Monday 18 February 2013

This project is on hiatus

If you have any queries regarding Robin Boyd and his works, please contact the Robin Boyd Foundation.

Thursday 11 November 2010

The Winter-Irving House (1957) is For Sale

As promised, here is the listing for the Winter-Irving House.

The agency is Charles Stewart Real Estate, Colac. Ask for Stephen Lugg.

Sunday 7 November 2010

The Winter-Irving House (1957)

Click images to enlarge. Image: Mathew Bird

It’s been a long time between drinks for the Boyd Homes Group but, I’m happy to report, I was drinking a lovely cup of tea last Saturday as I gazed out to the black swans nesting on the replenished Lake Colac. For three years now we’ve been talking about a day trip to Colac to view the Grounds, Romberg & Boyd designed Winter-Irving House (1957), sited on the shores of Lake Colac. We’ve finally done it. We were also, with the generous assistance of Neil Everist, able to visit McGlashan Everist’s Colac Sewerage Authority House (1966) (hereafter known, for reasons that I hope are obvious, as the Alexander Street House).

We’ve always made an effort at the BHG to move outside the leafy surrounds of Melbourne’s inner suburbs. As our tours, blog posts and Open Days demonstrate, Boyd worked on many projects outside of Melbourne, in both affordable and affluent suburbs and towns, for worker, artist and the prosperous alike. We’ve visited the truly remarkable (and under appreciated) Lyons House (1967) in Sydney’s Dolans Bay, the various and beautifully intact Boyd projects in Canberra, as well as the now popular weekend getaway and wedding venues of the Baker (1966) and Dower Houses (1968), deep in the scrub of Bacchus Marsh.

We can now add Colac to that list.

I love a good road trip. It’s all part of the fun. Riding shotgun were artists Michelle Hamer and Stephen Bram whose practices relate, in very broad terms, to ideas about space (in Stephen’s case) and the Australian landscape (in Michelle’s case. I had to slow down every time we passed a decent road sign so Michelle could take a photo, in order to make one of these). Part of the enjoyment of days like these is the various people in the extended network that are brought together in these amazing homes. It was interesting listening to their discussions of how ideas about architecture relate to their practices. But all that’s another story.

This story is about the delight I take in listening to the stories of the owners themselves. For many of us these homes don’t live in a parallel universe populated with nostalgic Mark Strizic images. It’s more than that. We inhabit these spaces on a daily basis. We see what works and what what leaks, what wears well and what needs attention, we notice how the quality of light changes throughout the day, where the afternoon breezes come from, and how the whole idea of a project might actually be about the view from that room. In short, our group is about how these gems of architecture are inhabited, or in what ways these houses are actually homes. So it’s always interesting to hear the story told by a Boyd owner or occupant, and Jack and Heather were no exception.

Heather is an accomplished historian and storyteller and has written a one-pager on the house which I’ve included below. I won’t paraphrase it here, it’s worth reading.

The house’s entry in the Colac Otway Heritage Study (2003), penned by Mary Sheehan (see below, pages 1 and 2), describes the architectural and historic significance of the property well. It also includes a good physical description of the property.

I walked away from the home with the usual list of lasting impressions. Three are worth mentioning here.

Image: Mathew Bird

The first relates to the use of materials as feature. Boyd, as his readers well know, always made a point of not being an ornament crafter. He did, however, look to the inherent qualities of materials to provide subtle embellishment to his projects. The luminous copper balusters and balustrades were surplus to the underfloor heating and now feature prominently in the central staircase. It’s such a great example of the reuse of building waste. It has aged and worn handsomely. The textured slate on the ground floor is also recycled - it comes via the Geelong Grammar School Chapel and, prior to that, was apparently used as ballast in a ship.

Image: Michelle Hamer

The most interesting use of materials may be the diagonal timber paneling on the master bedroom walls. There continues to be some debate as to whether the panels have cupped over time or were milled with a concave profile (although I have never seen this before and can't quite figure out how it could be done). If cupped, they have done so in a very uniform manner as the concave profile is consistent in every board. And it only exists on the master bedroom walls - the paneling in the other rooms remains flat (can anyone shed some light on this? If so, please leave a comment). It is, in all likelihood, a happy accident. But it could also be a simple and understated treatment of a material that recalls a time when designers made a point of applying materials creatively for effect, and was long before the laser cut steel or plywood panel became the default ornamental feature for architects and homeowners.

Image: Mathew Bird

The second relates to the home’s site and the garden. It is really quite amazing. The views over the lake are stunning. The garden gently slopes down to the lake and, as in many of Boyd’s projects, there is no fence signaling a stark and blunt boundary between private and public spaces. The generous set-backs from both the street, to the west, and the lake, to the east, deliver privacy to the household without making too loud a point of it. The public have views to the house unobstructed by the ubiquitous paling fence. Those taking a stroll along the shoreline enjoy the sight of the ancient and gnarled mulberry and apple trees and might just catch a glimpse of the spinach. And the householders can look over the irises to the bird life on the lake.

The third relates to the pending sale of the property. Jack and Heather, like many of our members, would love to find a sympathetic buyer for the Winter-Irving House. I will be posting the real estate listing soon. Please message me (nicdowse AT if you would like to know more.

I would like to thank Neil Everist for suggesting that we visit the Alexander Street House. The owners of the property requested that we didn’t post images of the project to the blog and, out of respect to them, I won’t describe the property details here either.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Noble House (1966) For Sale

In February 2008 we noted that The Noble House (1966), in Vermont, Melbourne, was for sale. You can read about it here.

The property did not sell and is on the market again.

You can inspect the property this Thursday the 4th February between 11.00-11.30am, or on the day of the auction, Saturday 6th February.

The real estate agents details are listed here.

Monday 29 June 2009

McClune House Back on the Market

Regular readers will know that the The McClune House (1969) has been featured previously on this blog as a rental property and as being for sale. It is on the market again and was featured in last weekend’s Domain.

The property is for private sale and is quoted at $840, 000 - $920,000.

The property listing is here.

Friday 1 May 2009

Owners of the Date House (1956) Consider Selling


Just a quick note: the owners of the Date House (1956), in Studley Park, Kew, are considering selling their house. Colin & Bronwyn, the co-owners, have asked me to let serious potential buyers know that they can make an appointment to view this beautiful home by contacting Colin on his mobile number 0418 367 939, or by emailing him at

The bottom image is a very early one – taken by Peter Willie, circa 1957. The other images on the MediaFire site, circa 2004, are provided courtesy of Jane Poynton (I've hosted them there as I am having issues with colours when the images are resized for this blog. My apologies).

Sunday 19 April 2009

Important Updates and New Events

I have a few important updates for BHG members.

In brief:

1) April Event Postponed to November 2009.

2) A renewed relationship between the Boyd Homes Group (BHG) and the Robin Boyd Foundation (RBF).

3) New Event: A walking tour of Studley Park in Kew, entitled Robin Boyd: by example, by influence, on Sunday 3rd May.

4) Volunteers sought for the Open Day.

5) BHG Meeting at the Robin Boyd House II.

In More Detail:

1) April 2009 Event Postponed to November, and
2) A renewed relationship between the Boyd Homes Group (BHG) and the Robin Boyd Foundation (RBF).

The RBF is launching a range of events in 2009 and Tony Lee, the Executive Director of the Foundation, and I have been discussing the ways in which we can combine our efforts to deliver a revised BHG program of events for 2009.

I will be posting a follow-up message with more information shortly but, essentially, the Clive and Patricia Winter Irving House event has been shifted to November. This has been done because the Haughton James House event, originally scheduled for the November slot, is now included in the Robin Boyd: by example, by influence, Open Day, on Sunday 3rd May.

3) New Event: A walking tour of Studley Park in Kew, entitled Robin Boyd: by example, by influence, on Sunday 3rd May

The Open Day on the 3rd May will include five houses (there may also be a new addition, tbc). As discussed, Boyd's Haughton James House will open as will the Lawrence House. McGlashan and Everist's Guss House, Peter and Dione McIntyre's own house and John Wardle's own house will also be featured on the day.

This is quite a line up. It should be a fantastic day. Please note that bookings are essential. You can read more and download the booking form here.

I would also encourage you to join the RBF. BHG members can join for the special rate of $60. This membership entitles you to discounted entry into many RBF events, including this tour (members pay $60, non-members $80).

Membership forms are available here, or you can email for more information.

4) Volunteers sought for the Open Day.


5) BHG Meeting at the Robin Boyd House II

There will also be an additional event, for our new members at the home of the Foundation the Robin Boyd House II. I’ll confirm details ASAP.

Thank you for your patience. As you can appreciate, there are a few changes in the works and quite some work to do. I’ll try to confirm as much as I can in an additional message, and mail out, this week.

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!).