Last week, I was fortunate to visit and photograph the Eisenmenger house, a mid-century home in Carina, Brisbane’s south.
This home is a hive of fun and activity, all due to it’s owners, Chis and Susan. They have an infectious love for all things mid-century and are involved in many activities revolving around this love. They publish Brisbane Modern and Australian Modern, organise the ‘MAD weekend’ of mid-century open house tours, film nights, street garage sales and parties just to mention a few.
Their home will be open for tours during the Brisbane Open House weekend and also, make sure you enter the ballot for a chance to view it. Another big event coming up is that Eisenmenger House will be the stage for Tim Ross’ comedy show “Man About the House” where Tim performs a set in mid-century homes – how exciting!! Take a look at the video on Tim’s website to see what it is all about, it looks fab!
On top of all of this, they are publishing a new book, which is due for release later in the year. Keep an eye on their website Australian Modern for details.
I told you they love it, you can see by how busy they are doing all these wonderful things!!
I’m a big fan of the design from this era and wanted to know more about Chris and Susan’s home and what led them down the mid-century path. Here is a quick Q&A;
How long have you lived in Brisbane?
Susan moved to Brisbane from Sydney with her family when she was a teenager. Chris came to Brisbane from Melbourne in his twenties, they met in a work environment at that time.
Can you describe what it is you love about mid-century design?
We are both collectors of sorts, you start with one thing and then you find you have three or more, and it grows from there. Similarly our interest in mid-century design started with one chair which we sourced on holidays in Melbourne probably 20 years ago, it was a Featherston contour chair, which will still have.
We don’t live in the past or dwell on the past, we just happen to live in an architect designed house from a particular period that we like. We see the house as a large piece of furniture in which we keep all the smaller furniture. Once you experience living in an architect designed house, with the correct aspect for light and breeze, a good layout and outlook, you could never go back.
What year was the home built and who was the architect?
Our house was completed in 1961 by local Brisbane architect, Barry Walduck. When we bought the house about 10 years ago it was in a sorry state of disrepair and while researching the history we were fortunate to be able to find and contact the original architect.
Barry kindly agreed to meet us and even supplied some original detail drawings and an early photograph which we used as a visual template for the restoration. It was really good to be able to get a first hand account of the building design.
How long was the restoration process and could you briefly explain what it entailed?
As much as you might think and hope that the restoration process will all happen quickly, it’s not like that in the real world, finances, quotes, and building trades just get in the way.
In our case there was initially a lot of removal required, this included unsuitable awnings, lattice, render, gardens, trees, concrete, pavers, and fencing. Then comes the basic repairs and replacements, carpet, glass, locks, plumbing and drainage, lights and electrical. We could then consider what needed to be done to begin the process of restoration. We had to replace the roof (including wiring lighting and insulation), rebuilding the original window awnings and also the outdoor patio area. We refurbished the swimming pool and replaced the pool fencing to suit current day regulations. Replaced all the concrete driveways, paths and letterbox, and excavated the front yard to remove all the tree stumps and excess build up of garden beds.
The relative finishing touches were a complete strip back to bare boards paint job both inside and out.
Can you describe the ‘feeling’ of living in this home?
The house feels like a holiday house, it’s compact and comfortable while remaining open and light. We’re protected from the wind and rain and sun, yet we can see the pool and the sky and the street from the living room, it’s basically a glass house.
Is there one particular feature of the home that you love or is the home as a whole?
It’s a great house to live in, the space can also be multi purposed, we move the furniture around a lot. But I would have to say the light in the morning is a real feature, it reflects through the house and off the pool, it ripples across the ceiling.
Any secret sources for hunting out mid-century pieces in Brisbane (ie: furniture)?
There are no secret vintage places to shop in Brisbane, the secret to good vintage shopping is be selective and be prepared to wait for the right thing to come along. We now tend to buy only one or two ‘major’ furniture items a year, and a lot of fun bits and pieces in between.
Where are the top suburbs in Brisbane for people looking for mid-century homes?
Nice little mid-century houses can be found scattered throughout various Brisbane suburbs, the best finds are in suburbs and estates which were established in the late 1950s and early 1960s. So try areas from, The Gap to Fig Tree Pocket and St Lucia. Mt Gravatt to Greenslopes and Holland Park, also check out Corinda and Aspley. There are more little gems out there, you just have to look to find them.
Do you feel that mid-century homes translate well to modern day living and especially, our lifestyle and climate in Brisbane?
Mid-century homes are ideal for the Brisbane climate and lifestyle, we want light and breezes, and protection from the sun. Although smaller home of the period may not appeal to some current day house hunters, as they are seen as too small and old fashioned, because they have 2 or 3 bedrooms with only one bathroom.
The open plan style originated in the mid-century, and is heavily copied today. Larger mid-century homes which have more appeal are often situated on large blocks, which unfortunately makes them a development target, and we have seen many sold for land value only and sadly demolished.
Do you think mid-century homes should be protected and preserved for future generations?
We advocate that the best way to save mid-century homes is to create awareness, which we’ve been doing through the recent Australian Modern publication www.australianmodern.com.au and the website www.brisbanemodern.com.au . We’ve also been collecting other mid-century modern home owners along the way. What better way to get across the mid-century message than all getting together for house tours and social events, you would be amazed at what you can found out about architecture and design from like-minded people.
Lastly, we suggest that you buy your own mid-century house, and do some research and restoration. You would be saving and preserving a small piece of modern history. You can also experience everything it has to offer, mid-century architecture and design is all good!
Next week, I’ll share the photos of the interiors from my visit – you will love it!