Fans of mid century architecture in Melbourne know where the hidden gems are, and one neighbourhood well known for its incredible modernist houses is Beaumaris.
Beaumaris is a sleepy bayside suburb about 35 mins South East of the CBD, right on Port Phillip Bay. Here, furniture designer and manufacturer Grazia Materia lives in a beautifully restored 1960s house, with her husband Steve Parry and their son Orlando.
Grazia Materia is a proud and fiercely passionate design enthusiast, with a particular soft spot for mid century homes. She has been known to door knock new owners of mid century homes in her local area, introducing herself and just checking that they don’t plan on knocking their new house down. (She makes lots of new friends that way!). She’s also permanently up to date with all the real estate listings in her neighbourhood, and when a modernist home comes up for sale, she’ll send the listing to everyone she knows, keen to find a thoughtful buyer who will recognise the heritage value of these properties (which still, sadly, get bulldozed in favour of McMansions devastatingly often!). In fact, during our visit, Grazia’s eyes lit up when Eve mentioned she had always liked the area. ‘Check out this amazing place, it’s for sale!” said Grazia, passing on a real estate brochure picturing her latest find!
Grazia and Steve bought their house on a quiet cul-de-sac 8 years ago. Initially, the pair undertook only minor cosmetic changes to make they home liveable – things like painting and installing new carpet, followed by new window furnishings in keeping with the mid century style of the place. Later, they tackled the kitchen, which was in desperate need of an update, installing new cabinets in American oak, designed by in collaboration with Grazia’s dear friend, local architect Clare Cousins.
With a ‘C’ shape footprint enveloping a lush central courtyard, Grazia’s home is typical of the era. It was built and designed by Martin Sachs in 1965, who is responsible for many homes in the area. In fact, Grazia has recently been in contact with the son of the original owners, who commissioned the house to be built. ‘Interestingly (and fortunately) he confirmed that many of the original features here remain in tact’ she says.
‘The house is compact and modest with a glazed central courtyard which makes it feels light and spacious’ says Grazia ‘The original design features of the house still make the impact that they did in the 1965, especially the ‘crazy paved’ slate floor that starts from the driveway outside, and comes all the way into the house’ she adds.
Grazia and Steve have sensitively updated their home, and furnished it with a lovely balance of contemporary pieces from Grazia’s own company, Grazia and co, as well as a collection of beautiful mid century finds. One particularly treasured piece is the Featherston ‘Talking chair’ in the master bedroom. This classic piece was originally designed in 1967, a collaboration between Robin Boyd and Grant Featherston for the Australian pavilion at the world expo in Montreal. ‘The design is still current today’ Grazia says. ‘It’s also a nice reminder of my 9 years of working for Gordon Mather Industries in Melbourne, who still makes this chair and other Featherston original pieces under license to Mary Featherston’.
Beaumaris is the perfect spot for Grazia and Steve. ’We love living Bayside’ says Grazia. ‘We spend a reasonable amount of time in the inner city for work, so living here gives us the sense that we are away on a beach holiday every weekend!’. Of course, the love is mutual – Beaumaris are lucky to have such passionate local residents too!