Melbourne mid-century modern architect Secret Design Studio Dr Retro House Calls

The DeSilver House, New Canaan, Connecticut by Architect John Black Lee, photo by Michael Biondo

I first connected with Natalie Louw through the “Pettit and Sevitt Owners and Friends Club”. When I made the connection between Natalie and The Mid-Century Store I thought she would have an interesting story to tell.  As The Mid-Century Store is one of the sponsors of “Beaumaris Modern” and will be represented at the Beaumaris Modern Open House event (Sunday 28th of October 2018) I took the opportunity to have a chat with her.

Natalie, thankyou for taking the time to talk to Secret Design Studio about The Mid-Century Store.

Q1) I know that some people love mid-century architecture, and others are more passionate about mid-century furniture, but your passion seems to be equally shared. How and when did your interest in mid-century design develop?

A1) I partly blame my husband Philip for my love of all things mid-century. When I met Philip, he had a wonderful apartment filled with Fritz Hansen, Eames and Aalto Furniture. He also had a healthy obsession with Bang & Olufsen. Over the years, we have added to our collection but something about having children tends to curb the expenditure! I also grew up in Mount Eliza so I’m quite sure I can blame my upbringing as well!

 

Q2) While you live in Sydney I understand that you are a proud owner of a beautiful mid-century home in New Canaan, Connecticut. How did that happen?

A2) We were living in New York City with two young children. As much as we loved living in the city it was hard going raising two kids in the city. The first mid-century modern house that we looked at was in a town called Pound Ridge in New York State. The Hertzberg House was by architects Blake & Neski. We were completely taken with the house but it was isolated and Pound Ridge has no train line. A little practicality and sensibility set in. The broker suggested we look in New Canaan which had a train line and as Philip discovered a train with an evening bar car. Very mid-century! One of us enjoyed their evening commute.

We had a broker drag us around twelve houses in New Canaan in one day. Most of the houses weren’t exactly meeting our brief which was simply to only show us mid-century moderns but that didn’t dissuade the broker from trying! We lost our daughter in one house that was approximately 9000 sq. ft. of awfulness! We did however fall in love with New Canaan.

We looked at two wonderful mid-century houses on Chichester Rd before DeSilver House by John Black Lee + Harrison DeSilver. It was decided before we had even got out of the car, DeSilver House was the one. We are delighted to be in contact with previous custodians of DeSilver House. It is a house that has and continues to provide a wonderful place to raise families.

Melbourne mid-century modern architect Secret Design Studio, Dr Retro House Calls

The DeSilver House, New Canaan, Connecticut by Architect John Black Lee, photo by Michael Biondo

 

Q3) I understand that you have been involved in mid-century modern real estate both in Australia and America. What are the differences in the market and the buyers between these two countries?

A3) Yes, I have sold many houses of architectural significance in Sydney over the years. I think buyers of architecture are generally very respectful regardless of country. When you are selling architecture, you are selling to a small and very specific market. Getting the right balance between the marketing of an architect-designed property and the actual selling of the house is at the fore front for me. The commission in Connecticut and New York ranges from around 5-6% but it is split between the listing agent and the buyer’s broker. Obviously, Australia’s commission rate is slightly more palatable but then you aren’t generally splitting a commission between two agents. As the custodian of a mid-century modern home I have insights that assist both the vendor and the prospective buyers.

Melbourne mid-century modern architect Secret Design Studio, Dr Retro House Calls

The DeSilver House, New Canaan, Connecticut by Architect John Black Lee, photo by Michael Biondo

 

Q4) How long have you been back in Australia, and how did The Mid-Century store happen?

 

A4) We have been back in Sydney for a good few years now. I wanted to be able to bring a selection of American mid-century furniture to Sydney but also to introduce the wonderful artists and designers that I have met along the way. It also gives us a good excuse to head back to Connecticut!

Melbourne mid-century modern architect Secret Design Studio, Dr Retro House Calls

Jens Risom chair for Knoll International, courtesy of The Mid-Century Store

Q5) What does The Mid-Century Store sell, and where do you source your stock?

A5) We sell mid-century modern furniture that we have sourced from Connecticut and New York State. Individual pieces with provenance and a story to tell. Our current homewares are sourced from artisans and designers from Omaha, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Michigan, Connecticut and New York State. We also work with Modanest, Home Industry in East Balmain and Peggy Jacobs of Ikke Design, all based in NSW.

Our next shipment will focus on Jens Risom Design Inc. We also love the artisans and designers of the Hudson Valley, New York and we are currently curating a selection of homewares from the Valley to bring to the store in 2019.

Melbourne mid-century modern architect Secret Design Studio, Dr Retro House Calls

Photo courtesy of The Mid-Century Store

 

 

Q6) There are a few other stores catering for the mid-century market, but they all have different characters, or “flavours”. How would you describe the “flavour” of “The Mid-Century Store” and stock?

 

A6) We are focused on bringing American mid-century design to the store. When sourcing products for The Mid-Century Store we are looking for products that are beautifully crafted with a nod to mid-century modern architecture. I’m constantly in awe of the designers and artists that I meet.

Melbourne mid-century modern architect Secret Design Studio, Dr Retro House Calls

Woodie Redux by Candylab, photo courtesy of The Mid-Century Store

Q7) Do you have a favourite budget buy? And a favourite item at the other end of the scale?

A7) In the lead up to Christmas I’m completely taken with Ruth Boland’s Handwoven Maple Wood Star Ornaments. Ruth is a member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen. a non-profit organization.

It is one of the oldest and most prestigious craft organizations in America. It was established to help rural New Hampshire craftspeople sell their crafts during the depression years. The league continues to thrive and maintains a longstanding tradition of supporting and preserving the art of fine craft making.

At the other end of the scale… I have a wonderful Jens Risom Design Inc Credenza that I sourced in Connecticut. Jens Risom lived and worked in New Canaan for most of his life. His designs are timeless, beautifully crafted and this is the one piece that I might just not let go of!

Melbourne mid-century modern architect Secret Design Studio, Dr Retro House Calls

Ruth Boland’s maple wood handwoven Christmas star. Photo courtesy of The Mid-Century Store

 

Q8) Have you ever regretted letting an item of stock go?

A8) I made an executive decision before launching The Mid-Century Store that I had to leave my attachment to the furniture and homewares that I sourced at the front door. I’m proud to say that I am a spectacular failure on that front! All the pieces I source have their own story, I like to share that story with my clients. I love pieces with provenance.

 

Q9) What services can you offer the discerning mid-century shopper?

A9) I work with collectors in Connecticut and New York State and source individual pieces for my clients. I love a challenge, nothing is too hard with a little tenacity and patience.

 

 

Melbourne mid-century modern architect Secret Design Studio, Dr Retro House Calls

The DeSilver House, New Canaan, Connecticut by Architect John Black Lee, photo by Michael Biondo

Q10) I understand that the Mid-Century Store is working on having a shopfront. Where can potential buyers go to browse stock and make purchases?

A10) https://www.themidcenturystore.com/

 

We are currently looking at a collaborative space in Sydney.  It’s an exciting opportunity for The Mid-Century Store and I’m looking forward to announcing more details very soon.

 

Q11) What is the process that my Melbourne clients would follow to buy from The Mid-Century Store?

A11) I welcome your clients to contact me at any time regarding their interest in our pieces. We have many of our pieces on our website but it’s by no means our entire catalogue. We have some wonderful pieces in our warehouse. A beautiful John Widdecomb of Michigan Solid Walnut table for twelve anyone?  I love receiving calls from clients who are looking for help in sourcing individual pieces.

 

Q12) What are your plans for the future for The Mid-Century Store?

A12) It’s exciting to see how The Mid-Century Store has grown this year. We will be focusing on specific American mid-century designers in 2019 and will be expanding our homewares collection to compliment this direction.

Melbourne Mid-century modern architect Secret Design Studio, Dr Retro House Calls

The DeSilver House, New Canaan, Connecticut by Architect John Black Lee

 

Thanks for your time, and I hope you enjoy meeting lots of Melbourne people at today’s Beaumaris Modern Open House event.

With the increasing appreciation of mid-century Danish design in Australia many businesses who sell second-hand Danish designer furniture are importing stock from Denmark that needs tidying up and restoration before it can hit the showroom floor.

Many of these importers are using the services of craftsman/artisans such as Adam Stewart of Modanest. After having the opportunity to visit Adam, and his wife Nikki, in their beautiful Pettit and Sevitt split-level home in Sydney’s Northern Beaches I thought I would take the opportunity to do an industry interview about Modanest and Mrs Modanest.

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Modanest’s favourite Instagram photos provides an idea about Adam’s work.

 

Hi Adam and Nikki, thank you for taking the time to speak to Secret Design Studio today .

Q1) Adam, tell me about your work at Modanest and the pieces that you restore?  Do you only work for the furniture importers, or will you also restore Danish pieces owned by private individuals?

A1)  I do restoration work for both importers and individuals, specialising in pieces from the mid century.

 

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Hans J. Wegner Easy Chair CH27 restrored for client by Modanest

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Wovenest bench seat being made with Danish cord by Modanest

 

Q2) Why do you think that Danish mid-century style is increasing in popularity in Australia in the 21st century, and what exactly is Danish cord weaving?

A2) I believe the aesthetics of this era are as sexy today as they were when they were first produced. The simple clean lines of the Danish modern style of furniture, as well as the the quality of construction,  compliments todays current lifestyle.

Danish cord seat weaving started during WW2 as leather etc was scarce, so furniture manufacturers had to create/source alternative materials for seating. Danish cord is produced from paper fibres, and is incredibly tough and long lasting, sustainable and beautiful. It’s lifespan can be anywhere up to 40 years plus, depending on use and care.

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Wovenest bar stools under construction by Modanest.

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Completed Wovenest bar stools by Modanest showing some of the colour options.

Q3)  I understand that you also design and build furniture such as your beautiful “Wovenest” bar stools, which you also have in your kitchen.  How did that come about? Do you have any other pieces planned for the future? 

A3) I have been weaving Danish cord for some time now, this was born out of my restoration work, I was lucky enough to find a retired master weaver who was generous enough to share with me her skills in this area. I currently produce several pieces in the Wovenest range. I am also working on some new pieces to compliment this range, a new bench seat in hand woven split cane, as well as a Danish cord folding lounge chair, beyond that there are plenty of pieces I would love to produce …. Just need more hours in my day!

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Wovenest bench seat with Danish cord seat made by Modanest.

Q4)  As I would expect from somebody with such a passion and interest in Mid-Century Danish furniture your home has some really beautiful furniture.  However, the bold use of colour is really the first thing that visitors notice, starting with your wonderful purple-front door. Who does most of the work on the colour selections, styling and presentation of your home? Where did the idea of a purple front door come from?

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Welcome to the Pettit and Sevitt split-level home of Mr and Mrs Modanest, with the front door in “Monaro” purple, and split-face white concrete brick.

A4)  Mrs Modanest is not afraid of colour! She has never shied away from mixing and matching bright colours! The front door is Monaro purple in the spirit of the 1970’s, when the house was built, a subtle hint of things to come? I reckon the use of colour within the house works well, these homes have such large windows and open spaces, so natural light is abundant throughout the home. The use of such bold colours contrasts well with the organic tones that we can view through the windows. Our interior rainbow is straight out of the vibrant mind of Mrs Modanest ….. I simply source and restore the furniture.

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Styled by Mrs Modanest with Holmegaard glassware, Guzzini arc lamp, Australian Polymold dining.

 

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Styled by Mrs Modanest with Holmegaard glassware, Australian Polymold dining.

 

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Styled by Mrs Modanest with Holmegaard glassware, Guzzini arc lamp, Australian Polymold dining.

 

Q5)  Nikki, what is your background to make everything look so right with the architecture of your Pettit and Sevitt home? 

A5)  My back ground is visual merchandising, shop layout, window display and styling. The open spaces within this home have allowed me to break out my inner colour fantasies! I’ve always had a keen interest in the simple lines and bold use of colours from the mid century period, Panton and Marimekko.

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Styled by Mrs Modanest , table by Modanest

 

Q6) There are lots of sad looking Pettit and Sevitt homes that have suffered from unfortunate renovations over the past decades by people who don’t appreciate the iconic nature of these homes.  What sort of condition was this home in, and why did you choose this one? 

A6)  We were lucky enough to get this home from the original owner, who left us all the correspondence that he had with Pettit and Sevitt during the construction of his home. The house had been maintained, kitchen had been updated, but there was still a bit to do and we wanted to put our own stamp on the house. The blue carpet throughout the house was removed and we sanded and sealed the cypress pine floor boards, which were in great shape. We updated the bathrooms, but kept the original footprint. The front courtyard was also updated. We still have things to do……….but are happy with the work we have done so far.

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

The central stairwell is an iconioc feature of many Pettit and Sevitt split level homes.

Q7) How do two creative people achieve such great style, and balance in the same home? Do you agree on everything, or is there a bit of toing and froing?

A7) We work pretty well together, I get excited by the furniture and Mrs Modanest gets excited about the colours and glassware! So far so good…..Occasionally we can get a bit stubborn with each other, we explain our rationale, and the most logical wins…ish!

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Styled by Mrs Modanest with table made by Modanest

 

Q8)  Nikki you have a great collection of mid-century glassware displayed through your home. How did you get started, and do you have a favourite piece?

A8) I’ve been collecting coloured glass and ceramic pieces for a long time, namely anything that catches my eye. Favourite piece, so hard…. Mmmmm…. My Vasa cubes (current fav).

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Nikki’s favourite coloured glass Vasa cubes (on coffee table), with Adam’s favourite Hans Wegner CH22 chairs.

Q9) Does Adam have a favourite piece of furniture (apart from the “Wovenest” bar stools that you made with your own hands)?

A9) Only one???? I love my Wegner CH22 chairs….. and the Wegner couches, great to snooze on!

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Nikki’s favourite coloured glass Vasa cubes (on coffee table), with Adam’s favourite Hans Wegner CH22 chairs.

Q10) Tell me about Mrs Modanest? What services does Mrs Modanest offer, and who would be a typical client?

A10) Mrs Modanest clearly loves colour and would happily consult, assist, guide or create an interior space for any client that wants to bring some style to their environment. A typical client….anyone that wants help making the most of their home, or wants some reassurance about bringing a little brightness into their space. With my stylist background I can work with various styles to create a personal space that suits the needs and aspirations of any client.

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Styled by Mrs Modanest

Q11) How would somebody contact Mrs Modanest for help with styling of their own home, or business, or shop?

A11) The best way would be via email or a phone call, we can go from there.

To contact Adam at Moda Nest phone 0415 101 818, or email at modanest@gmail.com.

http://www.modanest.com.au/

https://www.instagram.com/modanest/

https://www.instagram.com/mrsmodanest/

Secret Design Studio interviews Mr and Mrs Modanest about Danish Design and living in a Pettit and Sevitt Mid-Century Modern home

Styled by Mrs Modanest

 

 

Outre Gallery’s “Mid-Century Modern Curated” exhibition features original vintage paintings and prints from the Mid Century era. The exhibition will run until July 9th 2018 at  249-251 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne.

In the lead up to this exhibition, I spoke to Martin McIntosh who has curated the show, asking him about his love for Mid Century art and design as well as styling tips for the home.

"Curated Mid-Century Modern Art" blog post by Secret Design Studio, Melbourne

Outre Gallerys “Mid Century Modern Curated” exhibition will include original vintage 1950s and 60s era artworks from Scandinavia, original Modernist architectural renderings, vintage 1960s Syd Mead prints, and contemporary artworks by Steve Millington (UK), Chris Turnham (US) Bren Luke (AU) inspired by the era. Vintage Scandinavian artworks courtesy of gallery midlandia in Collingwood.

 

Q1) Outre Gallery will be hosting a new show that you have curated that is opening on Friday June 22nd. Could you tell me about the idea behind this project?

A1) This is a show that has organically evolved over the past few years – this is the fourth Mid-Century show I’ve curated in fact. It started out initially as an exhibition mixing original vintage architectural renderings and contemporary works inspired by the 1950s and 1960s era, and has organically evolved into this show which increases the breadth of what is shown. It will include original vintage 1950s and 60s era artworks from Scandinavia, original Modernist architectural renderings, vintage 1960s Syd Mead prints, and contemporary artworks by Steve Millington (UK), Chris Turnham (US) Bren Luke (AU) inspired by the era. Vintage Scandinavian artworks courtesy of gallery midlandia in Collingwood.

"Curated Mid-Century Modern Art" blog post by Secret Design Studio, Melbourne

Syd Mead – original lithograph print done for promotional purposes for US Steel circa early 1960s. Image supplied by Outre Gallery

Q2) In your own words, how would you describe Mid Century art and design?

A2) Crisp, playful, fun. The mid-20th century was such a rich period for art and design. The influence of an art movements such as Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and the Bauhaus on 20th Century were great and I love how their influence was distilled into other incarnations. For example an artist such as Piet Mondrian from the 1930s influenced the look of architecture and design in the years that followed with his strong lines, bold colour and definite composition translating so well to design (such as the famous Yves Saint Laurent dress), and to popular culture with manifestations such as 1960s LP covers (such as the Beach Boys All Summer Long cover).

"Curated Mid-Century Modern Art" blog post by Secret Design Studio, Melbourne

Beach Boys All Summer Long cover. Image supplied by Outre Gallery

Q3) What is the typical colour palette associated with Mid Century artworks?

A3) A very broad spectrum but lots of colour.

"Curated Mid-Century Modern Art" blog post by Secret Design Studio, Melbourne

Syd Mead, image supplied by Outre Gallery

Q4) Which artists and designers can we expect to see in this exhibition?

A4) Many and varied! We have vintage works from Scandinavia from artists including Fabian Lundqvist and Axel Salto courtesy of gallery midlandia who specialise in original artworks roughly from 1940-1970, architectural renderings from Palm Springs architect William Krisel, space age futuristic prints by Syd Mead for US Steel from the 1960s

"Curated Mid-Century Modern Art" blog post by Secret Design Studio, Melbourne

Contemporary Bren Luke ‘Suburban Houses’ – signed and numbered limited edition inkjet print, image supplied by Outre Gallery

In regards to contemporary artists we have Steve Millington from the UK and from the US works inspired by the mid century urban (and suburban) landscape by Chris Turnham, and new local artist to the gallery Bren Luke whose fine crosshatch work is simultaneously precise and dreamy .

I love how these vintage and contemporary works contrast yet sit together so well.

"Curated Mid-Century Modern Art" blog post by Secret Design Studio, Melbourne

Harry Divola – architectural rendering for proposed ‘Entertainment City’ – pen and ink on board – circa early 1960s. Image supplied by Outre Gallery

Q5) You have a personal love for the mid century era as many other Melbournians do, how do you feel this exhibition resonates with those who may not have been exposed to mid century design?

Although varied and complex, I think the works have an over riding sense of optimism – one of the defining elements of the era. There was an optimism about the future, and how art, design and architecture could all improve an individual’s and community’s life. Today that optimism is perhaps more potent retrospectively, although I like to think that at least some of that optimism can be applied today as inspiration for the future. And of course I love how the art and design sit so well next to one another.

"Curated Mid-Century Modern Art" blog post by Secret Design Studio, Melbourne

LIFE Magazine, 1958: Beattie Residence. Image supplied by Outre Gallery

Q6) Could you tell us about a particular artist and piece which will be featured in the show.

A favourite is the Fabian Lundqvist we’ve used on the exhibition postcard. We have a couple of painting by him in the show, but the one on the card is a striking portrait of a woman in his very stylised figurative style. Lundqvist was a prolific artist working in Sweden from the 1940s through 1970s. In addition to painting he also designed some striking modernist glassware for Alsterfors in Sweden.

"Curated Mid-Century Modern Art" blog post by Secret Design Studio, Melbourne

By Fabian Lundqvist. Image provided by Outre Gallery

 

Q7) If you could had a bare room in your house which needed to be jazzed up, what 3 things from this exhibition would you put into it and why?

A7) Like the show itself, I would pick a works that contrast with each other. It’s something I’m keen on myself, hence the ongoing theme for the exhibition. My picks would be one of the original vintage works from Scandinavia, one of our mid-century Palm Springs architectural renderings, and one of the very affordable prints by new contemporary artist to the gallery Steve Millington.

Thanks Martin for letting Secret Design Studio use these images, and best of luck with your “Mid-Century Modern Curated” exhibition.

"Curated Mid-Century Modern Art" blog post by Secret Design Studio, Melbourne

‘Western Southern Life’ – original architectural rendering – gouache on board – circa early 1960s. Image supplied by Outre Gallery

Outre Gallery is at 249-251 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, between Little Bourke Street and Lonsdale Street.

Hours
Monday to Thursday 10:30am – 5:30pm
Friday 10:30am – 7:00pm
Saturday 10:30am – 5:00pm
Sunday 12:00pm – 4:00pm

For more information about this exhibition and Outre Gallery please visit their website:

https://www.outregallery.com/

To get advance notice of the artwork that will be displayed at the “Mid-Century Modern Curated” exhibition, and future Outre Gallery exhibitions then complete this form here:

https://outregallery.us4.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=0ada04a39998016406231a424&id=f64879ca4a

For more information on gallery midlandia please visit here:

http://www.gallerymidlandia.com.au/

‘Abstract Landscape’ by Gustaf Fängström – oil on panel – signed and dated 52. This is one of a number of original vintage Scandinavian artworks – mostly modernist that are part of the exhibition. These are all courtesy of Gallery Midlandia

 

Photo of Dita Von Teese, American model and burlesque artist in her pink kitchen. © Jessica Eisner Photographer, http://www.jessicaeisner.com/

One of the things that I love about running Secret Design Studio is meeting a broad variety of people who are as passionate about mid-century design as I am.  They can come from any profession, including furniture making, interior design, and photography. As part of Secret Design Studio’s “Industry Interviews” series I recently had the pleasure of asking Jessica Eisner, photographer, who has her sights on the world, and is a talent to watch, about her retro influenced, glamour photography.   Jessica is always on the lookout for great mid-century homes, places and spaces for backgrounds for her photo shoots. Here are the questions that Secret Design Studio put to Jessica about her photography and her business “Jessica Eisner Photographer”.

http://www.jessicaeisner.com/

Q1) Jessica, you have a great eye for catching the female form with your camera.  I have heard of labels like boudoir photography, pin-up photography for your style of glamour photos.  What label would you apply to your work, and how would you describe it?

A1) Oh thank you so much! I always get asked this when people ask me what I shoot and I always reply, “women”. But then they’re like,” Oh okay?”. So then I always just put it down to the word “Sultry”.

© Jessica Eisner Photographer, http://www.jessicaeisner.com/

Q2) Jessica a lot of your photos have got a distinct retro vibe to them.  Why do you have a preference for shooting in this way, rather than with contemporary backdrops?

A2) I feel you get so much more feeling from the photo when there is a story-telling atmosphere to complement the model and mood. It is also what keeps shoots interesting, and getting out and shooting in new places, and not the same old boxed room with studio lights glaring at the model.

Q3) Your family has an interest in hot-rodding. According to Wikipedia Kustom Kulture is “an American neologism used to describe the artworks, vehicles, hairstyles and fashions of those who drove and built custom cars and motorcysles in the United States of America from the 1950s through till today. It was born out of the hot rod culture of Southern California of the 1960s”.  Can you explain the cross-over of interest between Kustom Kulture and your body of work?

A3) Yeah, they do crossover. I’ve grown up with it all my life, going to car shows and hating it when I was younger.  I didn’t really understand or realise how cool my parents really were (laughs), and what I had in front of me waiting for me to realise what I could do with my creative interests. I used to draw women a lot, and wanted to be a model myself.  l looked up to many inspiring pin-up figures in magazines and books. I loved how women in the Kustom Kulture were always celebrated for themselves and their amazing bodies at any size.

 

© Jessica Eisner Photographer, http://www.jessicaeisner.com/

Q4) Do you have a favourite location for a shoot? Where is it, and why is it a favourite?

A4) I don’t! I am always searching for the next different location! But in saying that, I do love to go to Los Angeles for my shoots,  I always get so inspired there and find amazing art deco locations, and the palm trees. Ahhh they are just so cool, so many good vibes.

Q5) Some of your shots are with professional models but quite a lot of your photos are of non-models.  Who commissions you for private photos of themselves and why?

A5) This is very true! I love to shoot all women! I have been very lucky to photograph the several celebrities that I have so far, some of whom I had on my bucket list to shoot, which is now a big tick! But now for new goals and to keep going! As for “normal” everyday women who book photoshoots with me, it’s either really something personal, or for fun, or a confidence boost and I really love how I can make someone look twice at the photo of them and say they’re gorgeous!

 

© Jessica Eisner Photographer, http://www.jessicaeisner.com/

Q6) How do you make your clients, who are not professional models, feel at ease in front of your lights and camera?  Do most of your clients enjoy being your model for a session?

A5) That is a tough question because I really don’t know what I do. We just go with the flow literally! No plans, no music, no extra lighting, no people standing around, just me and the model, one on one. I have found if you full-on plan your shoot and don’t get what you wanted, it can be really disappointing and put a downer on the shoot because you are trying to perfect it. I like to do what I feel, the mood, the client: it just depends.

Q7) If somebody would like to engage you for a photo shoot what do they need to organise? Location? Clothes? Make-up? Lighting?

A7) When you book a shoot with me I will most likely already have a location set, so all you need to do is organise your own hair and make-up (which I strongly suggest you do yourself).  You know your face best and you know what you like and how you look good/feel best.  I want you to make sure during the shoot you’re 100% happy with your hair and make-up so it is totally in your control, and the same with your outfits. Wear your favourite dress or your sexy lingerie that you never wear and if it just sits in your draw, let it be seen! What a lot of people don’t know is I am mostly a natural light photographer but when that sun goes down and there is no good light is around I will shoot with a flash.

Photo of Russian-American alternative model and burlesque performer, Mosh in Los Vegas at Clairbnb  http://www.clairbnb.com/ © Jessica Eisner Photographer, http://www.jessicaeisner.com/

Q8) All of the photos I have seen are very sexy, and some are very raunchy.  How do you draw the line between tasteful, and exploitative?

A8) I’m going to be honest, because that’s who I am, I really don’t know. Maybe it has got something to do with me being a woman myself?  (laughs) I myself have been in their shoes before and know exactly what they’re thinking and feeling so I need to make a good connection. As I shoot mostly lingerie, women are at their most vulnerable state where they can feel whatever they want. All I know is everyone always feels so comfortable with me while shooting so I guess that comes out in images and not forced poses. I feel like exploitative images are very posed and to the point.

Q9) You have had some photos published for Vogue Italia, as well as some celebrity photos. Have you got a favourite subject? Or somebody who you would love to shoot?

A9) I would have to say my favourite celebrity subject to date is Mosh ( a Russian-American alternative model and burlesque performer). It is actually a pretty crazy thing, as in high school year 12 as my final art project I actually drew Mosh as my final assignment. Little did I know that four years later I would fly to Los Angeles by myself for the first time and photograph Dita Von Teese, who actually contacted Mosh and said “you need to work with Jessica”. So it happened! I finally worked with Mosh! And since then every time I’ve come back to the states Mosh and I have shot everytime. She’s seriously an amazing women and I’m so glad we finally became friends.

 

© Jessica Eisner Photographer, http://www.jessicaeisner.com/

Q9) Are you on the lookout for suitable backdrops for your work? What is involved in shooting in somebody else’s home?

A9) Always… if the clients’ home is suitable with natural light anywhere can really work. If the location is lacking character then I focus more on what the model is wearing or how she is styled. It just really depends what look you are going for at the time.

Q10) You seem to travel a lot, both interstate and overseas for your shoots. What is next for Jessica Eisner?

A10) I know I still can’t believe I’ve been to America three times now in the space of two years for my work! I still think this year in 2018 I will definitely go back to Los Angeles for shoots; love it! Travelling gives me so much inspiration. I always go to Sydney yearly too, as I’m based in Melbourne.
I’m always happy to travel for work!

 

 

© Jessica Eisner Photographer, http://www.jessicaeisner.com/

Q11) On your website you list your 2018  prices for your Melbourne based photography packages based on the number of outfits, number of photos and number of locations. Some of Secret Design Studio’s clients and friends have some great mid-century modern and post war houses.  If two or more women organised a photo shoot at the same location, and at the same time, would you be prepared to offer a discount if they mentioned that they had heard about you through Secret Design Studio?

A11) Yes, of course! However, the size of the discount would depend on the number of subjects, and the single location, and single booking time.  It could work quite well for a small group of girlfriends who are comfortable and relaxed with each other’s company, but it would not work in a large group as each subject and shoot takes time to get right.  It would be best to contact me directly through my website and provide details.

Jessica, thanks for your time and sharing some of your beautiful photos.

Jessica’s website is at

http://www.jessicaeisner.com/

@jessicaeisnerofficial

Her website which includes information about booking a photo session, whether it be for an individual photo shoot, or even a wedding, and is currently selling exclusive limited edition prints.

One of Secret Design Studio’s long term collaborators has been Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect.  Jason has embarked on an exciting new venture so I thought it would be good to hear about it, and get a better understanding of Jason’s future direction in relation to mid-century modern homes. 

Q1) Jason, I understand that you have recently left your previous employer to start a new venture.  What is it called, and what type of consulting services will you be offering? 

A1) “That’s correct, the new company is ‘Davidson Design Studio’ and as a Registered Landscape Architect, I provide design and consultancy for a range of landscape projects.  These include private residential gardens, commercial projects, community facilities, even industrial landscapes. 

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

Q2) Your studio is based in Beaumaris.  How far from Beaumaris will you consult? 

A2) “I do love working locally and using my local knowledge on projects in the Bayside area, however I also love the opportunity to work further afield.  The landscapes of Victoria are so diverse, and it has been rewarding to work on projects from Maldon to Sorrento.”

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

Q3) What does a Landscape Architect actually do? It is a lot more than deciding which potted plants to put into a trolley at Bunnings isn’t it? 

A3) “It definitely is!  Landscape architecture is such a broad field and it is really the treatment of all external spaces and how they relate and complement the built form. Some landscape architects work primarily in urban design and are setting out the new suburbs of our cities including housing allotments, roads, schools, community hubs and open spaces; while others are talking directly to homeowners and providing solutions to enhance the outdoor spaces of their home.  A good landscape architect will have a thorough knowledge of site engineering, planning process and localised climatic influences. We are also across relevant legislation and building practices and can take a client’s needs and make the vision a reality.”

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

 Q4) What are the benefits that a landscape architect can bring for somebody considering a renovation to their mid-century modern home? 

A4) “A thoughtfully designed garden frames and complements the home.  A renovation is often a big financial investment, however the finished look can be brought undone without a considered approach to the garden around it.  What attracts me to mid-century modern design and style is that in post-war Australia, it was a time of embracing outdoor living and spending time with your family in the backyard.  Living areas were designed to open out to garden spaces and houses were often designed around courtyards. 

The mid-century modern residential garden is truly an extension of the architecture and should be seen as part of the overall design rather than an afterthought. With access to today’s material palettes and technology, the opportunities are endless.”  

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

Q5) I like to think that mid-century is such a broad term that covers many “flavours”.  What are the main “flavours” of mid-century landscape design? 

A5) “Australian landscape design really came alive during the post-war years and I find that the history of the ‘Australian’ garden goes together with our amazing mid-century architecture.  The flavours are therefore broad and reflect the experimentation and excitement of the time. 

  • An Australian bush garden with striking flowering natives and dense canopies of native trees blend perfectly with a flat roof modern home.  The bush garden movement was a dramatic move away from traditional British gardens and an embrace of the Australian landscape. 

Garden example in Beaumaris. Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

  • The minimal forms and clean lines of a Japanese style garden also works perfectly with mid-century architecture, where you can really embrace the Japanese philosophies of meaning and intent with the placement of every garden element. 

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

  • An arid or Palm Springs inspired garden is also a favourite, where geometric forms of paving and structures blend with succulents and striking architectural planting. 

The key to mid-century inspired landscapes is to reflect the materials and style of the architecture so that the house and garden are all part of the ‘home’.”

Q6) Will a mid-century style landscape design work with a contemporary home?   

A6) “Absolutely!  The design theories of modernism are timeless, and I use them with every project I work on.  Present day architecture is also beginning to revisit those same theories and clean, minimal lines, a flat roof, wide eaves and natural materials are making a welcome return to new homes. “

Modernist landscaping with a contemporary house – via Houzz

Q7) With so many knock-down and rebuild projects decimating and moonscaping our leafy suburbs what percentage of the property value should a new home owner allow for landscaping? 

A7) “I generally recommend that 5-10% of cost of the house, be invested in landscaping to allow it to fully complement the architecture. 

This doesn’t include luxury items such as a swimming pool, however.  A new concrete swimming pool can easily cost around $70,000 – $100,000. “

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

Q8) What are your three favourite plants that are appropriate for a mid-century home? 

  • I do love my natives, and the Grass-tree or Xanthorrhoea is a clear favourite!

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

  • For a real mid-century flavour, you can’t go past Monstera deliciosa (Fruit Salad Plant) 

  • or the wonderfully named Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata). 

Sansevieria trifasciata (habit). Location: Maui, Enchanting Floral Gardens of Kula, Photo by Forest & Kim Starr

Q9) Many people in Beaumaris may be familiar with the garden that you established for your previous mid-century modern home in Beaumaris. For those that aren’t familiar with it how would you describe it? 

A9) “My wife Amy (who is also a Landscape Architect) and I set out to create a practical and presentable garden that was complementary to our stunning 1950s home.  We began our family there (first with pet dogs, cats and chickens, and then our son, Thomas) so we also wanted it to be a family friendly space and our own private sanctuary.  

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

Along with the chickens, we also had a productive vegetable garden and installed rainwater tanks to help with watering.  A native plant palette was used to the front garden and planted nature strip (which is common in Beaumaris), however we went with a very blended theme throughout.  A wonderful courtyard space could be viewed from the central rooms and had a blend of sub-tropical and Japanese styled plantings. 

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

Other areas featured ornamental deciduous trees and exotic plants to provide great seasonal changes in colour and foliage.  As a family-friendly garden, we wanted open areas of lawn for our pets and kids.  These were bordered by recycled bluestone or bricks.  We relayed the existing slate paving to the front terrace as it worked so well with the stone feature wall and style of the home.  We loved this home, however we did outgrow it, and had to move on.  Sadly, it has since been demolished and will be replaced with a typical two-storey box house.  But that’s another story…. “

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

 

Q10) What mid-century related projects are you currently working on? 

A10) “We now live in a 1960’s Beaumaris home, and it is an ever-evolving project! 

Photo courtesy of Jason Davidson, Landscape Architect, Davidson Design Studio

 Apart from that, we are active in the newly formed Beaumaris Modern association.  We see it as a way of celebrating our suburb’s amazing architectural character and providing insight into how residents can make the most of their mid-century homes. 

(www.beaumarismodern.com.au) 

 

Work-wise, I am always excited to get a new project across my desk and am eagerly awaiting the next chance I have, to work on someone’s mid-century gem!”

Q11) What Landscape Architect inspires you the most? 

A11) “Historically I love the work and the philosophies of Ellis Stones.  He worked with Edna Walling and had an amazing eye for naturalistic landscapes.  I have two copies of his book Australian Garden Design (I saw the second in an op-shop and couldn’t just leave it there) and I am constantly using it as a reference. 

(Image of one of Ellis Stones’ designs from his book) 

I am also continually inspired by the work of my wife, Amy.  She is primarily in urban design and is so passionate about ensuring everyone has access to quality open space regardless of where they live. ”  

Q12) Do Australians have anything to learn from the pebble and succulent gardens that are seen in so many mid-century Palm Springs homes? 

A12) “Yes and no.  Due to the drier climate of Palm Springs, those gardens are forced to better use resources and that is a good example of drought tolerant landscaping.  The results are far reduced in terms of biodiversity, however. 

As I said before, these gardens can be replicated and are a popular style of garden in mid-century Melbourne. “

Photo by Alistair McLean, Principal, Secret Design Studio

Q13) Many people have never engaged a Landscape Architect before.  What would you hope to achieve in an initial consultation and how much would one cost? 

A13) “At our initial meeting I will be doing the following: 

  • Getting an understanding of what the client needs from a space 
  • Establishing why the client believes the current space has failed or isn’t working for them 
  • Discussing what their maintenance capabilities are.  
  • Getting an understanding of what their budget might be. 
  • Suggesting ideas and getting a feel for how enthusiastic they are  

An initial consultation generally doesn’t have any cost attached to it.  This is part of generating a brief and providing an accurate fee proposal for the design. “ 

Photo by Alistair McLean, Principal, Secret Design Studio

Q14) What are your website and contact details? 

A14) “More information about what Davidson Design Studio offers can be found at www.davidsondesignstudio.com.au  

 

By email: jason@davidsondesignstudio.com.au or by phone: 9515 0159.” 

 

Best of luck with Davidson Design Studio, and Secret Design Studio looks forward to working again with you in the future. 

“Thanks for the opportunity to share what Davidson Design Studio is all about!”

Photo by Alistair McLean, Prncipal, Secret Design Studio

 

Hi Geoff, thanks for your time today.

Q1) I understand that you are in the process of publishing an art book called “Featherston”. Who were Grant and Mary Featherston?

Photo 1 – Book cover of “Featherston” by Geoff Isaac, courtesy of Geoff Isaac.

 

A1)   Grant Featherston was a Melbourne based industrial designer best known for his Contour series of bent plywood chairs produced in the early 1950s and highly sought after today. In fact, Grant designed all kinds of things but, between 1947 and the mid-1970s, he focused on chairs and developed hundreds of designs. Some of these designs were so commercially successful it is no exaggeration to claim that nearly everybody living in Melbourne has sat on at least one Featherston chair. Grant met Mary in the mid-1960s and they worked together in a partnership from 1966 until Grant’s death in 1995. Mary still lives and works in Melbourne although her primary interest is in early childhood learning environments.

Q2) What was so important about Grant and Mary Featherston’s work?

Grant and Mary Featherston at their wedding

Photo 2, Grant and Mary Featherston at their wedding, image courtesy Ian Howard

A2)  The real genius was in developing production techniques to allow a remote and sparsely populated country to experience the Modern look. Over in North America Eames, backed by a large team of design specialists, was producing moulded plywood chairs from machines costing over $25,000 dollars each. With chairs selling for a few shillings it was not financially viable to do this in Australia. Working alone Featherston developed production techniques that allowed moulded plywood chairs to be manufactured locally and enabled Australians to experience this revolution in home décor – a truly remarkable achievement. Throughout their careers – working in wood, steel and plastics – the Featherstons continued to experiment to allow Australia to remain at the cutting edge of innovation in chair design.

Q3) Is the appeal of Featherston design limited to Australia? Apart from the Australian Pavilion at the 1967 Montreal Expo do they have much of an international profile, or are there any non-Australian collectors?

Talking chair

Photo 3, Featherston “Talking Chair” image courtesy of Ian Howard

A3) Interest is primarily centred in Australia and New Zealand although there are collectors in North America and the UK interested in Featherston. Hopefully my book will help secure the international recognition they deserve! One of the secrets of Featherston’s success was that he licenced manufacturing in different states and over in New Zealand. At that time the cost of transport was prohibitive so Featherston succeeded in building a nationwide following when most of the competition were only focused on getting market share in their own town. That strategy is still paying dividends today with Featherston collectors active in every state.

Q4) Why is there a growing interest in their furniture, and why is it becoming so collectible (and expensive)? What is the relevance today?

R160 Contour

Photo 4, Featherston Contour R160 chair, image courtesy of Geoff Isaac, author of “Featherston”

A4)  Well if we look at prices – auction prices for Contours grew fivefold over 15 years from the late 1990s. Interest started picking up after the 1988 retrospective held at the NGV but then accelerated until the GFC. After the crash prices dwindled a little – probably following the whole mid-century sector as it adapted to the impact of cheap copies flooding the market. More recently prices appear to be on the rise again. I think people have sat in those cheap nasty copies and are coming to appreciate the real thing!

Q5) I understand that architect Robin Boyd commissioned 240 Expo Talking chairs for the Australian pavilion for the 1967 Montreal Expo. Where are they now?

Harrold Hold opening the Australian pavilion at Expo

Photo 5, Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt opening the Australian pavilion at the 1967 Montreal Expo testing a Featherston designed Expo Talking chair. Image courtesy of Ian Howard.

A5) I only know of two that survived from the original run. I own one and I sold the other to the Powerhouse museum in Sydney. I bought these from an auction house in New York in the early 2000s. I believe they were purchased after Expo ended and the contents auctioned off – transportation costs making it prohibitively expensive to return them to Australia. (Incidentally I failed to investigate the transport costs before bidding – otherwise I would have realised that they remain prohibitive!) The Talking chair (also known as the Sound chair) fused furniture and technology – when a visitor sat on a chair a tape deck was activated and conversations with famous Australians played through concealed speakers in the head rest.  When released the Talking chairs were the star attraction at the Australian pavilion, most people had never experienced anything like it, and they became the talk of the town in Montreal and Melbourne. Melbourne based manufacturer Aristoc saw the opportunity and produced copies of the Expo chair for the local market and these turn up at auction quite frequently.

Q6) Who is Geoff Isaac, and why write a book on Grant and Mary Featherston?

A6) I am just a fan. I am not a design academic or professional – in fact my background is in marketing. I started collecting Featherston designs in 1996. As the prices went up I got priced out of the market so I had to find a new way to occupy my collecting gene! Frustrated by a lack of publically available information on the Featherstons I started researching and collecting material on their careers. Mary Featherston and the design historian, Michael Bogle have both read the proofs for my book and written very nice endorsements for the book so hopefully readers can have some confidence in my abilities!

Geoff Isaac in Eleanor Contour chair

Photo 6, “Featherston” author Geoff Isaac sitting in a 1954 Featherston E1 Eleanor chair, image courtesy of Geoff Isaac.

Q7) With such a huge design output why has nobody published or documented the Featherstons’ work previously?

Stem chair

Photo 7, Despite over 18 months of research and development to bring the Stem chair to life the model failed to excite the market and was the last Featherston design produced by Aristoc, image courtesy Geoff Isaac.

A7) I am still amazed that no one has written a book on the Featherstons before. Grant Featherston is, beyond doubt, our most famous and successful mid-century designer. If you look at how many of his chairs are still in use today I believe that only Britain’s Robin Day could claim to be more successful on this measure. We should celebrate our successes!

Q8) Do you own any pieces by Featherston, or do you have a favourite?

Scape dining-NB-1

Photo 8 Featherston Scape dining chair, courtesy of Geoff Isaac, author of “Featherston”

A8)  Yes I have been hooked since 1996 – the deal with my partner now is that I can only introduce a new chair if I get rid of one so it is always a challenge to find a new hiding place and keep moving them around. My interest in the Featherstons work didn’t start with the Contour series for which they are most famous, it started with the Scape series. Designed in 1960 these steel framed chairs with moulded plywood seat and backrest are remarkably comfortable and beautiful to look at from any angle. They still remain among my favourites and are still in use at the dinner table – where no guests are even in a hurry to move from the table. I also have two Scape lounge chairs which are often selected by guests in preference to the comfortable sofa.

Q9) How will your book assist people who are interested in buying an original Featherston?

A9) Grant is best known for just two chairs from the Contour series, the R160 and the R152 (without arms). In fact the Contour series extended to some two dozen designs and they are all presented in the book so this will help collectors identify the less well known models in the series. Everyone who pledges $10 or more to support the Kickstarter project will be sent a print ready electronic copy of an A3 poster that is a handy reference – showing the entire Contour series. The book will also show there is far more to Featherston than the Contour series – with hundreds of chair designs there is something for everyone and the book shows that you can still get a Featherston designed chair for a few dollars – or even less than the price of a coffee!

Grant Featherston Contour range poster

Photo 9 Grant Featherston Contour Range (1951-1955), image courtesy of Geoff Isaac, author of “Featherston”

Q10) I notice from your A3 poster that there is a missing image for the Contour W170, which you have described as similar to the Contour R160, but with a higher back and shorter legs?

A10) I have never seen a Contour W170.  Even Mary Featherston does not have a picture of one either. She does have a pamphlet showing the entire Contour range and the W170 is listed here but not illustrated as the others are with line drawings.  The pamphlet does have a description of it.  So it is possible that it does not exist. It may have been planned but never produced. In the early days they were basically produced to order.  Or there may be one out there, which I would love to know about.

Q11) Your book has lots of beautiful photos of Featherston chairs, where did you source them?

R152 Contour

Photo 10, original Featherston Contour R152 , image courtesy of Geoff Isaac, author of “Featherston”

A11)  I had the most wonderful piece of luck while researching the book. I was just finishing, what I believed to be, the last interview for the book when Neil Clerehan suggested that I look up Ian Howard, the former Managing Director of Aristoc. To my surprise and delight I found Ian alive and well at over ninety years old. Ian had meticulously documented his career and had put together an archive which included an extensive record of the 13 years he employed Grant, and later Mary, as the chief design consultants for Aristoc. This piece of luck added about two years to the project by the time I had finished going through all the material. This means the book includes many previously unpublished period photographs and publicity material developed by Featherston. I also commissioned original photography or my collection and the auction houses, particularly Leonard Joel, have been very generous in allowing me access to their libraries of image of Featherstons as they pass though the market.

aristoc mitzi

Photo 11, Pages 162-163 “Featherston”, Aristoc Mitzi, courtesy of Geoff Isaac.

 

Q12) It must have been disappointing to receive so little interest from Australian publishers about this labour of love. I understand that you are looking to self-publish and to get started through a kick-starter campaign.  How does this work?

television series

Photo 12, pages 88-89 “Featherston”, Television Series, courtesy of Geoff Isaac.

A12) Yes I haven’t got much to say about the publishers I approached – most disappointing thing is I believe only one of them actually read the manuscript. Anyway their model is stuck in the 20th century so I have moved on and embraced the 21st century. Kickstarter is a crowdsourcing platform – anyone can put up an idea for a product and people pledge to back the project. If the funding target is met everyone is charged and the money (minus some commission of course) gets passed to the project owner to allow them to deliver the goods. In my cases I have already paid to get the manuscript edited and proofread and for the image and text to be laid out. So now I just need to get enough money to get it printed. It is an all or nothing bet – if I don’t reach the target by April 10 then nobody gets charged, I get no funding and my manuscript goes in the bin!

 

Elastic Suspension

Photo 13, pages 100-101 from “Featherston”, E2 Elastic Suspension armchair, courtesy of Geoff Isaac.

 

Q13) For anybody wanting to see this book published they really need to get behind your Kickstarter campaign and pre-order before Monday April 10th 2017. How big and what format is your proposed book?

A13) Many readers may remember that a few years ago the NGV held an exhibition called Mid-Century Modern and produced a catalogue to accompany it. My book will be the same size, 240 mm wide and 290 mm high, quality hardback, and will feature nearly 300 pages with 250 beautiful photographs. I’ve been working with a fabulous graphic artist in the UK who is passionate about mid-century design and experienced in designing books and she has produced a fantastic result. There will be two versions of the book – with a limited edition of 200 copies signed and numbered and presented in a 3mm cardboard sleeve for protection.

 

photo13

Photo 14 “Mid-Century Modern – Australian Furniture Design”, photo Secret Design Studio resource library.

 

Q14) For anybody that misses the opportunity to pre-order the book as part of your Kickstarter campaign before the cut-off date, how much will it be and where can it be purchased?

Scape Lounge-NB-2

Photo 15, Featherston Scape Lounge, image courtesy of Geoff Isaac, author of “Featherston”

A14) Just as it is an all or nothing bet for me it is the same for potential readers. I don’t want to get stuck with a garage full of books or fiddle about supplying small quantities to book shops and chasing them for payment so I am only planning to basically print what I sell. So if anyone misses out on the Kickstarter campaign they will have to keep their eyes out on the internet for a second hand copy – not that I imagine anyone will want to part with their copy!

photo 11

Photo 16, page 180-181 from “Featherston”, Scape Lounge, courtesy of Geoff Isaac.

Q15) Apart from pre-ordering your book, what advice would you give to anyone who is looking to start collecting Featherston?

A15) No one should be under the impression they can collect Featherstons (or anything) to get rich. The market is fickle and prices have gone down as well as up during the time I have been collecting. If you love it and want it then my advice is to search for examples in good original condition. Keep an eye out for modern licenced reproductions and of course learn how to spot the copies (they are so bad this is not hard at the moment). But mainly I say to would be collectors –don’t start – there are too many already so stay away!

Thanks for your time today Geoff, and best of luck with getting the support you need on Kickstarter to publish your beautiful art book. I really hope to see it gracing lots of mid-century coffee tables in the future. Secret Design Studio will be purchasing multiple copies of “Featherston” for a new client promotion to run later this year.

IMG_20170315_095815

Photo 17 – Pre-publication mock-up of “Featherston” by Geoff Isaac. Courtesy of Secret Design Studio

To support Geoff’s Kickstarter campaign to assist with the publishing costs please visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/grantfeatherston/grant-featherston-book-australian-mid-century-desi/description. Support pledges run from as little as $5, but you will need to pledge at least $65 to receive a book. The campaign is an “All or Nothing” campaign and must reach the target by Monday April 10th for the book to be published. No one will be charged for a pledge towards this book publication unless it reaches its funding goal.

Secret Design Studio is always on the lookout for interesting places and people for Australian mid-century design interviews.  If you would like to be interviewed and have lots of photos that you would like to share please contact me,

Alistair McLean

Principal

Secret Design Studio

0448 579 707

Geoff Isaac in Townhouse chair

Photo 18, “Featherston” author Geoff Isaac sitting in a Featherston Townhouse chair, image courtesy of Geoff Isaac.

 

Everyday we see more of the suburbs that were developed in the Post War period, such as Beaumaris, Balwyn North, Glen Waverley and Lower Templestowe being demolished for new houses and townhouses. I thought it would be interesting to interview somebody who lives in a mid-century architect designed project home to get a better understanding of what it is like to live in, and to appreciate what we are losing.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Steven Coverdale who lives in an original condition architect designed project home in Lower Templestowe.  Steven is a senior designer in a leading architectural practice and also an advocate for the admiration and retention of mid-century housing and runs a Facebook group called “Mid-Century Domestic Architecture Australia” which he regularly contributes to.

Secret Design Studio blog (Melbourne and Sydney)

Steven Coverdale outside his mid-century project home designed by Bernard Joyce and built by Inge Bros Pty Ltd in 1968.

Q1) Thanks for your time today Steven, tell me about your household and how long have you been living in this home?

A1) My partner and I are pleased to live in a rare modernist project home designed by Bernard Joyce and built by Inge Bros Pty ltd in 1968. We have been living in the house for 18 months and have loved every second of it.

Secret Design Studio's blog

A rare mid-century project home designed by Bernard Joyce and built by Inge Bros Pty Ltd in 1968

 

 

 

Q2) How did you find this home, and what attracted you to it?

A2) Throughout my education and experience in architecture, I always felt an affinity with the modest and beautiful expressions of mid-century architecture. I became frustrated that real estate agents would rarely acknowledge the architects who designed the houses they were selling. I decided to take it upon myself to launch a specialist group with the aim is to provide awareness, education, admiration, and preservation of mid-century homes on the market or previously sold. I was also very interested in promoting an understanding of what makes for fundamentally good design.

 

I first experienced Mid-Century design first hand when I rented a completely original house in Balwyn North, which turned out to be designed by notable architects Montgomery King & Trengove in 1958. The house permanently changed the way I was to view domestic architecture and the positive effect it can have on its occupants and its value in culture and the broader community.

 

I first became aware of the Bernard Joyce designed project home while trawling old additions of Australian Home Beautiful magazine with which the home was reviewed. The design was a pure exercise in rational modernist perfection, with obvious elusions to Japanese design and a rigor reminiscent of the work of the master Mies Van Der Rohe who I admired greatly.

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

The design was a pure exercise in rational modernist perfection, with obvious elusions to Japanese design and a rigor reminiscent of the work of the master Mies Van Der Rohe.

 

I eventually tracked the original display home only to find that it was completely altered beyond all recognition. I was heartbroken. Through my research I was able to find out that Bernard Joyce’s architectural drawings had been donated to the RMIT Archives. Setting up a meeting to view the drawings, I was able to locate the original plans for the display home and what appeared to be the only generated sale from the venture; an example built in Lower Templestowe. To my delight it was in completely original condition. I researched the display home extensively, finding clippings, magazine articles and other related references while placing it on Google Alerts should it ever come up for rent or for sale.

 

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

From “The Australian Home Beautiful” magazine, September 1967

 

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

From “The Australian Home Beautiful” magazine, September 1967

 

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

From “The Australian Home Beautiful” magazine, September 1967

 

To my surprise the example in Templestowe Lower came onto the market at just the time my partner and I were attempting to purchase a Mid-Century house. We were realistic about price and had all our finances in place ready to roll. It appeared like we had secured the house at auction when at the last minute a buyer with deeper pockets outbid us. I was devastated.

We continued to rent the Montgomery Kind and Trengove house until the landlord gave us notice to vacate, as he wanted to demolish the house and redevelop it into two mock French provincial houses. In an extraordinary twist of fate, the project home in Templestowe Lower hit the market for rent. You can imagine how quickly I called the agent and expressed my desire to secure the property.

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

The overhead view shows that the home , despite needing a new carport roof, is remarkably intact for the age.

Q3) It has obviously been designed by an architect, do you know who it was and why it was built?

A3) The house was erected in 1968 for Mr and Mrs G. Hume and was a project home for Inge Bros Pty Ltd and designed by architects Bernard Joyce & Associates.

Bernard Joyce was born in 13th January 1929 Chiswick, London England and was educated at Regent Street Polytechnic before emigrating to Melbourne, Australia in 1950 were he completed his studies at the University of Melbourne, becoming a registered architect on the 16th of September 1955. He established himself as an acclaimed, award winning and respected architect, of modernist houses, strata-titled flats and townhouses. He was also a highly regarded and influential academic at RMIT.

Zig Inge of Inge Bros Pty Ltd who built hundreds of houses in the area, was able to confirm that the design was too progressive and only generated a single sale; the house at 5 Ians Grove Templestowe Lower.

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

Cover of “Architecture Today” magazine, March 1968

 

Q4) It must feel good to live in a home that was widely published and acknowledged by academics at the time it was built. I can’t imagine the same thing happening with any of the “products” that our builders display today.  What was the appeal that made this home so special when it was built?

A4) I’m extremely proud of the design and feel that its accolades come short of the complete experience of living in the house.  Philip Goad in his PHD ‘The Modern House in Melbourne 1945-1975’ referred to the design as ‘extremely sophisticated’, and an ‘elegant alternative to mass market project houses’. Eric Wilson in his review of the design referred to it as the ‘the ultimate in suburban design’ that provided the ‘utmost in indoor and outdoor privacy’.

While the house was obviously seen as an exemplary piece of architecture it failed as a commercial entity for its builder Inge Bros. For me it combined the aspirations and modernist ideals of its enthusiastic and extremely talented architect while satisfying the merchant builders often difficult brief and need for a viable, at cost ‘product’. Zig Inge, who I met in person, lamented that the house was an incredible design by a very talented young architect, but was just too progressive for the general buying public.

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

“The central courtyard is a delight of the senses, with its garden potential and the changing weather conditions permeating the home.”. A rare mid-century project home designed by Bernard Joyce and built by Inge Bros Pty Ltd in 1968

 

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

“The central courtyard is a delight of the senses, with its garden potential and the changing weather conditions permeating the home”. A rare mid-century project home designed by Bernard Joyce and built by Inge Bros Pty Ltd in 1968.

 

Q5) Do you know how many were built, and how many have survived?

A5) The house was built twice in Acheron Street, Doncaster, once as the headlining display home along with another example located in the broader display village of homes called ‘New Horizons’. Both have been altered beyond recognition. The only surviving example and therefore the only one of any value is the example at 5 Ians Grove Templestowe Lower.

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

Plan as published in “The Australian Home Beautiful” magazine, Septmeber 1967.

 

 

Q6) It looks like it is largely original, what are the best things about living in this home?

A6) The only alteration is a renovated ensuite, which now also includes a toilet. The house has changed the way I view architecture, it is extremely private, yet completely open to its garden surrounds. The central courtyard is a delight of the senses, with its garden potential and the changing weather conditions permeating the home. I love that I can stand almost anywhere in the home and look straight out onto the garden beyond. I also appreciate that every window is a full height French door. This might seem stylistic but it functions perfectly in a sustainable sense, allowing hot air to ventilate across the ceilings and low cool air to flow through.

 

 

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

A rare mid-century project home designed by Bernard Joyce and built by Inge Bros Pty Ltd in 1968

 

 

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

A rare mid-century project home designed by Bernard Joyce and built by Inge Bros Pty Ltd in 1968

 

 

Q7) Your home looks very understated, some may say severe, from the street, which is quite opposite to the builders’ project homes of today with a focus on the front façade. What other differences are there between your home and contemporary project homes?

A7) Privacy was a major concern and a major preoccupation within the work of architect Bernard Joyce.  The planar nature of the façade is a simple extension of the house. The planning is efficient and functional, and therefore no bigger than it absolutely needs to be. Its compact nature is offset by its private connection to a series of courtyards and garden spaces. I applaud Inge Bros for supporting modernism and the work of a young talented architect.

 

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

“Privacy was a major concern and a major preoccupation within the work of architect Bernard Joyce. The planar nature of the façade is a simple extension of the house. “

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

“Privacy was a major concern and a major preoccupation within the work of architect Bernard Joyce. The planar nature of the façade is a simple extension of the house. “

 

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

“Privacy was a major concern and a major preoccupation within the work of architect Bernard Joyce. The planar nature of the façade is a simple extension of the house. “

 

Q8) What do your architect and non-architect friends think about your home?

A8) Everyone loves it, they almost universally gasp at how incredible the central courtyard is and how it become the focus of the entire house.  My architect friends think it is complete perfection, and in many ways it really is.

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

The central courtyard is the focus of the house.

Q9) Would you build this house today? If so what changes would you make?

A9) My partner and I have discussed building the house or a variation of it at a future time. We would look at more low maintenance materials, perhaps substituting the western red cedar windows with black powder coated aluminium, and using a light or white concrete block instead of the bagged and painted brickwork. I would incorporate more storage, and potentially a smaller laundry.

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

A rare mid-century project home designed by Bernard Joyce and built by Inge Bros Pty Ltd in 1968.

 

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

A rare mid-century project home designed by Bernard Joyce and built by Inge Bros Pty Ltd in 1968.

 

Q10) What is so important about builders’ project and display homes of the 1960’s in relation to Australian society?

A10) Architecturally the house is significant as a highly unusual design solution for a national project home builder, who required specific spacial requirements, buildability, and economic considerations for a ‘model’ home.  I think it stands as a prime example of how we build homes in Australia, of the impact of modernism on housing, and the unique and ultimately short lived collaboration between repetition builders and architects.

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

A rare mid-century project home designed by Bernard Joyce and built by Inge Bros Pty ltd in 1968

 

 

Q11) Should a largely original home like yours, that was significant when it was built, be considered as part of our cultural heritage?

A11) I think it satisfies the criteria of an individual heritage place in relation to making homes for Victorians.

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

A rare mid-century project home designed by Bernard Joyce and built by Inge Bros Pty Ltd in 1968.

 

Q12) What does the future hold for your home?

A12) Unless a heritage overlay is put in place the house will be demolished for two townhouses. I hope that Manningham City Council through our encouragement and the dissemination of this information is able to recognise the value of retaining exemplary examples of Post War Architecture. I also hope this is the start of what might be a broader consideration for the municipality to review and conduct a specific study of post war architecture in the area.

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

 

Secret Design Studio agrees with Steven about the heritage significance of the home and would encourage you to object to Manningham Council about the proposed demolition on the grounds that the house is of heritage significance. It’s important to state that the house is of heritage significance and due consideration and investigation should be undertaken before assessing the permit application.

You can lodge your objection via email to the Responsible Authority at

statutoryplanning@manningham.vic.gov.au

Manningham City Council

699 Doncaster Road

Doncaster

 

5 Ians Grove Templestowe Lower VIC

Application Number: PL16/026906

 

You have until the 14th of March 2017

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Steven Coverdale outside his project home designed by Bernard Joyce and built by Inge Bros Pty ltd in 1968.

If you have an interesting mid-century home that you would like to be interviewed about, and lots of photos that you would like to share please contact me,

Alistair McLean

Principal

Secret Design Studio

0448 579 707

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

A rare mid-century project home designed by Bernard Joyce and built by Inge Bros Pty Ltd in 1968.

Secret Design Studio's blog March 2017 (Melbourne and Sydney)

A rare mid-century project home designed by Bernard Joyce and built by Inge Bros Pty Ltd in 1968.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Trish Hunter  who was good enough to give me some of her time to talk to me about “The Vintage Post”.

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Photo courtesy of Trish Hunter and “The Vintage Post”

 

When did Trish Hunter first become interested in vintage?

 

I’d love to say I have always been interested in vintage but that would be a flat out lie. I was dragged from opshop to opshop as a kid and hated them. It wasn’t until 2011 when I did a ‘modeling’ (I say that very lightly) job for my local country opshop to raise awareness of the cool things they had, and I wore a 1980’s prom dress down the stage.
The quality for the price, along with the fact that no one else would have anything like this got me excited and I became an opshopper since then.  Opshops are where most vintage enthusiasts begin, however sadly the things I now chase can never be found in opshops anymore (without a massive amount of luck!) so vintage shops are where I frequent, and what I’m really passionate about. So much so I opened two of my own shops, both of which I’ve sold, and now host a website that promotes vintage shops and vintage places alike!

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Photo courtesy of Trish Hunter and “The Vintage Post”

 

How did the idea of your mobile vintage pop-up caravan shop originate?

 

After I opened my online store, I needed another avenue to sell, so I started having stalls at Camberwell market once a fortnight. I did that for a year or so and was forever disheartened by the weather, with a few odd warm days amongst.  My stock would get wet and ruined, and I was a bit over it.  I also wanted to charge more for my stock, but felt that being just another market stall holder, I couldn’t do it without doing something different.
The dream of having my own bricks and mortar vintage store was always lingering in the back of my mind, but I just wasn’t ready for it yet.  I started thinking of concepts outside of the square that might get me noticed, while also protecting my stock.

caravan

Photo courtesy of Trish Hunter and “The Vintage Post”

Then, the caravan popped into my head. At the time however, it felt really silly. Surely that couldn’t work? Could it? I put it in the back of my head, but it kept coming up. I was designing my shop inside a caravan.  I was starting to obsess over it, so I hit up google and typed in something like ‘converting a caravan into a shop.’
I thought the results would leave me just as stuck as I already was, but to my delight, someone in America had done exactly what I wanted. Some people might have been disappointed to find out that their idea wasn’t original, but I was pumped! It meant my idea wasn’t ridiculous, it meant it was completely possible, and someone was making a career out of it. I wasn’t nuts! This could work!

So off I went planning, and researching restoring vintage caravans. (I have actually written two blogs that might help others wanting to start doing this process too!

http://www.thevintagepost.com/buy-vintage-caravan-look/ (there’s two parts.) This is all I wished I knew before buying mine, because I actually nearly bought three in total due to lack of knowledge.

 

Whatever happened to your lovely caravan?

 

I sold my beloved caravan around the same time I sold my bricks and mortar shop, as I’d moved on from selling vintage and wanted to start writing about it. I sold them to pursue the dream of The Vintage Post!

It got picked up from my country home one cold morning (there were tears!), towed up to Brisbane and turned into a tea house! It’s surely going to have a few different lives in it’s lifetime!

 

The Vintage Post is such a wonderful resource and online concept. How did it start?
Ooh thanks so much! It began as a small segment on my old blog called ‘Trish Hunter Finds’.  The segment was called ‘Retro Roadshow,’ I wanted to feature people’s collections!

It all blossomed from there. I wanted to feature vintage shops, businesses, services, home owners, bloggers, and more!
It turned into a sort of online magazine that really promotes vintage!

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Photo courtesy of Trish Hunter and “The Vintage Post”

I felt that with all of the vintage ‘picker’ shows around, it’s really devalued vintage. Everyone’s trying to get a bargain, and running vintage shops was getting harder and harder.  I wanted to help fix this by creating a bond with business owners and their businesses, so that people who visit The Vintage Post, could connect with the businesses before they’ve even visited, so that they see past the bargain hunt mentality, and be happy to pay the price on the ticket because they’ve had a wonderful experience and they sort of know the owners from what they’ve read.

So many directories just have a map and phone number. To me, that isn’t going to help make a sale when readers come and visit your place. They need to connect and feel excited to discover your place.

This is the connection I wanted to form.

I understand the importance of this from having had my own bricks and mortar shop.

 

How would you describe your vintage style?

 

My vintage style would probably best be described as colourful.
Most of my furniture and homewares are from the 50s/60s and my eye is particularly drawn to space age and atomic pieces. Three legs on furniture? Yes please!

My home features light solid timbers, ribbon lamps, unknown artworks, and my collection of Ellis pottery, (I have a really big thing for ceramics!) I also really love supporting Australian designed pieces. From furniture to ceramics. I love what Australia has made in the past and think they have a really strong aesthetic.

 

 

Do you see the public’s love of vintage ever fading, or going out of style?

 

I never see vintage going out of fashion, as the quality for the value is just too good. However I do see changes happening.  Particularly with clothing. The 90’s (yep the 90’s!) is back and bold and looking like it’s going to stick around for a while!
Vintage goes around in circles, so vintage itself will always be strong, it’s the things that are trendy that will change.

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Photo courtesy of Trish Hunter and “The Vintage Post”

 

What is the next thing for The Vintage Post?

 

Ooh, lots of things! This year it’s all about building up The Vintage Post even further, and getting even more exposure for the businesses that have joined our directory! That’s always the number one goal… Get people vintage shopping!

 

Something I’m super excited about is an e-book that I’ll be beginning work on shortly and hope to have published within a year. I can’t wait to tell everyone more about that but at this early stage that’s all I can say!

I’m also hoping to travel a bit more around Australia and meet with collectors! That’s my favourite part. I always learn so much and love to share it all with the world!

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Photo courtesy of Trish Hunter and “The Vintage Post”

 

Where can we find you online?

You can visit The Vintage Post at www.thevintagepost.com

I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thevintageposts

and Instagram at www.instagram.com/thevintagepost