Farewell Modernist Australia – a tribute from Secret Design Studio
Alistair McLean
Category: Dr Retro House Calls, Heritage, Real Estate

It is with a heavy heart that Secret Design Studio needs to comment on the retirement/sabbatical of one of our favourite blogs “Modernist Australia”. For those who don’t know “Modernist Australia”, is headed up by Patricia Callan & Pete Bakacs, who have been blogging on and off for about eight years about the loss of Australia’s mid-century residential heritage. Eight years is a long time in the blogging world. Secret Design Studio has been blogging (more off than on) for five years which seems like a lifetime.


For Sale

If this is the first you have heard of “Modernist Australia” it looks like you may have missed the party, and what a party! On an almost daily basis they have dredged through the real estate listings of this big brown land to bring us the best in mid-century property, which has inspired and delighted many, and raised awareness of our disappearing mid-century heritage.
In one of their final postings (19th May 2016) they wrote:

“Good morning Modernist Australians, being at a crossroads in the future of MA we have done a little thinking and have decided to take a break from the whole shebang for the foreseeable future. (Don’t worry there are no lives or minds in danger, more a desire to not be attached to the internet forever and pursue other things) We’ll be holding onto the site for the time being as there are literally hundreds of listings to browse should you so desire, but we’ll stop posting listings, news and updates.Instagram and twitter will stop as a result.
We’ve been doing this on and off for 8 years and in that time have witnessed a glorious new recognition of the value of local Australian mid-century architecture, although there is of course a seemingly endless parade of older homes in danger. We feel happy that we have contributed in a small way. We’ll continue to privately keep up the pressure and appreciation in equal measure, but are comforted by all the other people and groups out there doing the same.

Should we not return, we’d like to thank a few fellow travellers and supporters of MA:
Martin and Outre Gallery (first and foremost)
Marcus at Modern House (Got a wonderfully pedigree MCM home to sell? He’s your man)
Tim ‘Rosso’ Ross (look out for his new show on the ABC about MCM Australia this year)
Simon Reeves at Built Heritage (The future David Stratton for a yet to be realised MCM show on tellie) also to be heartily enjoyed on his Victorian Modern FB page
Generous keepers of the flame- Steven Coverdale (join his MCM FB page today!), Secret Design Studio, Alison Alexander,Annalisa Capurro and the indomitable Polly Seidler. And of course all the people who have sent us lovely emails of encouragement, thanks and houses to post up.

Time to click our ruby slippers and fly home.

Patricia Callan & Pete Bakacs”


55 Donegal Rd, Floreat WA

They have also had lots of help along the way with many contributions from fellow readers who have found praiseworthy real estate in their neighbourhood and let Modernist Australia know about it.

Secret Design Studio has also done our bit for Modernist Australia who has re-posted many of the local gems that we have discovered and posted on Secret Design Studio’s Facebook page. Secret Design Studio has also returned the favour and re-posted houses that are relevant to our Melbourne audience and credited them to Modernist Australia’s website. Our aims are aligned in raising awareness of just how special these houses are, and how unmolested examples are becoming rarer due to the development industry.
One of the things that I will really miss about Modernist Australia is that so often they said exactly what I was thinking, but without any filtering. As a small business, Secret Design Studio tries to stay as positive as possible, even when the demolition of yet another mid-century home seems inevitable. While there are some very good real estate agents handling the sale of mid-century properties, such as Sydney’s Marcus at Modern House, there are also some very bad ones, who can’t see beyond the developer’s dollar, but we can’t afford to be too antagonistic to them, which has not been the case for Modernist Australia.
Modernist Australia’s comments have always been short, well-crafted, to-the-point and a delight to read. If you have never read them here is a link:



As with any website it only stays online as long as somebody pays the bills, so eventually it will disappear, but who knows when?
Modernist Australia has spoken of their success in the “new recognition of the value of local Australian mid-century architecture”, however they have had another success which they may not be aware.  Through our day-to-day work and our “Dr Retro House Call” service we see lots of mid-century modern houses in the Melbourne area, especially in suburbs like Balwyn, Blackburn and Beaumaris. Dr Retro House Call

Sometimes these calls are for pre-purchase inspections, sometimes they are for new owners who are a bit shell-shocked at the responsibility ahead of them. In quite a few instances they have heard about the house through following Modernist Australia, who have unknowingly connected the right buyers with real estate that needed the right owners – without any help from agents, or a commission.

If you are going to miss Modernist Australia, Secret Design Studio will continue our tradition of posting interesting and relevant mid-century real estate listings on our Facebook page, ( https://www.facebook.com/SecretDesignStudio/ ) however we will never be as eloquent, or as pithy as Modernist Australia. We do not post houses where we have completed a pre-purchase inspection as it wouldn’t be fair to those clients.
Let us hope that Modernist Australia’s “break” is simply a sabbatical, and not a permanent retirement. Secret Design Studio thanks them, and wishes them the best in their future of pursuing non-internet things.