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

From Bungalow To Architectural Wonder

Homes

WE HAVE THE MOST AMAZING HOUSE for you today, guys. In fact, we shot this home some time ago… and have been waiting for the perfect moment to share it. Finally, today is the day!

Architect John Henry and Deb Ganderton’s incredible ‘Research House’ is in leafy Eltham, just around 30 mins North East of Melbourne.

Of ALL the Australian homes we’ve ever photographed, this one really is the most jaw dropping! It’s the sort of building that lives and breathes, with a distinct personality of its own.

30th August, 2017

Inside the incredible Eltham home of John Henry and Deb Ganderton. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Architect John Henry, designed his ‘industrial meets organic’ home, which was built in 2000. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

The airy living space with furniture by Eames and Tecno. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The DesignFiles.

John and Deb purchased the block on which the home stands and ‘roughed it’ for a few years in a little bungalow, while their dream home was built. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Alternative view of living area, which features artworks by Peter Wright, Col Jordan, Richard Havyatt,  Trevor Vickers and David O’Halloran. The statement Red Beaver cardboard lounge is by Frank Gehry. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Verner Panton coloured chairs and Robert Venturi Chippendale chair. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Isamu Nogucci table and Le Corbusier lounge. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

John is a huge fan of Op Art, this optical black-and-white piece is by John Vickery. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

The kitchen, with Peter Mohler cartoon. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Bob Dylan artwork by John Henry adds a pop of colour, as do the Verner Panton coloured chairs. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Dining are with Peter Wright polka dot artwork. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Flasks by Michael Graves for Alessi. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Op Art by John Vickery. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Painting by John Coburn (left) alongside Sydney Ball ‘Canto’ painting (right, cropped). Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Partitioned bedroom with view of Bob Dylan artwork by John Henry and paintings by David O’Halloran. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

The striking exterior of the home. The surrounding gardens include natives to encourage birdlife. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

John couldn’t possibly pick a favourite piece of furniture. In this space along the avid collector has a design by Vico Magistretti, Tecno, Eames, Clement Meadmore ‘Sling’ chairs, and a Marc Newson ‘Orgone’ chair. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 30th August 2017

‘I feel like this house never dates. I tried to design something that was timeless.’ – John Henry.

Architect John Henry and his wife Deb Ganderton (‎who works at Greater Melbourne Cemeteries Trust) are the humble owners of the truly remarkable ‘Research House’ in Eltham. A mind-boggling 1,000 cubic metre space, with 6.5 metre high walls and the most jaw-dropping sheer wall of South-facing windows overlooking leafy bushland, this is a home truly unlike any other.

Designed by John, the house was built from scratch, commencing in 2000. Though grand in scale, this is a home built on a budget. John and Deb bought their block for $105,000 in 1998, and then spent around $250,000 building the house. The build took two years – John and Deb kept running out of money, which held things up a bit. ‘We had underestimated the cost of building it, so we had to stop and save some money, but eventually we got there!’ John recalls.

The design itself was John’s vision, a sort of synthesis of aspects of all his favourite buildings across the world. ’What I thought I would do, was go over my 40-year career and pick out all the things I liked about architecture and the buildings from all over the world.’ he explains. ‘Featherston House (1967) by Robin Boyd and Paul Rudolph’s office Manhattan (1965) were the most influential factors on my concept, and I added all the other things I liked to those inspirations.’

Budget constraints forced John to work in the simplest and most affordable way. The house was constructed using a factory-made shed that John customised, with concrete slabs and a steel structure. The home comprises five open ‘rooms’, demarcated by changes in floor level rather than dividing walls.  A lot of the interior is exposed, creating a strong connection between the interior spaces and the outdoors. In fact, the house is built right into the hillside, incorporating rocks and vegetation into the design. ‘Inside, there are all these plants and indoor gardens with rocks, it’s a contrast between the very industrial and the organic,’ John says.

And then, there’s the furniture, art and objects – a veritable museum’s worth of collectible, colourful stuff!  Most of the art comes from the 1960s, with a lot of hard-edged, geometric motifs, as well as Op Art (optical art), which is John’s favourite because ‘it plays havoc with your eyes!’  The furniture, collected over a lifetime, is John’s most prized collection. ‘I love all of it,’ he says. ‘Trying to say which is your favourite is like picking a favourite child. They are all my favourites!’

John’s the first to admit that his home does have its challenges. ‘It gets hot in summer and it can get cold in the winter’ he laments. During Springtime, the house is at its best, with natural light streaming in, and an endless parade of native birds beyond the windows. ‘It’s like a treehouse, you feel like you are up in the tree tops with all the birds,’ John describes. ‘We have all sorts here – King Parrots, Sparrow Hawks, Kookaburras and Cockatoos in beautiful, bright colours. I never appreciated them all until I lived in this home.’

Though a highly personal project, Research House is now a well known and throughly well-documented property, having won many awards and featured in several publications. Some houses just beg to be photographed, documented and etched into the history books. Happy to oblige!

View Comments

Similar Stories

Homes

Lyon Housemuseum

A truly extraordinary Melbourne family home, which doubles as a public art gallery.

Homes

The Frost House

The incredible restored mid-century home of a former Melbournian and her husband, in Indiana, USA.

This Week

Interiors

How To Nail The Bathroom Basics, According To Reece

A crash course in very excellent bathroom design, courtesy of bathrooms + kitchens merchandising leader at Reece Bathrooms, Daniella Santill...
Sasha Gattermayr
  5 hours ago

Food

Julia's Autumnal Weeknight Rocket and Hazelnut Pesto Linguine

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's linguine with a herby rocket and hazelnut pesto is a riff on the classic weeknight family meal by adding earthy,
Julia Busuttil Nishimura
  13 hours ago

Architecture

A Timeless New Home In Ballarat, With Lake Views + Mid-Century Vibes

With American ‘Brady Bunch’ house vibes (!) this new home in Ballarat by Kennedy Nolan channels mid century design, with a sleek, contem...

Homes

A Magical Alistair Knox-Designed Rental In Eltham!

The seriously dreamy 1970s rental home of Pop and Scott trade manager Lucienne Van Sebille, and her partner Sebastian.

News

An Extensive Art And Design Festival Taking Over Brisbane!

Brisbane Art Design (BAD) is a public art program bringing the Sunshine State’s exemplary creative scene to the fore throughout the month
Sponsored

Gardens

A Slice Of Primeval Paradise In Bronte

Situated on a steep site in a sometimes blustery coastal location, the planting palette for this stunning garden in Sydney is both soft, and...

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life Of Chrissy Lafian, Founder And Creative Director Of Suku

With teams in both Melbourne and Bali, Chrissy lets us in on how she runs the lifestyle brand she's built from scratch!

Architecture

This Clever + Compact Bondi Home Feels Like A Never-Ending Holiday!

Fox Johnston architects managed to expand the footprint of this small and narrow Sydney site to create a generous, private haven!

Stays

Northern NSW’s Newest Holiday House, Made From Recycled Materials

Book your stay at Rockhaven at Booyong – a new holiday house made from recycled materials located 40 minutes from Byron Bay.

News

Shop The Megan Park Archive Of More Than 10,000 Pieces!

Legendary fashion designer Megan Park has kept one of every piece she has designed over the last 22 years – and now, she’s opening h...

News

The Magic And Art Of Beekeeping With Honey Fingers

Mud Australia is hosting an exhibition and in conversation event with legendary urban beekeepers Honey Fingers, moderated by artist Stanisla...
Sally Tabart

Studio Visit

Experimental Designer Jessie French Is Shaping A Seaweed-Centric Future

The Melbourne artist shares her process of creating seaweed-based bioplastics, the beautiful resin-like homewares she makes from it + what t...

Architecture

A Surprise Garden Brings This 'Pop-Up' Home To Life

Figr creates a unique language between architectural and landscaped spaces to truly maximise this small footprint home for a family of three...

On The Market

A Corner Store Turned Architectural Home Hits The Market In Brunswick

An 1883 shopfront turned architectural home with a pool and sauna is for sale in Brunswick!

Interiors

A Crash Course In Renovating Your Own Home From Top To Bottom, With BuildHer Collective

Rebeka Morgan and Kribashini Hannon of BuildHer Collective bring us a new book containing all the info you need to embark on building or ren...
Rebeka Morgan and Kribashini Hannon

Similar Stories

Homes

Lyon Housemuseum

A truly extraordinary Melbourne family home, which doubles as a public art gallery.

Homes

The Frost House

The incredible restored mid-century home of a former Melbournian and her husband, in Indiana, USA.

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.