Australian Homes

Walsh St House by Robin Boyd

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 12th March 2014

Walshst-diningroom

The iconic Walsh St House in South Yarra, designed by Australian architect Robin Boyd for his family in 1957. Above – downstairs dining room in main house.  Artwork on wall – ‘Solstar’ by Melbourne based painter Asher Bilu.  This painting was selected by Robin to hang in the Australian pavilion at the Osaka Expo in 1970. After the Expo,  it was returned to Melbourne and Robin and Patricia loved it so much they decided to buy it!  Sculpture on dining table by Inge King.  This piece was the first ‘maquette’ (ie study) prepared for a sculpture called ‘Joie de Vivre’. This sculpture is now in the foyer of the ICI building on the corner of Nicholson and Albert Streets in East Melbourne.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Walshst-sittingroom-straight

Downstairs sitting room in main house.  Artwork to left by Geoff Laycock, artwork to right – ‘Man on Sofa’ by Tony Woods. This painting was bought after Robin opened an exhibition of Tony’s paintings at Australian Galleries in Collingwood, a gallery owned by Tam and Sheila Purves who were clients of Robins. When hanging this painting at Walsh street, Robin arranged to have the sofa re-covered to match the painting!  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Walshst-sittingroom_diag

Downstairs sitting room in main house.  Artwork to left by Geoff Laycock, artwork to right – ‘Man on Sofa’ by Tony Woods. This painting was bought after Robin opened an exhibition of Tony’s paintings at Australian Galleries in Collingwood, a gallery owned by Tam and Sheila Purves who were clients of Robins. When hanging this painting at Walsh street, Robin arranged to have the sofa re-covered to match the painting!  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Walshst-backroom

Sitting room in the ‘Children’s Pavilion’ (ie the children’s quarters, across the courtyard from the main house).  Original chair prototypes by Grant Featherson.  Photo of Robin Boyd on desk. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Walshst-courtyard2

Original Harry Bertoia Diamond chair in the lush central courtyard at Walsh st, set between the main house and children’s pavilion.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Walshst-timportrait

Comedian and mid century design enthusiast Tim’Rosso’ Ross at the Walsh Street house in South Yarra, where his comedy show ‘Man about the House’ will take place later this month for Melbourne Comedy Festival!   Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Today we’re breaking with our usual format just slightly, to bring you an intimate look inside one particularly special Australian home.  The ‘Walsh St House’, or ‘Boyd House II’ as it is sometimes known, was designed by revered Australian architect Robin Boyd for his own family in 1957, and exists pretty much today just as it did whilst the Boyd family lived here, right down to the furniture, artwork and books!  The house is now the home of the Robin Boyd Foundation, who raised considerable funds to purchase the property in 2004 in order to guarantee its preservation – here, the foundation host various student programs, events and seminars to keep the spirit of the space alive, and educate future generations about Boyd’s work and the merits of good design.  Luckily, we’ve had the great fortune of being able to photograph this unique Melbourne home recently, thanks to an introduction by one particularly enthusiastic mid century design fan, who also happens to be a well known local comedian.  Of course, I’m talking about Tim Ross, best known in the biz as ‘Rosso’!

Tim’s affection for mid century design is well documented, and since purchasing his own beautiful modernist home in Sydney in 2005, his passion for the era has only been exacerbated!  ‘I have always collected things, and have had a serious problem with furniture over the years, particularly mid century modern pieces’ says Tim. This enthusiasm soon expanded into a full blown architecture obsession, inspired by the houses Tim recalls from his youth growing up on the Mornington Peninsula.  ‘Mt Eliza in particular had houses designed by architects like Robin Boyd, Roy Grounds and Chancellor and Patrick‘ he says.  When he has the privilege of visiting a fantastic modernist home now, Tim describes the experience as ‘like dealing with ‘architectural missing out disease‘!’ SO true!  I have often wondered what it must have been like to live in a such an exciting time, aesthetically speaking!

The Walsh Street house is an iconic Australian home for many reasons.  Robin Boyd is one of Australia’s most admired and influential architects, and his family home in Walsh street is his most well known work.  The house perfectly demonstrates the design principles championed in Boyd’s book ‘The Australian Ugliness‘, including what he identified as the suburban propensity to build homes on the very centre of a block of land.  Instead, The Walsh Street house demonstrates the advantage of a more introspective layout – the main house and a separate children’s pavilion face inward on the block, enveloping a lush central courtyard, linked by a distinctive sloping roof.

The home maximises its surprisingly modest footprint with versatile, multifunctional spaces which Boyd and his wife Patricia were known to re-configure often when entertaining guests.  The lofty mezzanine with adjacent balcony in the main house served both as the couple’s master bedroom, and as a secondary sitting room when the need arose.  Robin and Patricia’s bed would be covered by a neat upholstered cover to become a daybed for guests to lounge on!  With its soaring sloped ceiling and views out to the courtyard, this would have been a seriously impressive space to entertain – can you imagine walking into such a bold and modern space in the late 1950’s!?

Tim Ross’ passion for mid century design has brought about a very intimate connection to this home, and many others from the era, on account of a hugely popular comedy show he’s been doing for a few years now, called ‘Man About The House‘!  For this project he’s somehow managed to combine all his favourite things into one – comedy, music and mid century architecture.  No mean feat!

Man About The House is about a complete experience’ explains Tim. First and foremost, the evening is an entertaining comedy show (with a little live music thrown in), but it is also an open house, allowing visitors to experience first hand a house or building that has outstanding architectural merit. Tim has performed the show at various architectural gems across Australia – in Melbourne, his venue is the Walsh Street House.  ‘We encourage people to grab a drink and move around the house as if they were turning up at a friends place and check out their swinging pad for the first time’ he says.  In fact, I was lucky to attend Tim’s show here last year and I can attest to this!  The event started with a self guided wander around this incredible home, and culminated with Tim’s performance in the courtyard, alongside his best mate and musical sidekick Kit Warhurst.

Hosting his Man About the House show here, and in similar homes across Australia, has given Tim the chance to engage a new audience in a conversation about design. ‘Obviously the show is appealing for people who have a strong interest in architecture and design, but many people who don’t often walk away with a deeper appreciation for mid century modern architecture’ he says. ‘There is a strong message of preservation in the show, because I believe that buildings that are 50 or 60 years old are as important to save as those that are a 100 or 150 years old’.  Having said that, although each show does include an appropriate level of banter about the house, it’s not an architecture lecture by any means!  Tim’s performance is filled with anecdotes from his childhood in the suburbs, and  cheerful musical interludes with Kit, ‘…and it’s also about me doing dumb things, which is always funny’ adds Tim!

What really makes Man About The House unique is the genuine sense of intimacy that this unconventional performance space provides. ‘There is no backstage, and after the show people tend to hang around and talk, make new friends and of course recognise each other from Instagram!’ says Tim.

The Robin Boyd Foundation have been fantastically supportive of Tim’s show, and will be hosting another series of Man About The House later this month for the Melbourne Comedy Festival.  For a closer look at this very special Melbourne home, do consider getting along to check it out – a great night out, and one of the best ways to experience the charm of this truly iconic Australian home first hand.

For more on Man About The House, there is a cute video from Tim explaining the concept behind the show in a little more detail here.

For more info on The Robin Boyd Foundation and other upcoming events in the Walsh Street House , do check out their website!

 

Walshst-backroom2

Sitting room in the ‘Children’s Pavilion’ (ie the children’s quarters, across the courtyard from the main house).  Original chair prototypes by Grant Featherson.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Walshst-overstair

Upstairs mezzanine in main house.  Artwork – ‘In the Studio (Psychologically Challenged)’ by Melbourne based painter Tony Woods. This painting originally hand in Robin’s office in Albert street.  After his death, the painting was brought to Walsh street by his wife, Patricia.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Walshst-mezz

Upstairs mezzanine in main house, featuring an original Grant Featherston SR161 Contour sofa circa 1951, with its distinctive contoured wing back and buttoned upholstery. With adjacent balcony and views out to the leafy courtyard, this room served a dual purpose – it was both Robin and Patricia’s bedroom, and was often re-configured as a sitting / lounging space for guests when the Boyds hosted parties here.   Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Walshst-balcony

Upstairs balcony adjoining Robin and Patricia’s bedroom.  Butterfly chair (find similar at Angelucci Twentieth Century in Melbourne).   Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Walshst-bathroom

Main bathroom, with soaring ceiling and incredible natural light – situated at the front of the house on the top floor, this is the highest point of the building.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Walshst-courtyard1

Looking to the children’s pavilion from the main house.  Original Harry Bertoia Diamond chairs in the courtyard. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Walshst-kids1

Details from the bedrooms in the Children’s Pavilion, across the courtyard. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Walshst-bookshelf

Details from the bedrooms in the Children’s Pavilion, across the courtyard. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Walshst-kids2

Details from the bedrooms in the Children’s Pavilion, across the courtyard. Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Walshst-exterior

The iconic Walsh St House in South Yarra, designed by Australian architect Robin Boyd for himself and his family in 1958.  Photo – Eve Wilson, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Wednesday 12th March 2014

34 comments

  • Glamour Drops 8 months ago

    While this is a distinct break from the Wednesday tradition of homes which are currently lived in, this is such a beautifully photographed treat of such a ground-breaking and forward-looking home that it fits ever so neatly into the Wednesday homes category, to my mind at least. The richness of the materials and the drama of the details has been captured perfectly.

  • Nicole 8 months ago

    Hmmmm timeless……

  • tim ross 8 months ago

    Beautifully shot Eve. Thanks for your support Lucy, you are the best x

  • Danielle 8 months ago

    What an incredible house. And well done Tim for bringing amazing architects to the public awareness. Hopefully he will have a date in Sydney soon!

  • Kristen 8 months ago

    Bizarre! I’m just getting in to mid century design and am enjoying Robin Boyd’s book at the moment. Can’t wait to see the house & the show :)

  • Lucas Allen 8 months ago

    What a fabulous example of the period. Wow, I had no idea about this place. Very envious of Eve getting to shoot it! The Featherstone furniture is pretty special, too.

  • Chrissy 8 months ago

    Fab house! You can also get fabulous butterfly chairs from http://www.muumuubutterflychairs.com.au

  • marie 8 months ago

    Looks fantastic – great architecture

  • Starline 8 months ago

    Looks amazing and without everything painted white.

  • Gill 8 months ago

    I remember when this house was for sale and it was such a relief to see it purchased (at huge cost) by the Robin Boyd Foundation. As a community, we are forever in their debt for saving such an iconic building.

  • Mardi 8 months ago

    Beautiful Lucy & team, such a gorgeous building and story

  • Jason 8 months ago

    Amazing home! Having seen many photos of it and been lucky enough to visit it myself, I am still blown away by these great images! Thanks for featuring this great piece of Melbourne architecture!

  • Donna 8 months ago

    So excited to see this post… we are in the middle of researching Robin Boyd for interior design, and have fallen just a little bit for the Walsh St house. Seeing all these gorgeous pics and learning more about Robin Boyd and the era is a delight. How lovely to open it up to an evening of entertainment. Enjoy!

  • Jo Foster 8 months ago

    Love Tim Ross. Love the house.

  • sarah 8 months ago

    The classics are timeless, beautiful. Love this post, thank you.

  • Kirsten 8 months ago

    Amazing! Tim Ross is a total champion. Great house and great photos – thank you for sharing with us. I live in a Chancellor and Patrick myself so I’m always really interested to see photos of mid century homes untouched by poorly considered renovations. Mine’s been touched (in a bad, bad way) by the 80’s so always looking to see how we can renovate sympathetically. The Walsh St bathroom is incredible – love the copper and the dark tiles and wood and ….and I could go on!

  • Amber 8 months ago

    I must have studied each image for ages. Loved it all!

  • Wow! big fan of Tim Ross and a huge fan of this home one of my favourites ever featured, so so beautiful and so lucky the home has been preserved by the Robin Boyd foundation, thank you!

  • Barbara 8 months ago

    Can it get any better than this! Tim Ross, you are a legend for coming up with such a unique idea. Can’t wait to see the show, and the house.

  • Jules 8 months ago

    Love this house and particularly the range of colors in the furniture! The purple/fushia chairs combined with the red settee just gorgeous!

  • Andy 8 months ago

    This house is pushing the boundaries I’d like to see more like this.
    I’d like to see houses that are pushing these boundaries even more than this….There’s a challenge for you.

  • Jessamy 8 months ago

    Just booked- can’t wait for the show and the house!

  • Lauren 8 months ago

    The epitome. Thank you!

  • Nikki 8 months ago

    simply beautiful. a home like this doesn’t need to succumb to trends. thank you lucy x

  • Tessa 7 months ago

    What an extraordinary building and such a treat to see inside.

  • Nelly 7 months ago

    Those Grant Featherstone prototypes. How I would love some!!

  • Lucy 7 months ago

    Perfection

  • Jasmine McClelland 7 months ago

    Stunning!!. I’m a huge fan of Robin Boyd, delighted that the foundation was able to purchase the property. So important to preserve our significant moments in architecture .

  • Laurel 3 months ago

    Could someone identify the design of the purple lounge chairs in the first picture. My grand ,other had one and then us with a lounge and 2 chairs. I don’t thinks its Eames Plank. Would live to be able to buy one. Authentic or reproduction.

  • Mike Nowson 3 weeks ago

    Love the play of volume, light and texture. Getting beyond gloss planar surfaces is where the possibilities are.

  • Bryn 3 weeks ago

    This is one of my favourite houses ever, ever, ever. ADORE IT.

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