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 Designer’s 1970s Bells Beach Dream Home!

The incredible Bells Beach home of interior designer Léo Terrando and Jessica Watts.

Homes

A Melbourne Family Home That Feels Like A Warm Embrace

With its warm, cosy feel, this Clifton Hill home is a true reflection of Rebecca Long, her children, and beloved late husband Tom.

Homes

A Slice Of Italy In Fitzroy’s Backstreets!

Situated around a lush communal courtyard is the Fitzroy family apartment of Amara Speechley and Cal Watson.

This Week

On The Market

A Light + Bright Beachside Home Hits The Market

This property in Sunrise Beach, Noosa is a full time home that feels like a holiday home - and it’s ready for new inhabitants!

Indigenous Art

15 Excellent Indigenous Art Centres To Support And Celebrate!

We've spoken to some experts, and pulled together this guide on purchasing Aboriginal artwork ethically, and some ideas of where to find it!...

Architecture

Everything You Need To Know About Working With An Architect

Four of Australia's best architects answer your frequently asked questions, from what an architect does, to how much they cost!

Interiors

Get The Look: Dark + Moody Bathrooms And Kitchens

All the product and styling advice you need to achieve the dark, moody bathrooms and kitchen interiors trend, brought to you Oliveri.
51:47

Podcast

Country Road’s Managing Director On The Stickiness Of Sustainable Fashion, On TDF Talks

In this podcast conversation, Elle Roseby talks leading one of the country’s most iconic brands through a new age in the fashion industry....

Creative People

The Mother and Daughter Duo Uncovering Perth’s Hidden Terrazzo Treasures

A community exhibition uncovering Fremantle residences containing terrazzo floors by master artisan, Giuseppe Scolaro - as part of the city'...

News

Get Luxe Designer Furniture For Up To 15% Off!

Designer furniture retailer DOMO is discounting in-stock and custom items from HC28 + HC28 Cosmopolitan.
Sponsored

Studio Visit

Two Best Friends' Lockdown Hobby Turned Cult Candle Business

Creative entrepreneurs Ruby Kannava and Emma Cutri pooled their respective small business knowledge to found Blazed Wax - a colourful, cult-...

TDF Design Awards

The Sensational Interior Design Finalists In The TDF + Laminex Design Awards 2021!

The 12 incredible residential projects in the running to win the Interior Design award at the TDF + Laminex Design Awards 2021, presented by...

Interiors

A Glam ’60s-Inspired Makeover For A Drab Suburban Home

Kaiko Design transform a forgettable suburban space into a ritzy family residence, with big personality!

News

Shop These Plush Woollen Rugs And Get A Special TDF Discount!

Carpet Court’s customisable rug range is made with 100% New Zealand wool and can be cut to suit the size, shape and colour of your interio...
Sponsored

Interiors

A Colour-Drenched, 'Grandmillennial' Home In North Sydney

Bold colour, and both English and Moroccan influences come together in this North Sydney home by Lisa Burdus.

Homes

A Designer’s 1970s Bells Beach Dream Home!

The incredible eclectic home of interior designer Léo Terrando and Jessica Watts, on Victoria's surf coast.

Gardens

A WOW-Factor 'Secret Garden' In Blairgowrie

Ian Barker Gardens creates a private outdoor sanctuary on the Mornington Peninsula.

News

The TDF ‘ALL THE THINGS’ 500k Giveaway!

Help us celebrate half a million (!) Insta followers with epic prize packs for three lucky readers! 

Similar Stories

Homes

A Designer’s 1970s Bells Beach Dream Home!

The incredible Bells Beach home of interior designer Léo Terrando and Jessica Watts.

Homes

A Melbourne Family Home That Feels Like A Warm Embrace

With its warm, cosy feel, this Clifton Hill home is a true reflection of Rebecca Long, her children, and beloved late husband Tom.

Homes

A Slice Of Italy In Fitzroy’s Backstreets!

Situated around a lush communal courtyard is the Fitzroy family apartment of Amara Speechley and Cal Watson.

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 – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.