Oh we do LOVE a mid century home… though this one just scrapes in, having been built in 1973. Nestled in suburban Camberwell, this understated family home belongs to Melbourne’s coffee king and proprietor of Seven Seeds, Mark Dundon, his partner Lisa Sanderson and their teenage son Felix.
The Dundon family have been here only two years, having moved from Brunswick to Camberwell just in time for Felix to start at a new high school in the area. ‘Felix was just about to begin high school, and we were hoping to send him to Preshil, which meant moving closer to the school’ explains Mark.
I had always had a soft spot for 60’s and 70’s houses. We came upon the house, which was advertised as a knock down. It was pretty much love at first sight.
In fact, the home was designed by Kevin Borland, a prominent post war architect who studied under Robin Boyd, and worked for a time with Harry Seidler. When Mark and Lisa took possession, aside from a kitchen renovation undertaken by the previous owners, the home was in almost original condition.
Lisa and Mark were keen to maintain as many of the original features as they could, thought some were just too far gone, as the house had received little maintenance over the years. ‘We updated the bathrooms, removed the roof and re-insulated, and basically ensured the structure and services were sound’ says Mark. The pair also did a lot of delicate cosmetic work – repainting, polishing floor boards and rejuvenating the extensive timber panelling throughout the house. They also landscaped and added the pool – a real luxury which they all appreciate after having moved from a small single-fronted home in Brunswick!
The house has a somewhat unconventional layout with various floor levels, and a floating mezzanine lounge room that sits above the dining area. ‘The floor plan is initially quite confusing to people, but I think it’s a great design’ says Mark. ‘It is pure 70’s and I think has really stood the test of time. The changes in levels separate spaces beautifully while still making the home feel really open – there are 5 split levels overall.’
It’s always amazing to chat to occupants of mid century homes – there is so often a sense of design appreciation that comes with living in houses like this, which really does go far beyond aesthetic nostalgia. Modernist houses can still teach us many valuable lessons today about living smaller and living smarter – but it’s not always obvious until you chat to an enthusiastic person who actually lives in one!
Mark and Lisa’s home encapsulates a number of clever hallmarks of modernist design. These include generally modest room sizes, split levels and / or sunken living areas (or in this case, a floating mezzanine), a connection to nature and the outdoors, honesty of materiality (i.e. seeing all that beautiful brickwork and timber out on display!), and perfect orientation for light and airflow. ‘The great thing about this house is the design. It has many private, separate areas but none are boxed in by 4 walls – it manages to capture both space and intimacy’ says Mark.
Added to this, in the 1970’s, hydronic heating, slab heating and other mod cons were becoming standard in residential homes in Australia, so the feel and comfort of the house is similar to today’s standards – ‘probably better!’ says Mark! ‘In looking at current trends in design, you can see a lot of architects influenced by this period’ he adds. ‘I think living in this house has shown me why it has influenced so many designers today, the comfort level and living areas of the house just work’.
Huge thanks to Mark, Lisa and Felix for sharing their home with us today!