This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Ferne Colls and Family

Homes

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.

26th June, 2013

Looking from loungeroom to front entrance.  Warren Platner arm chair just sneaking in on the left! original fixed cabinetry in hall.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

House exterior.  Butterfly chairs and Eames table.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Main lounge room, reverse angle.  Warren Platner Arm Chairs with Saarinen side table to left, original fixed cabinetry to right.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

The incredible Sydney home of Ferne Colls and family, designed by Harry Seidler in 1972!  Marcel Breuer Wassily Lounge Chairs, Vico Magistretti Maralunga sofa, Harry Seidler coffee table (designed especially for the house), B&B Italia slab sofa.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Main lounge room.  Harry Seidler coffee table, Vico Magistretti Maralunga sofa.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Main lounge room from above.  Marcel Breuer Wassily Lounge Chairs, Vico Magistretti Maralunga sofa, Harry Seidler coffee table (designed for the house), B&B Italia slab sofa, Saarinen side table (foreground), AJ standing lamp (in the far corner). Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Dining room – with amazing double height ceiling and beautiful views to the leafy exterior!  Florence Knoll Oak dining table, Thonet Hoffman dining chairs, original fixed cabinetry to right.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Tighter detail of dinig room, looking to external courtyard.  Florence Knoll Oak dining table, Thonet Hoffman dining chairs. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

A photogenic corner in the dining room – Leo’s train set sneaks in at the bottom of the frame!  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Master bedroom, with leafy outlook to garden.  At desk – Series 7 Arne Jacobsen chair, Snoopy lamp by Achille Castiglion.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Leo’s bedroom!  (He is a lego wizard!).  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Amazing swimming pool, adjacent to main living room. Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Pool area.  Clement Meadmore dining chairs.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Pool again (we couldn’t resist!).  Clement Meadmore dining chairs.  Photo – Sean Fennessy, production – Lucy Feagins / The Design Files.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 26th June 2013

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!

View Comments

Similar Stories

Homes

A Quirky, Contemporary Harbourside Penthouse, For Stylish Downsizers!

A Neutral Bay apartment inspired by '90s New York penthouses, renovated by Jono Fleming with Strutt Studios.

Homes

A Photographer’s Rustic Country Home (With Its Own Private Bar!)

The charming Macedon Ranges home of photographer Marnie Hawson.

Homes

An Artist’s Art Deco Apartment With Incredible Views Of Bondi Beach!

Daimon Downey and Georgia Gorman share their colourful apartment, above a surf shop on Bondi Beach.

This Week

News

Seljak Brand Releases A New Wool Blanket Made From Recycled Jumpers

The pioneering Australian label releases a new recycled blanket spun from old woollen jumpers and garments.

On The Market

A Charming Victorian Cottage, Turned Contemporary Family Home (With Two Rooftop Terraces!)

A sleek renovation in one of Melbourne’s most coveted inner city locales revives this heritage home - and it's on the market!
Sasha Gattermayr

Shopping

A Sunny New Range Of Planters From Capra Designs

Capra Designs debuts a new collection of planters inspired by ancient Roman architecture.
Sasha Gattermayr

Modernist Australia

A Fond Farewell To Modernist Australia!

Going, going... GONE! We bid a sad adieu to Trish Callan, and look back at some highlights from Modernist Australia, the website that raised...
Sasha Gattermayr

News

An Exhibition Weaving The Past, Present + Future Of First Nations Textiles

Distinguished textile artist Elisa Carmichael reimagines traditional weaving practices in today’s contemporary context.

Architecture

Two Buildings + Two Courtyard Gardens = One Clever Inner City Home

This Fitzroy North house by Rob Kennon Architects turns the traditional house and backyard model on its head!

Architecture

Go Inside Australia’s Most Incredible Architectural Homes - For A Great Cause!

To replace their annual fundraiser, The Robin Boyd Foundation launches Virtual Open House, offering the chance to video-tour through award-w...
Sasha Gattermayr

TDF Design Awards

Announcing Our 2020 The Design Files + Laminex Design Awards FINALISTS!

It's a big one today, people! From Architects, to Landscape Designers, Furniture Designers, Craft practitioners and more... say hello to the...

News

Street Artist Rone's First Book Is Released!

Read all about it – a new book chronicles the prolific Melbourne artist’s two decades on the Australian art scene.

Architecture

A Totally Transfixing Concrete Retreat

This contemporary family home in Kew by Architects EAT is totally secluded, yet bright, breezy and open!
Sasha Gattermayr

Architecture

A Gloriously Verdant Inner-City Extension

BKK Architects design a contemporary addition around its luscious, sprawling garden for a pair of self-declared introverts in North Fitzroy....
Sasha Gattermayr

Homes

A Quirky, Contemporary Harbourside Penthouse, For Stylish Downsizers!

The Neutral Bay penthouse apartment of Tracy and Peter Fleming, renovated by their son Jono Fleming with Strutt Studios.

Art

TDF Collect Presents 'Devotions' By Lucy Roleff

The much-anticipated debut solo show from the Melbourne realist painter is here!

On The Market

Permaculture Expert Ben Shaw's Gorgeous Geelong Home (+ Garden!) Hits The Market

A 1920s house with Geelong's best suburban garden (we're calling it!) created by permaculture expert Ben Shaw is up for sale.

News

Fab Face Masks Made By Women From Refugee Backgrounds In Melbourne

Second Stitch is a homewares and fashion enterprise offering training certificates and employment to women from refugee, migrant, and asylum...

Similar Stories

Homes

A Quirky, Contemporary Harbourside Penthouse, For Stylish Downsizers!

A Neutral Bay apartment inspired by '90s New York penthouses, renovated by Jono Fleming with Strutt Studios.

Homes

A Photographer’s Rustic Country Home (With Its Own Private Bar!)

The charming Macedon Ranges home of photographer Marnie Hawson.

Homes

An Artist’s Art Deco Apartment With Incredible Views Of Bondi Beach!

Daimon Downey and Georgia Gorman share their colourful apartment, above a surf shop on Bondi Beach.