Alistair: Posted on Thursday, 3 May 2012 11:39 PM
(Pic 1 above – This is a great image from McCall’s Book of Modern Houses http://pinterest.com/secretdesign/mccall-s-book-of-modern-houses/ and is very similar to the rear terrace of this house which is about to hit the market. Hopefully it will look this good when it does reach the market)
Secret Design Studio’s work often touches around the edges of the dark art of buying and selling real estate, but usually as a third party to the transaction. For instance a client, or potential client, approaches Secret Design Studio to assist them working out the potential (and risks) of purchasing a particular property and to get an idea about sympathetic renovation, and what can realistically be achieved.
However in this posting we are going to dabble in real estate and let you know a bit about a very desirable 1960’s house that looks like it is heading to the market, probably for spring. The vendors, who are not Secret Design Studio, would really like their family home to be sold to a family who appreciates mid-century modern architecture.
Secret Design Studio can promise you that we are not about to launch into the business of selling architectural houses. A company like Modern House, http://www.modernhouse.co/ doesn’t need to worry that Secret Design Studio will be competing in their playing field. In fact we would be the worst agents in town as we would be trying to sell all the mid-century modern houmes to people who appreciate the style, and keep them secret from the developers and the families wanting to tear them down and build massive McMansions!
(pic 2 Pre-market dusk sneak peak – rear garden looking towards the house. Huge picture windows, looking over one of the best examples of a crazy paving terrace (and pool) that Secret design Studio has ever soon, all modestly tucked under a skillion roof. Expensive 1980’s extension to the right)
Secret Design Studio had informal discussions about 18 months ago, with Mr and Mrs C regarding their house, which they have lived in for about 10 years. They love the house, and there is much to love about this house. It is in one of Melbourne’s 1950’s suburbs that was subdivided and developed around the middle of the twentieth century. The lot runs north/south, with a northern street frontage with the lot sloping up to the rear southern boundary. On the lower level is a double garage, and adjacent to this is a spectacular curved concrete, cantilevered, stair leading to a large north facing deck, with even more spectacular views towards Deakin University.
(pic 3 pre-market sneak peak – spectacular curved cantilvered concrete stair in remarkably good condition leading from the front garden to the north facing roof top terrace.?
(pic 4 – Secret Design Studio wonders if the curved stair leading to the deck, and the flat roof was inspired by Tracy Villa from the Thunderbirds, the cool 1960’s “Supermarianation” TV show, which was one of Secret Design Studio’s favourite shows when growing up)
Large glazed double doors open onto the terrace, and there are cantilevered sun shades to provide protection from the summer sun. From Secret Design Studio’s assessment the front facade would appear to be 99% original, apart from everything being painted an apricot in the eighties. Inside there is a large open plan living/dining/family room/kitchen with large windows to the northern view, and southern windows facing onto the pool area. The house is typical of many in that it was originally modest in size, possibly only two bedrooms, and was extended in the eighties to make it three bedroom.
The extension would have been expensive in the 1980’s with lots of large panes of glass to a well-equipped ensuite (including spa), long walk-in-robe, and high ceilinged bedroom. While the eighties extension lacks subtlety at first the clean lines don’t detract from the existing home. Secret Design Studio had some preliminary discussions about Mr and Mrs C’s wishes for their new large extension, but never formalised anything into a fee proposal.
(pic 5 – pre-market sneak peak – original vertical timber panelling to the living areas, Eichler style roof with exposed timber beams, the brickwork to the hearth is not original and was probably part of the 1980’s work.)
(pic 6 Secret Design Studio would love to reinstate something that looked more authentic in the living room such as this fireplace from in the Singleton House by Richard Neutra.)
Due to the slope of the land, the strong mid-century modern character of the house (which needed a delicate touch for a sympathetic renovation) and the need for dispensation from the neighbours for the reduced front setback it was not going to be a straightforward job. Secret Design Studio can often spot options that work better for the client, at a lower cost, than their pre-conceived ideas. This skill is all part of the design process and service, and often takes years of experience to be able to think outside the constraints.
Due to the slope of the site, which does give a sense of drama, and great views (think Tracy Villa, but without the strings), it does limit the potential use for redevelopment for a new home without substantial site costs.
It is not a well known fact that most of the larger McMansion builders will not readily build on steeply sloping sites – they prefer the “low hanging fruit” easy, flat sites. If you rashly buy a steep site then you can forget building a flat earth display home, and you will need to pay for a design service that will address the slope issues in a cost effective manner. Quite often the savings made in buying a steep site, if it is cheap land, are quickly swallowed up in site costs, retaining walls and engineering fees.
(pic 7 – typical flat earth thinking of many of the larger builders to accommodate their standard product plans without needing to redesign their plans to accommodate site slope. It makes it faster and cheaper to get to the contract stage with their customer, but to the detriment of the garden areas which are then hard (and expensive) to landscape, and are less user friendly.)
One of Melbourne’s biggest builders even has an internal policy that if the fall of land over the house and garage area exceeds 2000mm (such as this site) it is subject to two different levels of management approval, a design interview plus a site visit by the construction manager, as it is all too hard for their standard product, and too time consuming to adapt their standard product for a customer’s sloping site. Secret Design Studio would hope that all of their sales consultants mention this internal policy restriction when they are taking their initial deposits from new customers.
(pic 8 – typical flat earth thinking of many of the larger builders to accommodate their standard product plans without needing to redesign their plans to accommodate site slope. It makes it faster and cheaper to get to the contract stage with their customer, but to the detriment of the garden areas which are then hard (and expensive) to landscape, and are less user friendly.)
This may seem harsh to the buyer, but the McMansion builders are simply providing a product to a customer, and that product does not include the costs of the service to adapt standard products to the customers’ sloping site. A typical McMansion purchaser is a “customer”, not a “client”, who is buying a product, and they are not engaging a professional design service as part of that product purchase. Generally the only individual service provided by a McMansion builder is the pressure cooker selection “service” that most large builders offer. The hapless customer has to make quick decisions about tapware, paint colours, floor finishes, tiling, brickwork, door handles light fittings etc. with a stopwatch being held by the colour selections girl in three hours.
(pic 9 – typical flat earth thinking of many of the larger builders to accommodate their standard product plans without needing to redesign their plans to accommodate site slope. It makes it faster and cheaper to get to the contract stage with their customer, but to the detriment of the garden areas which are then hard (and expensive) to landscape, and are less user friendly.)
Like the original builder for Mr and Mrs C’s home, the issues of a steep slope are often addressed by building strip footings and piers that supported timber bearers and timber floors which is a logical way to build on steeper sites. The large builders strongly prefer not to build this way (Internal Policy “Timber floor system is not our preferred method of construction. Any requests for strip footings is subject to etc., etc., and etc.”), and prefer concrete slabs, which mean more excavation and fill, which is less appealing, harder to landscape and harder to use for sloping sites.
Mr and Mrs C would like to sell, but they are very attached to their family home. They are in the fortunate position that they don’t need to sell, they are in no rush, and would prefer to find the right buyer who will cherish their home before they start exploring their next options.
They have already spoken to a number of local agents and were disappointed by their attitude and lack of understanding of the mid-century modern gem that could be on offer. One agent valued the home at land value, despite it being a very liveable and comfortable 3 bedroom family home, with great northern views and north facing living. A second agent decided that he could double dip, and was more interested in selling them a new home, before getting this mid-century modern treasure onto the market! Mr and Mrs C would like to sell their home to a fan of mid-century modern architecture. Perhaps a family who would like to live in a modest, but spectacularly sited family home, with lots of great period features.
But how do you get the right buyer? Mrs C approached Secret Design Studio to see if one of our blog readers (obviously good people of style and taste) would be interested, or know of anybody who would be interested, before releasing it to the open market.
Price – How much is it?
(pic 10 Secret Design Studio is lending some furniture from the Secret Design Studio Collection, such as a Harry Bertoia Diamond armchair which always works well against picture windows for that quintessential mid century modern look – it is one of those rare pieces that reads like a sculpture from any angle)
Secret Design Studio can’t tell you, except that Mr and Mrs C aren’t a charity and would like a fair and reasonable price that is more than land value. The property is currently being tidied up for a spring campaign – painting, weeding and mulching etc. Secret Design Studio doesn’t want to see the house demolished either, so has been giving a bit of advice on appropriate paint colour schemes that will work with the bold 1980’s kitchen colours. The front of the house has not been touched since the ‘80’s as the vendors plans were always to extend out the front, so the vendors are de-apricotting the front wall and trim colours. As works continues Secret Design Studio will add additional photos to Pinterest,https://pinterest.com/secretdesign/upcoming-melb-mcm-property-sales/
(pic 11 Secret Design Studio is lending some furniture from the Secret Design Studio Collection, such as a smaller version of this a Saarinen Tulip table)
In addition Secret Design Studio is lending some furniture from the Secret Design Studio Collection, such as a Harry Bertoia Diamond armchair, a Saarinen Tulip table, and a set of Verner Panton chairs, which will make the home very appealing in all of its mid century modern glory.
(pic 12 Secret Design Studio is lending some furniture from the Secret Design Studio Collection, such as a set of Verner Panton chairs which will look great on the crazy paved terrace next to the pool.)
Secret Design Studio has also lent Mr and Mrs C a copy of Sarah Susanka’s iconic book “The not so big house” http://www.notsobighouse.com/ which will hopefully assist them in thinking about the wants/needs of the family’s future home. This is a highly recommended book, especially if you are not a fan of the unsustainable McMansion lifestyle.
Secret Design Studio secret buying process.
So how do you go about buying this mid century modern treasure? Before you all start writing out big cheques for this property you would probably like to arrange an inspection and ask a few questions. The only way to arrange this is to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and contact details. Any potential purchasers who wish to inspect prior to spring will need to realize that the house is currently being “de-apricotted”, and is not in its final presentation state.
Secret Design Studio will forward each email received to Mrs C, who is handling the sale, not Secret Design Studio. Mrs C will then contact you and be able to answer your questions and to arrange a mutually agreeable time for an inspection. Any emails from local real estate agents will be forwarded to the bin, and not to the vendor.
If Secret Design Studio can help Mr and Mrs C prevent their home from ending up in landfill it would be great. Naturally our mid century modern design services would be available for any successful purchaser.