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!

Similar Stories

Homes

A Historic Melbourne Apartment With Artful, Lived-In Interiors

Interior designer Leigh Ellwood invites us inside her 1930s Beverley Hills apartment in South Yarra.

Homes

An Artist’s Spanish Mission Home In Newcastle

The recently-renovated home of artist Annie Everingham and family feels like a piece of California… in Newcastle!

Homes

A Refined Bronte Beach Apartment Rental

The Sydney apartment of Monica Colla and architect Ben Feher is equal parts refined home, design studio, and weekend surf shack!

This Week

Father's Day Favourites

Shop Luxurious Outdoor Essentials For Dad With 20% Off The Grampians Goods Co.

This one is for the dads who love camping, picnics, and a hot cocoa by the fire! We've got 20% off The Grampian Goods Co.!
Christina Karras

Studio Visit

Inside Elena Strohfeldt's Beautifully Therapeutic Ceramics Practice

How the self taught artist started making ceramics as a way to work through a painful trauma, channeling it into whimsical vessels.
Christina Karras

Shopping

Kip&Co Team Up With Robert Gordon For A Fun-Filled Ceramic Range

The loveable local brands have created a new playful ceramics collection, bringing prints and colour to range of hand-crafted vases!
Christina Karras

Interiors

A Majestic Garden House That Transcends Aesthetics

The landscape is the mesmerising star of the show in Garden House by Arent&Pyke and Polly Harbison Design.

Interiors

How This First-Time Renovator Transformed Her Pint-Sized Melbourne Apartment

A tiny renovation (34 square metres, to be precise) – that packs a big punch!

Stays

Escape To An Adorable Country Cottage Overlooking The Grampians

Stoneycroft Cottage features a 1864-built bluestone cottage and converted shearer's quarters, on a picturesque farm in regional Victoria!
Christina Karras
  11 hours ago

Father's Day Favourites

Find The Perfect Book For Dad With 20% Off From Hardie Grant Publishing!

From the best barbecuing recipes to epic travel inspiration, you'll find the perfect book for dad in our edit of Hardie Grant Publishing's f...
Christina Karras

News

Shop Dreamy Pastel Landscapes In Collection III From ‘Palette by Jono Fleming’

Introducing interior stylist Jono Fleming’s third art collaboration with Sicilian-Australian artist Chanel Sohier.
Christina Karras

Father's Day Favourites

Announcing The Design Files Father's Day Favourites 2022!

Find the best gifts for dad and score special deals with our Father's Day Favourites online shopping event!

On The Market

A Former Shopfront Turned Architecturally-Designed Home In Coburg Hits The Market

Behind an unassuming facade unfolds a brilliantly designed and sun-filled Coburg home, and it's for sale!

Father's Day Favourites

Elevate Your Dad's Wardrobe This Father's Day With An Epic 20% Off Seed Heritage!

Seed Heritage has everything you need to level up your gift-giving efforts and dad’s personal style - and we have a special 20% offer for
Christina Karras

News

Nicole Lawrence Studio And Curio Practice Pop Up In Sydney

The two rising design stars open the doors to their week-long shop and showroom in Paddington.

Homes

A Historic Melbourne Apartment With Artful, Lived-In Interiors

Interior designer Leigh Ellwood invites us inside her 1930s Beverley Hills apartment in South Yarra.

Father's Day Favourites

Give Dad A Dose Of (Stylish) Wanderlust With Bespoke Luggage From July!

Gift dad bespoke luggage from our favourite travel brand July and receive a complimentary personalised luggage tag worth $85!

Architecture

Turning Back Time In A Classic Melbourne Brick Home

Agius Scorpo Architects strip a Yarraville, Melbourne house back to basics, revealing and enhancing functional spaces within.
Amelia Barnes
  3 hours ago

Similar Stories

Homes

A Historic Melbourne Apartment With Artful, Lived-In Interiors

Interior designer Leigh Ellwood invites us inside her 1930s Beverley Hills apartment in South Yarra.

Homes

An Artist’s Spanish Mission Home In Newcastle

The recently-renovated home of artist Annie Everingham and family feels like a piece of California… in Newcastle!

Homes

A Refined Bronte Beach Apartment Rental

The Sydney apartment of Monica Colla and architect Ben Feher is equal parts refined home, design studio, and weekend surf shack!

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net