove it!

We also like using a soaker hose when new plants are being established. The 15 metre soaker hose is just the right length for watering all the new Murrayas along the side fence.

Next month when the plants have settled in, I will start to fertilise them with a soluble fertiliser to give them a boost during the growing season and alternate with either a fish emulsion fertiliser or seaweed-based product.

Now all we need is plenty of rain to help our new garden grow. I hope to show you more photos in the next few months to see how everything has fared over the growing season. Stay tuned.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Our new Featherston chair

Well, the vintage Featherston chair has finally made it home to the Sow's Ear. Cue the cheers and hoorays!

The amount of faffing about that one chair creates is huge. I've had to do a lot of reorganising to accommodate the new resident...perhaps more so than when our children were born...ha!
 (I kid, I kid...!)
This is the first set up we had planned until we changed our mind and rearranged some more!
It is an absolutely lovely addition to our home. Although the chair has been with the slowest upholsterer known to man, it's come up beautifully with the new wool fabric. I like that it has not been over-stuffed - it's just the right padding. Not too thin, not too fat. It was definitely worth the wait.

We used Bute tweed fabric in green and I have to say it's a winner. Bute is a fabric manufacturer based on the Isle of Bute, off the west coast of  Scotland. The fabric very much suits the 1953 Featherston Space chair and I'm pleased with the overall result.

We moved the tulip lamp and placed an Art Deco side table next to the Featherston 

A view of the new set-up in the lounge room
And that's not the only new addition to the Sow's Ear. I'll write a blog post about another new addition soon- it's another Australian design piece that I was keen to possess after editing an article about it...

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Featherston chair has landed

'It won't happen overnight but it will happen' is the breathy catch-cry around here at the Sow's Ear. 

It's taken over two years but the original 1953 Space Featherston chair which I talked about HERE is finally on its way to us. It's currently residing at our friend's house (keeping company with its brothers and sisters) - we'll get it on Saturday.

Featherston chair 1953 

It looks fantastic in the photograph and we're pretty excited to find a home for it. I had initially intended it to be a bedroom chair and we chose the dark green wool tweed for that purpose...but that was two years ago and we've had a few changes since that time.

Now I'm going to rethink that and do a rearrange of our furniture. Bring on Saturday!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Brisbane Open House 2013: Windmill Tower and Craigston

The concept of Brisbane Open House is a winner for all those interested in architecture, history and culture. This years' BOH was a lot of fun and I was able to satisfy my inner-house voyeurism, yet again.

And there is nothing better than being a tourist in your own town - we should all go out and see more of what makes Brisbane...Brisbane. It's a way of gaining a wider appreciation of our history and will hopefully educate people about the importance of preserving the great buildings dotting our suburbs.

Windmill Tower Spring Hill
I had the privilege to visit a number of historical buildings that I have always wanted to see. Brisbane's oldest building, Windmill Tower, is a landmark in Spring Hill near the CBD. It was built by the convicts back in the 1820s and has obviously stood the test of time as it is now the oldest windmill tower left in Australia. In the 1860s, after it had ceased operating as a mill, a central spiral staircase was constructed to allow it to be used as a signal tower.

Looking down the spiral staircase at the top of Windmill Tower

Casement windows in the Windmill Tower on the ground floor

This year at  BOH, small tours were allowed to ascend the top of the tower. I was lucky to be one of the successful people in a ballot for a tour of the Windmill Tower. It was unbelievably cool to stand at the top of the oldest convict built structure in Queensland. The Windmill Tower is on the Queensland Heritage register - you can read more information here.

View of the mid-century Tower Mill Hotel from the Windmill Tower

Looking up Wickham Terrace at the Tower Mill Hotel and Windmill Tower

Afterwards, I met up with Elizabeth from Walk Among the Homes, my new best 'house voyeur' buddy, who was successful in the ballot for a tour of the Spanish mission style Craigston. It's located across the road from the Tower.  Again, what a fabulous experience to view Brisbane's oldest concrete and steel high-rise building which was built in 1927 (same vintage as the Sow's Ear...).

View of the Craigston from Windmill Tower

Craigston was originally built to house medical chambers on the ground floor and doctors' residences in the flats above. When constructed, each floor had a residential flat and over the years some of the flats were subdivided into smaller units, such is the scale of the floor plan.

A photograph of Craigston shortly after the building was constructed. You can see that one side of the building was open verandahs with awnings. They were closed in later,  purportedly after a severe storm

Yesterday we were given a tour of floors 7 and 6 which were entirely intact - the flats were huge. We were also able to visit a compact studio located in the basement level - it is a contemporary renovation and plays host to a very cool architecture practice.

Craigston basement studio with French industrial Jielde lights

Dumb waiter in the basement, now used for the recycling rubbish
I was completely enamoured with the Floor 7 flat that is larger than many houses. In the good old days, it also had servants' quarters for two maids. The owners, who bought the flat four years ago, were very gracious and generous with their time and knowledge. They've made a beautiful home and have decorated the space beautifully.

Exquisite Craigston flat on Floor 7
Craigston floor plan
Floor 6 was originally the home of the Dr SF McDonald who was the first chairman of the building and had introduced the concept of cooperatively-owned multifunction office and residential space. All the silky oak wood panelling is original and is very much how it was when it was first built. It was literally like stepping back in time when we entered the main living and dining rooms.

The flat on Floor 6 
If you would like to know a bit more about Craigston visit here.

Craigston window details
That concludes my BOH tours. It was such a fantastic experience and I am looking forward to next year's open house event. I hope it gets bigger every year!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Front garden spring makeover

Sponsored by Masters

Spring has a certain irresistibility, drawing you outdoors to spruce up patches of garden that have been dormant over winter. Well, it has for us.

Now that we have had some of the dead and scraggly trees removed from the front yard, we can start to think about tackling the task of improving the Sow’s Ear’s garden. When we first moved here, we planted some easy-care plants like agaves and agapanthus to tide us over until we built a new front fence. Since we had the fence built last year, the front garden has been neglected somewhat…

We want to plant a green hedge to border the front and side fences. We’ve started getting the garden beds ready by weeding and removing some of the unwanted plants – there’s a bit more to do though, but we’re almost there. 

A bit more weeding to go...
If all goes to plan, we’ll be able to plant the hedge and get the job done quickly and efficiently without too much running around.

The Masters website is a practical and easy way to plan a project like this and you can purchase everything online and organise either home delivery or in-store pick-up.  I’ve gone through the Masters Garden & Outdoor Living section on the website and have started to plan all the things we will require, compiling an online wish list to make this hedge a reality.

Murraya or mock orange plants will be our plant of choice for this hedge. We already have a few established murrayas which seem to be growing well in the garden, so we will stick with that winning formula. The murrayas also produce lovely white fragrant flowers which is always a nice bonus. 

My Masters wish list

On the wish list is: murraya plants, blood and bone, sugar cane mulch, garden hose, soaker hose and garden tools like pruners and garden fork - all the practical stuff that help to make a garden grow.

I hope to buy everything on our list at Masters this week so that we can get planting on the weekend. I’ll be taking advantage of the click and collect service too, where I can pay for my items online and then collect it in-store.

If you are a DIY novice, there are also short ‘how to’ videos and articles on the Masters website to help you along the way – from how to make compost to building a retaining wall. And if you hang-out on social media, Masters’ Facebook  and Twitter page have expert advice and there are regular live-chat advice sessions with gardening and painting/colour experts who will be able to answer any of your questions.

So, what are your plans this spring? Is it all about the garden or have you got another spring project on the go?

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Lost in translation

For a design to succeed, it must be functional and suited to our lifestyles. And sometimes overseas designer items do not translate well in an Australian context, particularly in a sub-tropical Queensland context. 

For example:

Our kitchen pendant lights, suspended over the island bench, are apparently 'inspired' by the Poul Christiansen designed Le Klint 172 - originally designed in Denmark in 1971. I actually did not know that when I bought our pendants from a stock standard lighting retailer - it was a quick, cheap and cheerful purchase when we were renovating the kitchen.  I just liked the look of them. It was not long after they were installed that I realised they were a knock-off of Le Klint.

The one and only original
Image from here
Thankfully it was a cheap purchase, because the lights are a magnet for the multitude of flying bugs which invade the fly screen poor Sow's Ear during the warmer months. It never really occurred to me that the crevices and folds which constitutes the light's design would fill with little moths, mozzies and other unidentified flying objects! 

Would they fill up with bugs in Denmark too?

Clearly, I do not vacuum my light fittings as frequently as I should. There must be a year's worth in there. Shudder. I might clean them tomorrow...Please don't judge me...

I still think they are a gorgeous light, but they're also highly impractical for a kitchen. We will definitely replace the pendants lights sometime down the track, preferably with pendants which don't trap our friends from the insect world.

Has something like this happened to you? 

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Mod 1968 home

I can't help myself when I'm scouring the real estate sites. Look what I found! It's a 1968 architect designed home in Upper Mount Gravatt which is about 10 km from the CBD.

So, this is kind of like a public service announcement for those looking for a modernist style home. I haven't seen it up close, but I like what I see from the pictures. I hope that someone who appreciates this style of architecture buys it...because most people would just want to render the bricks. The horror!

Link to the property is here.

1968 Brisbane home

I'm partial to dividing walls that don't go all the way to the ceiling. 

Lovely outlook from the front balcony

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