“Custodianship” is a concept that some (but not all) owners of mid-century modern homes appreciate. It is the idea that many homes change hands every 10 to 15 years, as households’ needs change, and that with any home you are only really a custodian until the next change of “custodianship”.
While most mid-century modern homes always need maintenance and renovations (as things do wear out) it is good to approach these issues with the idea of appreciating the original architecture, and style. One of the worst things to do is the ego-renovation in the current transient fashion trend to put your own stamp on a house (I’m thinking of matt-black tapware, etc) so that when your house is sold the renovations are date-stamped to a particular year which is not in keeping with the rest of the house. There are so many mid-century homes that have suffered from insensitive 1980’s renovation which are now at the stage of being replaced.
Thanks to Steven Coverdale, who runs the Mid-Century Domestic Architecture page on Facebook for alerting me to the fact that one of the mid-century modern houses that I had scanned and featured on Secret Design Studio’s Instagram feed was now on the market and looking fantastic. It is so good to see that this house has been through some careful custodians, who have completed renovations that are in keeping with the architecture. No daggy 1980’s renovations in this home – perhaps they were removed by the current custodians who have owned the home since 2007?
I thought it would be interesting to compare the original house as featured in “Australian House and Garden” from July 1959 to the current real estate listing.
For ease of readability I have copied exactly the text from the 1959 article, which was written by staff reporter Barbara Watt. It appears that some of the sentences have been abbreviated for publication.
“Four active youngsters in my home – I wouldn’t be able to cope!” – would be the cry of the owner of the average home – but Canadian born Mrs. J. Rush has everything under control and running smoothly in her child-happy house. For that’s the way her striking house has been designed to run! Architect Harold R. McCauley planned it so that every need of both children and parents were satisfied for economic and efficient family living.
The split-level house built at Killara, N.S.W has many unique features to which this efficiency can be attributed.
Textured surfaces give character.
A decorative feature worth noting is the number of textures used in this fascinating house of different levels. In the living and dining areas, brick walls have been treated differently, one rendered and painted leaving the brick pattern showing. The several sandstone planters give a touch of sophistication and unusual dividers of white painted one quarter inch wire mesh with block of grey and white painted wood set into the wire give character.
In the living area, against a timber wall, cantilevered stairs with recessed carpet in treads to prevent noise, lead to the main bedroom, bathroom and Margo’s bedroom. These three room form the only two storey part of the house and they also open onto a small cantilevered terrace.
Dining area, level with the kitchen and five steps from the living area, has a cocktail bar at one end. Over dining table is a hanging light fitment with three recessed globes. Natural light floods the room during the day through the top part of the floor to ceiling glass panels which are un-curtained. Olive green and white alternatively placed curtains, give privacy to the bottom part.
Carport at rear of house has concrete floor which provides extra play space for the kiddies on rainy days.
With the auction of this property on November 17th 2018 please visit the listing for inspection times:
To join Steven Coverdale’s “Mid-Century Domestic Architecture” facebook group please follow this link:
To follow Secret Design Studio on Instagram please follow this link:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
Thanks for your time, and I hope you enjoy meeting lots of Melbourne people at today’s Beaumaris Modern Open House event.
With almost 6000 people following Secret Design Studio on Facebook I thought it would be interesting to get some opinions about the best way to furnish a mid-century or post-war home from a broad range of people including buyers, sellers, stylists and real-estate agents.
On the 26th July I posted “Secret Design Studio regularly gets contacted by folks who are having to sell their parents home. Often it is the house they have grown up in, so while sentimentally attached to the home, they still would like to maximise the sale value.
Quite often these homes were built by their parents, have been cherished, loved, and well maintained, but are sitting on valuable real estate, such as this home in a prime corner position in Oakleigh South.
So my question to you is “How important is the original furniture to the presentation of an older home if you were a potential buyer?”. In this vendors case the agent recommended removing their stylish mid-century sofa, dining suite, and table (in these photos), to be replaced with some fairly generic standard display furniture which is inoffensive and not memorable.
So if the original furniture is in good, presentable condition, and tells the story of the home, is it better to keep it on display, or broaden the appeal with something generic? I personally prefer the furniture that has been removed than what has been displayed, but then I am not a typical buyer.
If you are emptying out someone else’s home for sale this blog post may be interesting:
I was pleased with the number of responses, and also the variety of opinions.
In the “keep the furniture in the home” side were the following responses:
“I tell all of my clients with these style of homes and furniture to leave the furniture in the home PLEASE do not remove it. It not only adds to the style of the home, makes the photography so much more lovely and shows that this is someones home. Vacant homes do not nor do mid century homes with modern styled furniture. All for leaving the furniture in place and have had many wonderful successes for my clients because of this.” Pathrina Watson, Sales Agent at WJ Tobin and Co Real Estate
“Keep the original furniture and add a few new pieces to freshen up the house. This candy furniture that is in every house is too generic and spoils the soul of the home.” Caroline Lawton
“Estate agents often get kick backs for recommending house dressers, so if the house already looks good with a de clutter of personal items, then leave it.
We sold a brand new unit, made the mistake of spending a ton and a half on dressing, only to speak to another (more down to earth) agent who said “I’m selling the house, not the furniture” JoJo Wiffrie
“To me, keeping the well cared for original furniture is best. It tells me that this house has likely been cared for and well maintained, just like its contents. When everything in it is new and generic “dress the house for sale” stuff it feels like it’s soul has been ripped out.
Having said this, it’s probably a waste asking us because we all love this era. Removing stuff that’d make the house seem “dated” might broaden the appeal, but if it’s a cherished house, would they prefer it was bought by a mid century lover you’ll respect it as it was, or someone that could gut it or pull it down? There’s many points to consider on both sides of the argument.” Jaime-Lee Lithgow
“I am going through this now – they wanted all y mid-century furniture gone & it all painted white. I said no. If furniture in good condition, I say keep t there.” El von Glorious
“I prefer the original furniture as it usually fits better with the style of the house.” Amanda Heinze
“Original, original, original is of utmost importance just like location, location, location ☆☆☆☆☆” Kathy Allerton
“The original furniture is stunning and should have been left. If you can’t walk into a house and see past the furniture and see yourself there, maybe it’s not the house for you.” Dona Pentland
In the “Restyle for something clean, contemporary and generic”:
“When selling you need to take the emotion out of it….we were asked the same thing and we removed the stuff. Id say keep some and mix with new. The lighter, crisper and newer the wider the net of potential buyers. After all you are trying to sell the place.” John Papas
As a real estate agent and someone who loves mid century homes and furniture, I imagine this particular home you are mentioning was overdue for a refresh before going to the market for sale. I expect it needed to be painted and simply put a white tone is best for this purpose to add light and keep it simple. I would suggest a mixture of the mid century furniture from the home and some soft furnishings and linen from the stylist to add an element of appeal to the broader market. Always best to have a home furnished to create an aspirational setting for the buyer and maximise the interest and price.” Anne Einarson
“Good question. As someone in the market for a mid century home I’d say a mix. If you’re trying to appeal to a mid century lover then the furniture will appeal to them too! But I think the style needs to have a clean and minimal look to it so I can see myself and my stuff in the home, and not just feel like I’m in someone else’s. Keep the coffee table and dining suite but remove some clutter or any furniture which makes the space feel more crowded.” Laura Cope
So it looks like the jury is out. So much will depend on the house, the condition of the furniture and the market. But I think that everybody agrees that if the furniture is looking sad and tired, or it does not complement the architectural style of the home then it should be moved out, and replaced.
If you need help in making some hard decisions in preparing a mid-century or post-war home for sale feel free to book in a Dr Retro House Call for a two hour consultation.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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!
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.
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 email@example.com.
Did you know that Secret Design Studio also has an Instagram page?
Instagram launched in October 2010, and Secret Design Studio launched in November 2010. However it took about six years for me to discover Instagram. I started Secret Design Studio’s Instagram feed at the suggestion of the designers of this website, Silverlane, who told me that many people may actually be interested in what I see and do on a typical work day.
I approached Instagram with some scepticism, as I thought that I had my social media bases covered with Facebook. However Secret Design Studio’s Instagram feed is quite different to Secret Design Studio’s Facebook posts (and this blog), as it is a visual diary of the interesting mid-century and post-war houses (as well as other related images) that I photograph on my travels.
Over the rest of 2016, and through 2017 I was surprised at the level of interest, and I gained more confidence in snapping photos and using photo editing apps on my smartphone. Most of the photos are my own, but I sometimes mix it up with scans from “Australian House and Garden” and “Australian Home Beautiful”, and the occasional real estate photo, where I have provided a link to the real estate agent’s listing on Secret Design Studio’s Facebook page.
So half way through 2018 and the number of people following Secret Design Studio on Instagram has just passed 2000 people (with 1226 photos). So I guess I can retire my initial skepticism about the level of interest in yet another social media platform. Thanks Silverlane for encouraging me to start on Instagram.
Here are some photos taken over the past month, and you can see that I have covered a fair distance to keep up with the enquiries for our “Dr Retro House Call” service.
Here is a link to Secret Design Studio’s Instagram feed:
Here is a link to our “Dr Retro House Call” service for anybody who is considering renovating their mid-century or post-war house (but isn’t sure about where to start):
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.
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.
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).
Q3) What is the typical colour palette associated with Mid Century artworks?
A3) A very broad spectrum but lots of colour.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Outre Gallery is at 249-251 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, between Little Bourke Street and Lonsdale Street.
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:
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:
For more information on gallery midlandia please visit here:
I am very fortunate that I get to see the inside of lots of mid-century and post war homes. But you know a home is really special when you can remember if really well from five years ago.
Five years ago today I attended the auction of Dr Ernest and Noemi Fooks’ beautiful home when it sold for $2.41m at 32 Howitt Road North Caulfield. Here are some photos from the original listing in 2013, and some auction videos. Like so many houses of this era it is fairly understated from the street, with the most impressive parts only visible to those lucky enough to see inside. Despite being placed on the National Trust Heritage Register in 2002 by Noemi Fooks (smart move), the current owners proposed to demolish the existing kitchen and add a second storey, which the National Trust objected to back in February 2017. Secret Design Studio has had no involvement with the owners or their plans to demolish the kitchen, or the new work.
The issue appears that Fooks were a childless couple, and built their home as their forever home – Noemi lived to be 104! So naturally they weren’t interested in resale value and the bedroom accommodation was fairly modest by contemporary standards. However they enjoyed entertaining on a grand scale, so the emphasis on the design was the free-flowing, generous, open plan living spaces, rather than bedroom accommodation.
Here is a link to Gary Peer’s promotional video:
One of the stand-out features of this home was the beautifully considered and built details throughout. While the real estate agent’s photos are good for getting an overall perspective of this property, there aren’t any detail photos. I snapped a few during an open for inspection, and I apologise for the quality. When a house is crowded with people just prior to an auction it is hard to get a well composed photo with the right lighting.
At this point in time I have no idea if the owners have been successful with their plans to extend, but I suspect that they have not. If I hear anything to the contrary on the grapevine I will update this blog to reflect the current status.
I have known about the Finnish design brand Marimekko since I was a child in the 1960’s. But it has been through my work with my clients, and their Pettit and Sevitt homes of the 1960’s and 1970’s, as well as the contributions of the members of the “Pettit and Sevitt Owners and Friends Club”, that I have had more exposure to this vibrant design company.
The opportunity to see more was too great to resist as I recently made the day trip to the Marimekko exhibition at the Bendigo Art Gallery (3 March 2018 to 11 June 2018), where I learnt more about the company, it’s history and it’s design aesthetic.
Marimekko was established in the post war-years in Helsinki, by the wife of the owner of a textile printing company, Armi Ratia. She started by engaging some promising young artists to design some bold, colourful and dramatic patterns. She then used the services of local fashion designer, Ritta Immomen, to design a range of dresses that were presented in a fashion show in May 1951. This show was well received by the buying public and was the first step towards Marimekko’s success. During the 1950’s the company was primarily a small business focussing on clothes made with the fabrics containing their bold designs, with the first dressmaking shop opening in 1959. The clothing designs were very simple and clean, almost sparse, so as not to interrupt the printed patterns in the fabric. “Marimekko” is a combination of two words: “Mari” for Mary, and “mekko” meaning dress. Their clothing was intended for every woman.
While they had been exporting to Sweden in the 1950’s, their big international break came exporting to Design Research, a business with a chain of stores in America in 1959. In 1960 Marimekko became a household name when Jacqueline Kennedy bought seven Marimekko dresses. She was photographed with her husband for the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing one of the soon to be iconic Marimekko styles.
In the 1960’s, Australia’s society interior designer, Marion Hall Best, started to import Marimekko materials, which were displayed in her Woollahra showroom. She introduced these fabrics to the Australian public by specifying them in her commissions which were very colourful and widely published.
Shortly afterwards, Pettit and Sevitt, the modernist inspired, project home builder, started to use Marimekko fabrics in their popular display homes as they were a very complementary fit with their modernist origins. During the 1960’s Marimekko rapidly expanded by bringing international designers into the Marimekko stable, growing the number of retail outlets, and expanding into homewares.
The Bendigo Art Gallery’s exhibition was spectacular, thoughtfully curated and featured everything you would want to know about Marimekko. This ranged from designers’ hand sketches, to artists’ bold paints, and homewares. The exhibition’s focal point was a broad range of their clothes from the various decades displayed on mannequins, with many large samples of their fabric designs as backdrops. There were some interesting videos showing the design and production techniques, as well as Marimekko souveniers at the art gallery shop. If that wasn’t enough there was also a pop-up Marimekko shop almost opposite the gallery.
Some of the fabrics I recognised, such as the classic “Unikko” poppy print, but most I didn’t know, but they were easily recognisable as belonging to the Marimekko stable with their colour confidence and form. The whole exhibition was one of the most joyous and colourful exhibitions I have ever seen. It made me think about the current fashion in interior design for the endless variations of greys, beiges and “greiges” that seem to populate all of our design magazines. Perhaps a good dose of Marimekko fabrics and home décor could be the antidote to the current fashion for greige houses?
For information on the opening dates and times for the Marimekko exhibition at Bendigo Art Gallery (closes 11th June 2018), here is a link:
To join the “Pettit and Sevitt Owners and Friends Club” on Facebook here is a link:
To learn more about Marimekko in Australia here is a link to their Australian website:
If you have enjoyed this blog post and would like to be notified about future blog posts please consider subscribing to our free newsletter:
Most people at some stage in their lives will have the duty of having to clear out somebody else’s home. A relative may have passed away, or has moved into a nursing home, or simply the homeowner is physically, or mentally, incapable of doing the hard yards themselves. Every few months Secret Design Studio gets a phone call for help from a distressed person who has this duty, but doesn’t know how, or where to start, so this posting is for anybody who finds themselves in this situation.
There is one thing harder than organising a funeral for a relative, and that is cleaning out their home after their death. Invariably this is an emotional and difficult time with so much family history and many memories tied up with even the most mundane, household objects. The amount of work and the emotions are much the same if an elderly relative is moving into a nursing home and is physically incapable of clearing a home out. For some people this sorting and revisiting the past is too painful and they either delay the process, sometimes for years, or just get some burly blokes to put everything into a skip, and off to landfill, much to their later regret.
This posting is to help people who are still coping with grief, make a start on this difficult process, and to help them make some decisions about (re)moving a household of somebody else’s stuff. The worst thing to do is to box it all up and store it somewhere until the grief has passed in the hope that the boxes can be sorted at some indefinite stage in the future. There is an emotional and financial cost to storage, and if the boxes are not stored in a suitable secure and dry environment the contents can deteriorate. It is possible to waste thousands of dollars on storage fees to eventually discover that the boxes of items that have been stored away have little value.
Whatever work needs to be done should be completed in conjunction with the executor of the estate in case the will has left particular items to individual family members, or left to a charity. A careful, ongoing tally should be made for any expenses, such as removalist fees, auction fees, cleaning products, tip fees, as well as any sale prices so that the process is completely transparent to the executor of the estate and all family members. There may also be tax implications to an estate so this should be considered.
WHAT GOAL IS THE MOST IMPORTANT?
The process of clearing out a relatives’ home is physically and emotionally tough, and should not be the responsibility of a single person. There are a million decisions to be made along the way so all that are involved should work out a primary goal beforehand about what they are trying to achieve, and how it can be done, while sharing the load. Often there is a deadline involved, such as the house going on the market, or new tenants moving in, which just adds to the pressure cooker situation.
Whoever will be doing the hard yards will need as much support as possible, but before the process commences it is worthwhile to do some basic housekeeping. Jobs like cleaning out old food from the fridge, disposing of any perishable foods, ensuring that the electricity is not disconnected and making sure there is coffee and tea available (or more) available for anybody working in the house.
The family should decide on the key goal to work towards, as some goals exclude other goals, so not all goals can be achieved. Suggested goals to be considered:
Goal 1 – the property must be completely clear in a very short time frame. (fast and expensive option)
Goal 2 – to maximise the value of items sold. (slow and cheap option)
Goal 3 – to minimise the amount going to landfill. (slowest and cheapest option)
Goal 4 – to get the property cleared without a huge time commitment from the family. (fastest and most expensive option)
Goal 5 – to minimise potential disharmony within the family.(usually excludes goals 1 and 4)
DECEASED ESTATE JEWELLERY, WAR MEDALS, COIN COLLECTIONS AND WATCHES
Estate jewellery can be a minefield for a family due to its emotional and financial value, and its small size. Some jewellery can look like junk, and actually be quite valuable, and the reverse is also true. In the ideal situation the original owner would have left instructions for what should happen to any jewellery (including watches) but this rarely happens.
Quite often older generations passed down jewellery, so great, great grandmothers wedding ring may be in the jewellery box, but has never been worn in contemporary times. One of the first jobs is to photograph and catalogue all of the jewellery so that it is easier to keep track of it, to work out which pieces are passed on to family members, and to start to get valuations if it is to be sold. Don’t leave estate jewellery in an empty house, especially if there are people such as removalists, cleaners, valuers, tradesmen, who are outside the family who are visiting the home. Until the value is ascertained it should be stored securely off-site.
While some older pieces would probably not be worn today due to their old-fashioned style, it is sometimes possible to get a piece remodelled. The diamond from great, great grandmother’s wedding ring could see new life with a family member if the setting was remodelled. Remodelling of estate jewellery to remain in the family can be a better compromise then selling it to somebody outside the family who will profit from buying it cheaply.
After confirming with the executor of the estate, if the family does decide to sell some estate jewellery there are a couple of auction houses in Melbourne that can assist such as Abbeys Auctions of Box Hill, Philips Auctions in Malvern, and Leonard Joel, who has an online valuation service. Due to the competitive nature of the auction process the prices will generally be better than that offered by a single jewellery buyer.
Art, sculpture and collections.
Like jewellery the value of art is really a specialist field, but before you go to the trouble of getting valuations there are a few guidelines to consider.
Most framed pictures that end up in auction houses from deceased estates are not worth much, unless they are by well known artists. There is quite a lot of amateur art in this category, where somebody has dabbled in art as a hobby and resulted in pieces that may have a high sentimental value, but low financial value.
Due to the increase in value of Australian contemporary art it is possible that a passionate person with modest means could collect art that has substantially increased in value since it was purchased. Signatures to watch out for may include Albert Tucker, Fred Williams, Arthur Boyd, Brett Whiteley and John Olsen, but there are many more. There are lots of internet resources available to establish the importance and profile of an artist. Art work that is by an unrecognised artist is assessed on condition and aesthetic value, and often the frame is worth more than the work.
You should try and establish if a piece is an original work of art, a print, an amateur artist’s work, or one of the many souvenir pieces that were churned out by Chinese factory painters. Often the back of the artwork can provide as much information as the front. The quality of the frame, and how it is assembled can also give a few clues about its potential value. Generally nobody spends good money on an expensive frame for low value art.
Most people who own valuable art, don’t just buy one piece, they get bitten by the collector bug and buy more. If there is one art piece of value, there is likely to be more.
Some prints, such as those by J H Lynch, Vladimir Tretchikoff, and Slim Aarons, are highly collectible, especially if they are in good condition, and while not as valuable as an original, can still be worth quite a few dollars. If you can find an original work by one of these artists you are very lucky. Ebay’s selling prices (not listing prices) can be a good way to identify the value of prints that are collectible.
For the remarkable story about the collection of Australian art left by Alan Boxer follow this link:
Preparing a house to put on the market
Most real estate that is on the market that has been a deceased estate seems to have every last item from the previous owners removed and presented as a blank canvas. This often removes any personality from a home, and some potential buyers do have trouble imagining how they could live in a home when there is no furniture to give them a visual clue. If a house is in an area where many homes are being demolished for redevelopment then an empty home will hold more appeal to a developer than somebody looking to live in a home.
Some vendors engage a real estate stylist who can organise contemporary furniture to be hired for the duration of the marketing process. While there is a cost engaging a professional stylist they can substantially improve the visual appeal of a home to the market, which will improve the price, and possibly reduce the chance of the home being demolished for redevelopment.
If the furniture is appropriate to the style of the home then another option is to declutter the home, but leave the nicer pieces that will complement the home and assist the marketing process. This is especially true of any mid-century furniture in a mid-century home, and is the first thing that I look for to feature in social media. Remove any visually heavy pieces, such as large recliner chairs, that eat up space. Remove any pieces that say “deceased estate” such as walking frames, wheelchairs and medical items. If you need a hand in deciding what should be kept and what should be removed then engage a real estate stylist. After the sale of the house this furniture will need to be removed, but occasionally the new owners may offer to purchase it if it works well with the house.
What items from a deceased estate should go to family members?
Try and match items with relatives who are going to love and cherish the items as if they are their own, in a reasonably fair and equitable manner. For many family members there can be more emotional value attached to a piece, especially if there is a strong association with a deceased person, then there is a financial value. Unless a piece is a design classic, with a design pedigree, such as a Featherston chair, or a Meadmore dining setting, then most second-hand furniture has a very low value on the second-hand furniture market, and will not provide a substantial financial return.
One of the challenges in dealing with a deceased estate is that different family members measure the worth of a piece in different ways – some will value the aesthetics, some will value the emotional connection, some will value the usefulness and some will only value the financial worth. For instance a university student setting up a student household will find that the fridge, TV and the contents of the cutlery drawers may be more valuable to them than the 6 seater dining table and matching hutch. I have a relative who has recently purchased a rambling 1880’s house in the country (with no built-in-robes), and she values my recently passed aunt’s collection of gigantic oak wardrobes, that nobody else in the family would want, or could accommodate.
This can be very difficult to resolve when emotions are running high. Every family dynamic is different so don’t let one person cherry pick the most valuable items, especially if they don’t have the space to keep and use them, as they will just end up being sold. If spouses and in-laws get an opportunity to put forward their opinions it can get very complicated and messy. At the end of the day the long term harmony of family relationships is more valuable than the few dollars that most second hand pieces will secure on the market.
Don’t assume that a family member will actually want a particular piece. Most people already have a house full of furniture, and won’t want to make room for inherited pieces if it doesn’t fit their lifestyle or home. While older furniture is usually better made, and was more expensive than contemporary furniture, many younger people prefer the more disposable furniture that follows contemporary trends, and don’t appreciate furniture that was built to last a lifetime.
A great example of this is the beautiful furniture made by Tessa, which is still available at a premium price as new. Second-hand Tessa three-piece lounge suits can be purchased for 10% of the new cost, as the build quality, and comfort is not generally appreciated. The same can be said of Moran Chesterfield sofas that were built to last a lifetime, and are available second-hand (some with patina), at a fraction of the new cost.
Many of my clients have one or two pieces inherited from a relative’s estate, and they are often the centrepiece of a room, so this is the ideal result. If somebody ends up with a piece that they cannot keep due to their circumstances it should be offered to the other family members before being disposed of outside the family.
There are costs in storing and moving furniture, and most deceased estates need to be cleared to a deadline. If a family member would like a piece of furniture then they should be made aware of the time constraints and the family should work out about the costs of moving, and who pays for it. Sometimes the cost of moving a large piece a long distance is more than the financial value of the piece.
Family photos and deceased estates.
Most photos in a deceased estate will be of family, but sometimes they are of historical events, or buildings that may have value to a historical society or museum. Family photos are items of high emotional and historical worth, but of no financial value. Whether they are in photo albums, framed on the wall, in boxes of slides, or stored unsorted, they should not be disposed of during the clean out. In addition there is the problem of the digital age, of photos being stored on hard-drives, that are lost forever when the computer is disposed of. Hard drives should be checked for photos before an old computer is dumped.
The best family photos are usually the ones in frames and were sometimes taken by a professional photographer. It is worthwhile to carefully remove these photos from the frames and have them professionally scanned and digitised to share with family members and as a historical record. They will also be easier to store and archive without the frames.
Storing and cataloguing photos from a lifetime can be a monumental task, and not achievable in a short time. One solution is to move all of the photos off-site so that they can be sorted, scanned and catalogued when time allows. There are a number of tools that make this easier, including using a high-quality phone camera that can automatically upload the photos to a drop-box account to ease the sorting and cataloguing process. Quite often the rear of a photo may have a hand written date and description of the people in the photo so these should be recorded as well. It is also possible to buy a dedicated photo scanner, which is a small hand held device that can scan directly onto a memory card and will give a higher quality result than with a phone camera.
If the house is being prepared for sale framed photos (and artwork) on the wall may be better left there for the marketing campaign, especially if it is on wallpaper. Often wallpaper fades with time and by taking the frame off the wall leaves a “ghost” of the frame and the leftover hook.
The leftovers, and minimising land-fill.
So once the family has selected the items that they can accommodate and use what about the leftovers? There are a whole lot of options depending on how much time and effort the family is prepared to put into the work involved, however there is no magic bullet to maximise the return, with the minimum amount of time, effort and cost.
There are some items that can’t be sold, and can’t be given to charity, such as used mattresses and manchester, so these could go straight into a skip bin. If beds are staying to be part of the real estate campaign then keep the mattresses for the time being with new manchester. There are some items that are difficult to sell such as cathode ray televisions, recliner chairs, walking frames etc, so charity donations may be the easiest option if they are in good condition, and a skip bin if not.
Unfortunately the value of second-hand furniture is highly variable depending on its age, condition, style, location and if it is reproduction or original. Furniture of the past twenty-five years or so is a small fraction of its original purchase price as it is not valued. However it takes a trained eye to assess items of worth.
Many of the heavier, dark timbered, antique pieces which were purchased at a premium in the 1970’s have lost value as they are no longer popular for use in contemporary interiors. The same applies for the reproduction Georgian and Regency styles which have very low market value today. Formal dining settings have taken a big hit on the second-hand furniture market so don’t expect to get much for these which is heartbreaking if it was expensive and in good condition.
Perhaps the most worthless furniture pieces today are the big timber wall units that were designed to accommodate boxy, deep televisions. With the advent of cheap, larger flat-screen televisions nobody needs a deep wall unit for a TV. Good prices can still be obtained for top tier hi-fi units, but unless it is really top end, then it is not worth much as technology has really overtaken the record player, tape deck, radio tuner and giant speaker boxes.
If you are really lucky you may have a Featherston chair or two, that may look the worse for wear and requires re-upholstering. Before you throw anything out as it needs re-upholstering be sure of the vintage and value, as the right mid-century chair can be worth thousands of dollars even in poor condition.
There is a lot of mid-century furniture in deceased estates, but it isn’t necessarily valuable, especially if it has been renovated, poorly repaired or painted. When preparing a piece for sale it is best to give it a light clean, get rid of the spider webs and dust, but don’t spend any money on trying to fix it as you may inadvertently devalue it. Do not remove any stickers or labels that identify the piece. If there is any paperwork about the purchase it can increase the value of the piece knowing the heritage of the piece.
Getting outside help with a deceased estate.
There are companies that will help clear out a home, but there are costs involved.
Some companies such as Canard Solutions, offer a complete service that specializes in managing the dispersal and sale of personal estates, with fees based on the size of the project and which is recovered from the sales of the estate. They work to achieve the best value for their clients and reducing the pressure for them at a critical time. One of their services is to create an online catalogue of the estate so that family members, who may be geographically remote, can collaborate together to work out who gets what.
Then there are companies that offer estate clearance services. The problem is that the value of the contents is usually not very high, there is a lot of labour involved, and the stuff that can’t be readily sold will go to landfill, where there are tip fees. If the valuable stuff has already gone to family members then the remainder is harder to sell, and their costs will be for the labour and tip fees.
Calling in a second-hand furniture dealer has its limitations. They are only interested in pieces that they recognise that they can clean up and resell at a profit. They usually will not show any interest in the pieces that need a lot of work (such as a lounge suite that needs re-upholstering), or pieces that they can’t move quickly. They will make low offers on the best pieces, especially if they think that they are the only dealer in the running, and leave the less valuable stuff behind for the family to deal with. They are a business, their business relies on turn-over, and they can’t afford to sit on pieces for months. Nor can they wait around for the family to decide if their low offers are acceptable. Sometimes if there are a couple of high value pieces (such as a set of Featherstone chairs) they will offer a low figure to take everything, keep the valuable items and send the rest to landfill.
If you just need help with sorting and making decisions then a professional organiser may be a good starting point. Secret Design Studio has recommended to a few of our clients to Amanda from “Organising You”, who is a whirlwind of efficiency and common sense with challenging sorting and organising projects. Amanda is part of the Australian Association of Professional Organisers if you need help in finding a local person.
Secret Design Studio is not in the business of buying or selling second-hand furniture from a deceased estate, so cannot provide valuations.
Once furniture and household goods have been sorted the family may want to consider the auction process to try and maximise the value. Whether it is a traditional bricks and mortar auction company, or an online one, there are fees which are usually a commission as a percentage of the sold value.
Some auction houses have moved into the 21st century and conduct their live auctions online, so it is possible to broaden the potential bidders to include those who can’t physically attend the auction house.
Abbey’s Auctions of Box Hill conduct online/real time auctions and have an online catalogue with suggested prices for each lot, which is a valuable resource. They generally sell a few deceased house lots every Friday. This is a very convenient approach to empty a house of furniture quickly and conveniently. In addition Abbeys Auctions also have an estate management service to assist with deceased estates.
However, the family will need to sort through the house and clear it of stuff that they won’t sell, such as mattresses, manchester, clothes, toiletries, paperwork, etc. In addition there is the cost of moving all of the household items to the auction house, and a commission which is based on a percentage of the sale. Large (or valuable) items are sold as individual lots, and smaller items such as books, DVD’s, tools are boxed up and sold as a lot. A shelf of books is one lot, a box of tools is one lot, etc.
For larger estates with a lot of high value lots some auction houses may also offer to conduct the auction on-site, but the success of this depends on the amount of bidders that they can draw with their advertising so it has its risks. For special items of high value a specialist auction house such as Leonard Joel’s may be the answer, but they wouldn’t normally auction the everyday items. They regularly conduct themed auctions to draw bidders of similar interest together which is of benefit to the sellers.
Many of the buyers at these deceased estate auctions are dealers, but they are competing against each other and they will only buy what they think they can clean-up and can resell for a higher price. As a result you will not be able to sell furniture to a dealer at an auction at a “retail” price. The upside to this is that dealers need to have a good eye for the pieces that are valuable (that you may not have recognised), and when a few dealers recognise the value they will bid against each other. You may get also get a rude awakening when you realize that a large, once cherished piece of furniture, which cost a fortune is not valued, or appreciated today, so that it sells for a lot less than you thought it may be worth.
The other buyers at Abbey’s Auctions are students and people looking up to set up a house cheaply, so will buy white goods, televisions, etc. These people are looking for a bargain, and like real estate the value is what the market will pay for on the day. You will get a small financial return on this furniture, and it will be a small fraction of the new price. The sad fact of the matter is that unless a piece is special, most second-hand furniture has very low resale value.
The main benefit of dealing with a reputable auction house such as Abbeys, is that with the quantity of stock that they handle every week they have a very good understanding of how much a piece will sell for at auction. They can advise on the range to expect, they will encourage you to set a realistic reserve, and if an item does not meet their suggested reserve then you may end up donating it to charity.
Then there is the online selling options such as Ebay and Gumtree. The online auction process has the best potential to maximise the return, however is definitely the most time-consuming, needs the most amount of work, and should only be considered by those who can take a decent digital photo (and know how to upload it) and who can write a description. Ebay provides a level playing field for dealers and household buyers, and auctions can run over 10 days to maximise the potential exposure. To get an indication of the value of an item find something similar and see what it sells for at the conclusion of the auction. Other seller’s reserve prices are not an indication of the market value, but their own wishful (and usually unrealistic) thinking. Location also has an influence on price, so a mid-century G Plan coffee table in Melbourne’s inner suburbs, which has a large number of potential buyers, will sell for more than the same G Plan table if it was listed in Broken Hill.
It is important that prior to any photos being taken the piece is lightly cleaned up, without the labels removed. Items should be photographed in a good light and presented with a good description to maximise the level of interest. Some dealers actually scour ebay listings for poorly presented items as they know that bidder interest will be low, and the item can be can be secured at a bargain price. Many dealers photograph their furniture outside with a neutral backdrop. Don’t let the background distract from the item being sold.
If there is any damage this should be described and photographed. If there are any labels they should be photographed and included in the listing. A description should include the suburb location and all dimensions. If the piece is big or heavy you should state clearly if it will split into parts, and how many men will be needed to move it. Some potential buyers like to inspect a piece before bidding so somebody should be available to meet them at a pre-arranged time. You should never let anyone know the piece is from a deceased estate, and that the location is in an empty house.
Just like an in-house auction the market should determine the value of the price. A high reserve price will discourage bidders, but a very low reserve price will encourage interest, watchers and bidders. An item with a reserve price that is too high will languish on Ebay with few watchers and no bidders. Just like an in-house auction there are commissions to Ebay based on the final auction value, but you don’t have the cost of moving the items to another address to auction it.
Ebay can be a good avenue to find a buyer for collections, such as butterflies, coins, stamps, model trains etc, that wouldn’t necessarily sell well, unless it was part of a specialist auction. If you can’t accurately describe the item, photograph it and prepare a listing you may be better contacting Leonard Joel who regularly do specialised auctions.
One of the downsides of Ebay is the buyers. Some people ask to inspect an item, but don’t show up at the pre-arranged time, so it is always a good idea to swap phone numbers when arranging to meet. Even though it is against Ebay’s rules there are a few bad buyers out there who decide after they have won an auction that they have changed their minds, and won’t proceed with the purchase. If this is the case then it is best to relist the item, or contact the under-bidders, but this can be time consuming.
Other disposal options
The suburban garage sale can be a lot of work for a minimal return as everything needs to be cleaned, labelled and presented in a saleable condition. The buyers will be either the dealers, who will swoop in early to get the most valuable stuff, and any locals who are free on the day. Garage sales are fraught with danger for a family as the remaining items at the end of the day have their prices negotiated down by potential buyers. The family has to be quite clear about who has the right to negotiate and when as you don’t want any bad feelings that somebody accepted offers that were too low. Garage sales can also be affected by the weather, so a lot of preparation work can go to waste if there is a wet weekend.
There is also the charity donation option for unwanted items that are in good condition, still saleable, but you can’t sell. There are lots of charity bins for clothes etc near railway stations. These items are then sorted for re-sale, or to be sent to third world countries, or to be converted to rags. The Smith Family appears to be the biggest for accepting donations of quality, wearable clothing (but not furniture).
Charities, such as St Vincent de Pauls and the Smith Family are picky about what they will accept as they spend a lot of money disposing of dumped items that are unsellable. For this reason St Vincent’s charity shops will not accept electrical goods, and many don’t have the resources to accept furniture at their shops. For St Vincent’s it is best to call and get one of their trucks to visit and take away the furniture that they can sell, or give to needy households. They don’t have the time, money or resources to repair broken items for resale so you are better off fixing it yourself or sending it straight to the tip.
Finally there is the tip. There are costs involved with getting rid of rubbish, but there are ways to reduce this cost. Obviously the more items that can be distributed to family members, sold, or donated to charity will reduce the amount of left-over stuff for the tip.
One company that helps load and dispose of rubbish without everything going straight to landfill is “1800-Got_Junk”, who advertise that mattresses, electrical equipment, etc are separated out for recycling, rather than everything going straight to landfill.
If you don’t want to pay for rubbish removal labour then there is always the do-it-yourself skip option. Usually skip bin hire is for a limited time, so you need to be organised and know what is going in the skip. Skip bin size is priced and measured in cubic metres, but it is often difficult to calculate how big a skip bin you will need. Some skip bins make loading larger items easier by having doors at the back, so you can just walk in, known as “walk-in” bins, rather than manhandling heavy items over the lip. As you are being charged by the cubic metre it makes sense to put compressible items, such as mattresses, at the bottom of the skip bin, and heavier items, such as fridges, at the top.
Another way to reduce skip size requirements is to mimimise by dividing the waste into recyclable and non-recyclable items and take them to your local recycling centre.
There is a lot of hard work, a lot of time, a lot of difficult decisions, and a lot of emotion involved in cleaning up a deceased estate. In an ideal world every family member would be able to contribute equally to the huge effort, but every individual has different commitments and availability. It can be a pretty dreadful time for some families but clear communication, commitment and good organisation can make this process a little easier. Don’t be afraid to engage people from outside the family, who have an emotional detachment to the situation, to assist with the hard yards if necessary.
Secret Design Studio is not in the business of buying or selling second-hand furniture from a deceased estate, so cannot provide valuations. If you would like to make an appointment for a Dr Retro House Call to discuss a deceased estate (or any other design aspect of a mid-century home) then check out our website and referrals.
If you would like to print out this document to share with others it is available as a free, downloadable .pdf file from our website. Here is the link: