Monday, 27 October 2008

Handfield House (1960) in 'Gregory's 200 House Plan Ideas'

Tim Reeves, our driving-tour guide for the recent Canberra Tour, sent me this article from Gregory's 200 House Plan Ideas . It was penned by Beryl Guertner, editor of Australian House and Garden magazine and is one of the many homes originally published in Australian House and Garden. Tim advises that no publication date is listed, but he estimates circa 1956/6.

The text reads:

A House For Three Generations

Built on a sloping site, this house at Eltham (Vic) contains a complete flat for elderly parents; this flat is situated on the lower ground floor. The family-living section is U-shaped and grouped around a courtyard. Sleeping wing is divided into two separate areas. A large dormitory for the children has its own bathroom and leads to an open veranda. A long gallery with a floor of diagonal boarding flanks the study, living and dining areas and leads to the service wing.

Construction: House is post and beam construction built on a 4 ft module. Half inch tick asbestos cement flat sheets were used so that they needed to be nailed at the edges only; edges were then covered with a charcoal painted timber moulding.

Thanks Tim!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

For Sale: The Handfield House (1960), Eltham

Image courtesy of Mark Strizic, Living in Australia p. 32

In January of this year we noted that the Handfield House was on the rental market. I’ve had two emails this week pointing me to a website advertising its pending sale.

The Handfield House was built in the bush at Eltham, Victoria, in 1960. In Living in Australia (1970) Boyd describes a big house clad in asbestos-cement sheeting. Boyd liked the ‘humble’ cement sheet. He considered it to be an appropriate backdrop to the many local gumtrees.

In Transition No 38, the Robin Boyd special issue (1992), Professor Philip Goad explains why the simple, untreated cement sheeting was specified by Boyd. Goad also describes the significance of the ‘Japanese inspiration’ the estate agent refers to:
“Boyd’s experiments with timber demonstrate his fondness for the structural prop and clear expression of the structural frame. His two books on Japanese architecture, Kenzo Tange (1962) and New Directions in Japanese Architecture (1968) complemented his interest in structural and material truths. Elements of Japanese architecture – bold expressed timber construction, sliding screens, broad timber balustrade and handrail details, platforms of space floating within an open volume and the shibui restraint of unfinished natural materials – are all part of Boyd’s domestic vocabulary from the late 1950s until his death in 1971.
Goad continues:
The Handfield House … replaces the brick pier of the pier and infill houses with a graphic explanation of the post and beam timber frame. Unfinished asbestos cement sheet panel infills and floor to ceiling windows divided horizontally like shoji screens impart the air of a Japanese house. Formal qualities arise through the inherent qualities of the ordering system of the modular grid i.e. symmetry, repetition and harmoniously proportioned volumes. Spaces are formed by a series of platforms arranged around a courtyard. A wide suntrapping living gallery acts as a transition zone between this external space and the more enclosing living room overlooking the Yarra Valley”.
I have not yet seen the project but, from images available on the agent’s site, it appears that the exposed timber frame Goad refers to has been painted, in the interiors, to match the ceiling. Boyd most certainly would have expressed the timber construction by either sealing or staining the timber, retaining the grain and woody tones. It is difficult to compare the black and white external view taken by Mark Strizik with the contemporary images, but I suspect the external timber members that were, perhaps, stained or limed have also been painted (I could be wrong – opinions and reports welcomed!).

Boyd's much loved, untreated asbestos sheets have also been painted (a practical update, for many reasons). I doubt the asbestos sheets have been replaced – it would be safer and simpler to paint them. That may be a question a potential buyer might ask.

It is a wonderful home in a great location and appears to be in excellent condition.

The inspection times are:

Thursday 30 October, 2:30pm-3:00pm

Saturday 1November, 11:30am-12:00pm

The Auction is scheduled for 12:00pm, Saturday 22 November, 2008.

The property is listed with Morrison Kleeman as
ELTHAM - 16 Homestead Road VIC 3095

Images courtesy of Morrison Kleeman

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Next Open House and 2009 Events

Images, top to bottom:
The Haughton James House (1956-58), picture: Jane Poynter, courtesy of The Age
The Brett House (1955-56), Toorak
, picture: Wolfgang Sievers, courtesy of the NLA
Jimmy Watson's Wine Bar (1962), Carlton, picture: Mark Strizic, from Living in Australia (1970)

Next Open House: The Brett House (1955-56)

Invitations were sent today for the next Open House at the Brett House (1955-56), Toorak, to be held in mid-November 2008. I was fortunate enough to visit the house recently courtesy of the owners and DOCOMOMO (a group concerned with the documentation and conservation of buildings, sites and neighbourhoods of the modern movement). It is a delightful home and, apart from some practical updates, is largely in its original condition.

The discussion at our event will revolve around comparisons between the Melbourne home of the 1950s versus the Melbourne home today. How does an architect–designed home in an inner suburb in 2008 compare with one designed in 1955? The Brett House is an excellent talking point as, by today’s standards, it may be considered modest in size. The newly built Australian home is larger than it has ever been yet accommodates smaller families than those of the 1950s. The discussion will highlight significant shifts in Australian housing trends, a brief overview of the history of Victorian housing, of societal values that drive 'taste' and the effect the Australian economy has on building design.

The invitation also included the 2009 Calendar of Events, which includes a day trip to Colac to view the Clive and Patricia Winter Irving House (1956-57). We are attempting to arrange a viewing of another property in the area that was not designed by Boyd but is of similar significance. Lunch will be arranged at a local venue (tbc).

In September 2009 we will also be viewing the documentary Your House and Mine (1958) written by Robin Boyd and directed by Peter McIntyre. The screening will be accompanied by a slideshow of images from selected Boyd properties. This evening will occur at Jimmy Watson’s Wine Bar (1962).

Events in 2009 will conclude with an Open House hosted at the beautiful Haughton James House (1956-58). The banks of the Yarra River in Studley Park, Kew, were (and remain) a favourite with architects and Boyd transformed a very difficult site into a home that has become an icon of C20th Australian Modernism.

For more information please email nicdowse AT

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Robin Boyd Group on Flickr.

Martin has been busy - he has also set up a Robin Boyd Group on Flickr. Flickr is an online photo management and sharing application that is free to join (with options to pay for upgrades). If you have photos of Boyd projects, or perhaps your own Boyd home, please consider joining the Boyd Flickr group. I know, from reading the statistics on visitors to this site, that many, many people (in fact most of our visitors) are searching for images of Boyd projects. Now there's a central point where they can find loads of them:

Fact sheets for the 2008 Sydney and Canberra Tour.

Martin Miles, the creator of, has posted copies of the fact sheets he wrote for the recent Sydney and Canberra tour. They are a great and informative read. Please note that the Roche House did not end up participating in the tour but we have, however, kept the fact sheet available.

You can download them here.

Thanks Martin!

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Super Colossal on the Lyons House

Image: Bob Ellis, builder of the Lyons House, beside the porthole to the swimming pool. Image courtesy of Dan Hill/City of Sound.

I really should read other people's blogs more often. If I did I would have seen Marcus Trimble's posting on Super Colossal about the recent Lyons House event. Erm ... are we really 'Boyd crazies'? I suppose we are (I'm passionate about a lot of things). There's a link at the bottom of the article to Dan Hill's Flickr page with quite a few beautiful photos. Dan is the man behind City of Sound - where you can read about Dan's diverse but related interests - urban planning, new jazz and the significance of local retailers in a globalising world.

Friday, 23 May 2008

The McClune House is no longer for rent, but it is FOR SALE.

Further to my posting on the McClune House being available for long-term rental, I was surprised to get a call from Louise Wright (Baracco + Wright architects) advising it was on the market. The owner, Peter Mitrakas, has decided to sell.

The sale is being managed by Bennison Mackinnon, a name now synonymous with the sale (or, as in the case of Boyd II, the non-sale) of Boyd properties. It is certainly a wonderful property - one of my favourites. I was fortunate enough to visit the house when the original owner and client, Mr. Ian McClune, was still resident. Frankston South, however, may be a tricky location for the type of buyer interested in a Boyd, especially one interested in a weekender or investment (short or long-term rental) property . It's not quite a bush retreat (suburbia, albeit low density, has arrived), not quite a beach house and, at an hours plus drive from the CBD, not quite Melbourne. This may explain why the property is on the market - finding suitable tenants (an essential for a property like this) must be tough.

The house deserves a passionate owner occupier - perhaps one interested in boating and diving. The coastline adjacent to this strip of Frankston and Mt Eliza - Half Moon Bay, Canadian Bay, Pelican Point and Daveys bay - is superb and a favourite with friends of mine who enjoy scuba diving and snorkeling. The block itself is also huge and home to an array of rare, indigenous flora and flora. There's even a little creek running along the boundary (which, with recent rains, must be flowing). Like many of the sites Boyd built on, it's quite a special bush block.

You can check out the property listing here.

Go on. Buy it. Then join our little network and invite us around for a cuppa.

The Eltringham House (1968-9), 12 Marawa Place, Aranda, Recommended for ACT Heritage Listing

Image courtesy of:

Tim Reeves sent me a message this week to advise that the Eltringham House has been recommended for a heritage listing in the ACT. The full report can be read here.

The following is an extract from the report:

Statement About The Heritage Significance of the Place

"The house at 12 Marawa Place, Aranda, is significant is a well-preserved example of late 1960s residential architecture. The setting and the architecture combine to produce a building of integrity, illustrative of modern architecture. The house exhibits creative and artistic excellence in the Late Twentieth-Century Regional style, and is aesthetically significant for its freely composed simple shapes juxtaposed with fine detailing, all expressed in the textural and tactile qualities of natural materials. 12 Marawa Place, Aranda, exhibits the principal characteristics of modern residential architecture in a National Capital Development Commission ‘Radburn’ planned neighbourhood suburb, with its appropriate human scale and functional domestic planning. The house is also significant for its association with the housing of high-level public servants in Canberra.

As a design in the Late Twentieth-Century Regional style of architecture, the house is significant because it is the only example of Boyd’s work in this style in Canberra, and is the last of a small number of residences designed by Boyd in Canberra, one of Australia’s important architects. It is a good example of Boyd’s work, as identified by the RAIA. Robin Boyd was recognised for his contribution to architecture, awarded the Order of the British Empire – Commander (Civil) in 1971, the RAIA Gold Medal in 1997, made a Life Fellow of the RAIA and an Honorary Fellow of the AIA, and listed as one of 200 in ‘The People Who Made Australia Great’ in 1988. 12 Marawah Place, Aranda, has been acknowledged for many years as a distinctive example of architecture by professional bodies, and has been included in Boyd’s own publication about his work. It continues to fulfil its original purpose and its planning remains innovative and sound".

We’ll keep readers posted on the progress of the listing as the information comes to hand.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Reflections on the Sydney and Canberra Weekend

The Boyd Homes Group was launched in April 2007 by a handful of Boyd enthusiasts attempting to ignite and spread a passion for, and curiosity about, Robin Boyd’s residential works. The idea was to use the group format to educate owners around the importance of their buildings and encourage conservation.

The Sydney and Canberra Open Houses weekend, held on the 26th and 27th of April 2008, has demonstrated the fact that, more often, it is the owners who are educating the group. This has been an unexpected but rewarding feature of group activities.

A case in point: as the discussions about the Lyons House unfolded it became obvious that we were witnessing and participating in a very special event. Dr Lyons recalled, in some detail, his meetings with both Harry Seidler and Robin Boyd. He explained how, from a client’s perspective, he came to choose the consultative approach of Boyd over the top-down, ‘hero architect’ model of Seidler. He read from notes written in Boyd’s own hand.

Dr Lyons invited his friend, and builder of the Lyons house, Bob Ellis to speak. Mr Ellis recounted many details, including how the voids (air pockets) in the freshly poured cement for the swimming pool (and what a swimming pool!) were removed by a combination of the insertion of an especially narrow vibrator between the internal steel reinforcement bars and a rotary sander working the external surface of the formwork. This was a tricky job as the specified internal dimensions of the formwork were quite restricted and, coupled with the amount of reinforcement required, left him with very little room to play with. The result, however, is an an elegant and quite 'light', floating, concrete form. He explained the engineering and structural principles behind the pool that allowed the rest of the house to ‘hang’ of it.

To the uninitiated, these details may appear unimportant. But to those standing there scratching their heads, attempting to figure out why a concrete pool was suspended above the ground line and how the rest of the house hung off it, and what techniques were used forty odd years ago to achieve it, it was fascinating. The pool of the Lyon's House is Boyd's 'big idea' - the rest of the house (literally) hangs off this concept. Have these details been published before? Not that I am aware. Are these stories worthy of documentation? Absolutely.

Similar stories unfolded at the Manning Clark, Fenner and Verge Houses in Canberra. In the next few weeks we will attempt to collate and publish some reflections on the weekend as well as some images. If you attended the tour, and would like to contribute photos or observations, please feel free to leave a comment or email me

Image: Pre-blog postings - Bob Ellis' signs his handywork under the doormat, the Lyons House, 1967

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Sydney and Canberra Boyd Open Houses This Weekend!

Boyd Homes Group participants: If you have registered for the tour, but have not received confirmation details, please call Nic on 0411 538 361. Otherwise, I’ll see you there …

Image: The Lyons House, 1967

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Boyd House II Stars in Upcoming Shag Show

The Outré Gallery in Melbourne got in touch to let us know that two paintings, inspired by the Boyd House II, are being exhibited with many others late this month in Perth and next month in Melbourne and Sydney. American artist Josh Agle (a.k.a. Shag) has painted these works specifically for the exhibition and has previously painted a number of works inspired by Australian architecture. Outré Gallery tell me they have held exhibitions and events in conjunction with the Sydney Opera House and Rose Seidler House/ Historic Houses Trust of NSW (they are so onto it in Sydney. As mentioned on SaveBoydHouse, we could learn a lot from the NSW Government's approach to C20th heritage. There’s still time…!).

There’s no doubt the works celebrate Boyd’s second home – I would recognise that suspended roof, floating living room, glazed wall courtyard and those Featherston chairs anywhere. I suppose this affirms the iconic place of this property in Australian popular culture (and, in my books, that can only be a good thing).

For more information on dates and the openings click here or email Outré at .

Friday, 29 February 2008

The McClune House (1969), Frankston South, is Available for Long-Term Rental

Another Boyd home is available for long-term rental. This house is owned by Peter Mitrakas (the owner of the Baker House) and has recently been sympathetically restored. Like the Baker House, the McClune House is a courtyard house and is, essentially, a number of connected volumes sheltered beneath a suspended roof. On page 105 of Living in Australia Boyd wrote:

"The McClune House, 1969, near Frankston… has a big parasol roof of steel and fibreglass sheeting in the shape of a square doughnut, supported on steel-braced timber posts independent of the structure of the rooms. These follow a comparatively free plan beneath a raised roof, avoiding the central open square where a garden court receives the rain. The rooms are conventionally framed as flat-roofed boxes lined externally and internally with off-saw pressure-treated pine boards, stained grey".

I have not seen the house since the restoration but Peter stressed to me that the new works were very sympathetic to the original design and that all of the original features were kept. No current photos are available of the house: the attached photos were taken prior to the restoration, and include the former owner’s furniture.

Serious enquiries only please!

Verge House Website (& 'Last Call' for Sydney & Canberra Tour)

The owners of the Verge House, Canberra (1964), have published a website dedicated to their unique house. It’s a fantastic and informative read. I was not aware of the relationship between the original client, W. G. Verge, and the Australian colonial architect John Verge (1788–1861). Boyd was a big fan of ‘the finest house in the colony’, Verge’s Elizabeth Bay House (1839). I’m very much looking forward to seeing the Verge House in the upcoming tour of Canberra (please contact me if you wish to attend but haven’t registered!).

Monday, 4 February 2008

Noble House Listing

The listing for the Noble House can be seen here and includes new photos (scroll down to VERMONT SOUTH VIC - 3 Villa Mews 3133).

Friday, 1 February 2008

Noble House (1966) and McManamny House (1955) For Sale

The owners of the Noble House contacted me to advise that their property is on the market (links to agent’s website will be posted shortly). They are, regretfully, selling and would like to speak to interested parties (especially enthusiasts and those sensitive to the issues associated with owning a Boyd property).

In Boyd’s book Living in Australia (1970) the Noble House is featured as one of four properties on a double page spread (see images above). On page 117 Boyd wrote:

“ … (on) pages 120 and 121 is a glimpse of … four houses designed for different people with different requirements in about as many different environments as the Melbourne region can offer. They are: top left, Noble House, 1966, in the woody outer suburb of Vermont; bottom left, the Simon House, built in two stages, 1965 – 68 … top right, the Baker Dower House, 1968 … and bottom right The Crawford House, 1970 …”

As mentioned, links to the agent’s site, including some new photos, will be posted here when they are available. In the meantime, if you would like to reach the current owner, please contact me and I can arrange introductions.

In other news, it was brought to my attention that the McManamny House, in Beaumaris (Melbourne) is also on the market. The property and agent’s site can be viewed here.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

The Handfield House, Eltham, available for (long term) rental.

Just a quick note to let you know that the owners of Handfield House, Eltham, are relocating and looking for suitable tenants for their home in Eltham (in Melbourne’s north). More information and images can be found at: