OK this is a bit sneaky. Long term readers might recall we have actually shared a story about this very same Sydney home a LONG time ago… but.. well, it was well before we did things ‘properly’. BY that I mean, way back in 2011 when I first met Tim, this website was a very modest little operation and we didn’t have the resources to work with professional photographers. A LOT has changed since then!
We’ve also gotten to know Tim a lot better in the last few years, and have been swept up in his complete passion for all things mid-century, which is infectious! He has always encouraged and supported all our features on mid-century homes – in fact it was Tim’s introduction which resulted in our story about Robin Boyd’s Walsh st House in Melbourne, last year.
ANYWAY. Clearly, we decided this one was worth another look! The beautiful 1950’s home Tim shares with wife Michelle Glew-Ross and Bugsy (three year) and Bobby (one) is the stuff dreams are made of. Aesthetically impressive, yet refreshingly relaxed, the Ross family home is a testament to the timelessness of modernist architecture. It’s the kind of property that could easily have been knocked down, had it fallen into the wrong hands. Luckily, this house found it’s perfect match, and it’s a love affair that is still going strong, ten years on!
Tim purchased this house in 2005. ‘At the time, nobody else wanted it’ he says. Over the years, he and Michelle have restored and updated certain rooms, undertaking most of the design work and planning themselves. ‘Much to the horror of professionals I admire, I’ve trusted our own instincts with most of the changes we’ve made’ says Tim. Much of the home has been restored to its original 1959 condition, and in recent years, the garden and pool area has also been landscaped. One big consideration was working out the most sensitive way to incorporate a pool fence – in the end, frameless glass panels were used to minimise visual impact, whilst crazy stone paving was salvaged from elsewhere in the garden, and reused to build up walls around the pool and carport.
The house was originally built in 1959 for the Atherton family, and designed by their friend Bill Baker. ‘Bill was an architect and a Qantas Pilot – a multitasker like John Travolta’ Tim explains! ’On his trips to LA he was inspired by West Coast Modernism, and this house is a certainly a nod to those places he saw and admired at that time’.
The Athertons had one son, Geoff, and the home was originally built as a two bedroom house. As Geoff grew, the family extended and built a larger room for him, which is now the master bedroom. Then, in the 1960s, the Atherton family won a bit of money in the lottery and added the pool! The original owner, Margot, is now in her 80s, and pops in occasionally.
When you chat to Tim about his passion for mid century everything, it quickly becomes clear that this is an obsession that has been bubbling since childhood. Tim’s father is an antiques dealer, which instilled in him a great respect for the provenance of things. He’s always been drawn to furniture and objects with a sense of nostalgia about them, even before he lived in a modernist house.
‘When I was a kid we had a book of Australian painters, it had a John Coburn painting on the front and it always stuck in my mind’ says Tim. So, when he stumbled across a large John Coburn tapestry a few years ago, Tim just couldn’t let it go. This treasured piece now hangs in his bedroom.
Like so many design enthusiasts, Tim also has a thing for chairs. ‘We have a bunch of chairs that keep on giving, the green womb chair in its tatty ’60s covering has had everything chucked at it (literally) but still looks great, and is the comfiest seat in the house’ says Tim. A more recent favourite find is the Safari chair in Bobby’s room, picked up at the Tyabb Packing House in Victoria, where Tim’s Dad still has a little stall. ‘I rolled it up and put in my bag and brought it back to Sydney as a gift for Michelle – I love it in Bobby’s room’ says Tim.
As Tim explains in the short video (!!) below, though he enjoyed this house for many years before starting a family, the home has taken on a new meaning since the arrival of Bugsy and Bobby. ‘I think watching our boys grow up here is the most amazing thing’ says Tim. ‘Bugsy dragging me outside to have a swim, or watching the two of them laughing together in Bugsy’s room as the sun streams in is really special’.
Tim’s a funny guy. Of course, after years of TV and radio, he has a voice that is weirdly familiar… but beyond this, he’s just the kinda guy who speaks to you as if he’s known you for 20 years. It’s actually quite amazing. Perhaps it’s because when he gets chatting about his home, Tim is speaking very much from the heart. He’ll engage anyone in a lengthy chat about the curve of a particular piece of furniture, or some other minute architectural detail, and yet, at the same time, he’s a straight shooter… totally no-nonsense!
‘Well I’d be bullsh*tting if I didn’t say our aesthetic is unashamedly mid century modern’ says Tim, when asked to describe his home’s unique aesthetic. ‘Mind you, over the years Michelle has certainly made her mark on the place, it is a little less masculine and has, well… cushions’ he says, by way of explanation! ‘Our home is full of things that we find appealing, that strike a chord with us or that are simply beautiful. There is no doubt that our tastes have changed over time, these days the space is certainly leaning towards a more organic, handcrafted modernist vibe. That is also a result of ten years in a house, and a shifting in the way you live.’
SO GRATEFUL to Tim and Michelle for having us (twice!) and sharing their very special home! An excellent reminder of just how beautiful, functional and timeless modernist homes can be. More than fifty years after it was built, this place is still rocking it.