It’s not every day we have the opportunity to share a home quite like this one. Today’s truly iconic Australian home was designed by revered modernist architect Harry Seidler in 1972 – and, remarkably, is still almost entirely in its original condition. It’s known as the Gissing House after its first owners, John and Janet Gissing, who lived here for 36 years until 2008 – an incredible tenure which speaks volumes for the appeal of this elegantly designed, functional family home, and has ensured its near perfect preservation. The house is now home to Sydneysider Ferne Colls and her beautiful kids Luxe (12), Avah (10) and Leo (6), plus sausage dogs Bruno and Franki! The Colls family has lived here, in Sydney’s leafy suburb of Wahroonga, for just over 5 years.
When purchasing a home like this, there often seems to be an inherent responsibility to restore and preserve the original features of the home, and beyond this, an obligation to really share and educate others about the beauty and efficiency of mid century architecture. Everyone I meet who is lucky enough to live in an original mid century home seems to feel this sense of obligation – which is a wonderful thing, especially considering how many amazing homes from this era are sadly still demolished in favour of new development. Ferne has taken this responsibility seriously – she regularly opens her home up to architects and design students, on the proviso that they promise to share this sense of respect and responsibility in all their future work!
The Gissing House retains it’s original layout and almost all its original features, with the exception of some paint finishes and carpet which have required replacing over time. Ferne has invested in a thorough restoration of all the oak timber throughout the home (doors, ceilings, cabinetry), and the odd bit of repainting to freshen up some surfaces. The garden and pool, too, remain in their original layout, and simply require regular maintenance. It really is a testament to Seidler’s incredible skill and foresight that this home has required so little significant restoration in its 40+ years, and still feels contemporary, serving a family of four in 2013 with the same robust efficiency as it did in the 70’s!
Of course what also makes this home so special is the restrained furniture and styling choices Ferne has made, including mostly classic mid century pieces (some of which were purchased with the home), complemented by a smattering of contemporary artwork and home accessories. The result is a relaxed, sophisticated space with an unmistakeable sense of nostalgia – a visit here really feels a little like stepping back in time!
With three energetic young kids, Ferne doesn’t often find the opportunity to have time to herself, but when there’s a spare moment, her favourite spot is by the window, stretched out with a good book in her Le Corbusier Chaise by Cassina. (Sadly not pictured – sorry about that!). ‘It’s great to relax and read with the filtered light from the trees streaming in through the window’ says Ferne. ‘The opportunity doesn’t come around very often, but perhaps it’s more the temptation of the opportunity that I like so much!’ she says!
Other favourite pieces for Ferne include her outdoor chairs by the pool, another classic design by Australian designer Clement Meadmore – and a sentimental favourite, passed on from Ferne’s father, who introduced her to Meadmore’s work and sculpture from a very young age.
Mid century enthusiasts might be keen to learn a little more about the history of this beautiful Australian Home – if so, pop over to The Modern House website for a more detailed back story.
Enormous thanks to Ferne for entrusting us to share her very special home with you all today, in the spirit of appreciation and preservation of Australian mid century architecture!