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

A Spectacular Update For Mary Featherston's Iconic 'Featherston House'

Homes

Altering a heritage home comes with an incredible weight of responsibility, but perhaps none quite so daunting as this one!

Australian design maven Mary Featherston today shares her new ‘granny flat’ (her words, not ours!) – a striking yet sympathetic addition to her iconic, heritage-listed ‘Featherston Home’ in Ivanhoe, designed by Robin Boyd in 1967.

27th June, 2018

Mary Featherston’s newly completed home. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Her residence adjoins the iconic Featherston House designed by Robin Boyd in 1967. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Super slim steel window frames were a key component of the new design, allowing a seamless connection to the outside. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

The most important design element was a deep connection to the surrounding natural environment. Super slim steel window frames designed by Julian Featherston, and fabricated by Shaweld. Contour Chairs by Grant Featherston. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Julian and Mary Featherston. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Contour Chairs by Grant Featherston. Sequoia pine coffee table, felled on an old friend’s Mt Macedon property. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Mary’s various collections are displayed along the long shelf in the living room – including ceramics, weavings, toys, sculptures of indigenous Australian, Japanese, Indonesian and Swedish heritage. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Mary and her son Julian wanted a simple design that would not to obstruct the natural environment – the custom designed transparent glass stair adds to this streamlined effect. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Custom designed transparent glass stair, painstakingly designed by Julian using 2 layers of 12mm toughened glass. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Mary’s new house has a translucent polycarbonate roof, consistent with Boyd’s original design. The Contour Chair (pictured) is one of Grant Featherston’s most famous furniture designs, this one is 70 years old and belonged to Grant’s parents. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Bedroom on upstairs mezzanine. Orange ‘OBO’ chair designed by Grant Featherston in 1974 – now produced under license by Grazia and co. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

The circular dining table is 50 years old. Translucent wall constructed from polycarbonate. Natural items collected by Grant & Mary over decades: rocks, bark, nests, grasses, shells, feathers, seeds, leaves Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Kitchen custom designed by Julian Featherston. Corian benchtop with integrated sink. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Overhead view of dining table. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

View from the mezzanine. Contour Chairs, designed by Grant Featherston, these ones are 70 years old and belongs to Grant’s parents. Sequoia pine coffee table, felled on an old friend’s Mt Macedon property. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Lucy Feagins
Wednesday 27th June 2018

‘I know that Grant would be absolutely thrilled with it. And I believe Robin would be too!’ – Mary Featherston.

With her husband, famed furniture designer Grant Featherston (1922-1995), Mary Featherston has been an influential force in Australia’s design world since the 1950s. She and Grant have often been compared to another high profile husband-and-wife team of the same era, America’s Charles and Ray Eames. Today, Mary continues to be involved in education and consultancy in the design industry, with a focus on child-centred learning environments.

Mary has occupied her home in Ivanhoe for almost 50 years. The main house was a much-publicised project for Robin Boyd, and a house far ahead of its time. A voluminous, open-plan space constructed in Boyd’s signature brown brickwork with a translucent roof and very few internal walls, the Featherston House was a bold experiment at the time – and it still feels strikingly contemporary today.

The new addition replaces a previous, much smaller apartment attached to the main house, which Mary’s own parents originally occupied. Though clearly contemporary in its style, this new update represents a new take on Boyd’s original design, complete with a ‘wall-less’ open-plan layout, a flexible floorplan where work and leisure are seamlessly integrated, a strong connection to nature, and even a translucent ceiling!

Mary worked closely with her son, Julian Featherston, on the design for her new home. A technical consultant in the building industry, Julian revelled in the opportunity to create this remarkable new home for his Mum – a project that will also eventually enable his own family to move into the main home, keeping three generations of Featherstons under one roof.

Rigorous in their approach, Mary and Julian devised a detailed design brief before embarking on the project. ‘One of the things that we wanted to define was the ambience – what is the essence, the character of the space?’ Mary explains. Articulated as an ‘elegant conservatory’, it was decided that the new home should have the character of a glass house, and, like the original house, should very much connect with the natural environment in which it sits.

Designed to be as simple as possible, the house also reflects Boyd’s design philosophy, as set out in his 1970 book, ‘Living in Australia’. ‘The object of a design, in architecture, as in anything else, is to say or do the essential thing as simply and directly as possible’ Boyd said, adding ‘…the essential thing is the higher quality of living for which the building provides, the something more that turns a building, however slightly, into an expression of the human spirit.’

For Julian and Mary, this collaboration has been a joyous challenge spanning almost five years, and an incredible opportunity for experimentation. Julian is particularly proud of the glass staircase – a feat of engineering, consisting of two layers of 12mm toughened glass, totally custom designed and built (requiring a particularly brave glass contractor!). His custom developed climate control system is perhaps the most innovative inclusion though – an intuitive system that forecasts the weather and then prepares the building for various conditions, controlling the blinds, mechanical ventilation, and reverse cycle heating / cooling. ‘The concept is of an active building rather than a passive one – a different way of approaching an energy efficiency’ Julian explains.

For Mary, this project represents a sensitive merging of old and new, and crucially, enables the house to continue to serve its purpose, remaining relevant and functional for her family in 2018. ‘I Love the feeling of light, and space, I love its directness, its simplicity, and yet its complexity’ she says. ‘It just works so well, and its beautiful, to me that what good design is all about’.

‘The great sadness of the project is that neither Robin or Grant will see it, I would give anything to show them,’ she muses. ‘I know that Grant would be absolutely thrilled with it. And I believe Robin would be too!’

Grant and Mary’s remarkable contribution to Australian design is celebrated in ‘Design For Life : Grant and Mary Featherston‘ which opens at the Heide Museum of Modern Art this Saturday, June 30th. The exhibition runs until October 7th, 2018.

Julian is keen to acknowledge the amazing work of key contractors, in particular builder Frank Rossi of Leeda Projects, software development for his customised climate control system by Julien de-Sainte-Croix, steel fabrication by Shaweld Engineering, and engineering by Dale Simpson of Perrett Simpson.

View Comments

Similar Stories

Furniture

Featherston 2016

Iconic Australian design, reissued for a new generation.
Lisa Marie Corso

In Print

'Featherston' · A New Monograph on the Legacy of the Australian Design Icons

Design enthusiast Geoff Isaac has crowd-funded an invaluable book one of the country's most pre-eminent design duos, Grant and Mary Feathers...
Elle Murrell

Homes

A Home Tailored To Fit

The sustainable Melbourne home of architect and furniture designer Polly Bastow and Tony Stuart.

This Week

On The Market

This Elegant Victorian With An Eclectic Architect-Designed Extension Is For Sale

Period features meet unique, contemporary design in this Ascot Vale, Melbourne home.

Shopping

Lockdown-Inspired Woven Outdoor Picnic Mats, From One Of Our Fave Local Stylists!

Stylist Nat Turnbull launches Laze, a new brand of outdoor mats for lounging and picnicking, with designs by Alice Oehr.

On The Market

An Architect’s Iconic Carlton House Is For Sale For The First Time

Tube House, one of very few residential houses ever designed by acclaimed architects Denton Corker Marshall, is for sale in Carlton.
Amelia Barnes
  15 hours ago

Architecture

A Casually Confident Beachside Home

A falling down period home in South Fremantle has been brought back to life with a new extension by David Barr Architects.

On The Market

An Interior Designer’s Glamorous Victorian Pad Hits The Market!

Chelsea Hing’s apartment in an 1890s Italianate mansion in St Kilda East is up for sale. This is *the one*!

Creative People

A Travel-Inspired Ceramics Collection That Will Take You On Holiday!

Queensland-based ceramics brand Marloe Marloe launches a new collection of vessels inspired by the seaside!

Homes

A Biophilic Family Home Among The Trees

The newly-renovated Warrandyte family home of Millie and Dave Wells perfectly blends indoors and out!

Studio Visit

The Melbourne Artist Creating Ceramics Inspired By Ancient Mesoamerican Culture

From dub music to the Chinese Song Dynasty, the influences of Enrique Tochez Anderson stretch far, wide and into the past.

Architecture

A New Melbourne Home That Follows The Sun

This Eaglemont home has been cleverly designed 'to almost disappear', by Architects Eat.

Travel

A Stylist's Bookmark-Worthy Guide To Byron Bay + The Northern Rivers Region

Stylist Jono Fleming shares his impeccable recommendations for the best eating, shopping, swimming and sleeping spots on the NSW North coast...
Jono Fleming
  23 hours ago

News

Patricia Piccinini And Alpha60 Join Forces On A New Collaboration

The celebrated Australian artist and local fashion legends launch a new series of textiles titled ‘Hugs’, which are now installe...
Sponsored

Family

An Honest Conversation On Single Parenting By Choice + Donor Conception With Takeawei Ceramics Founder, Chela Edmunds

Chela Edmunds of Takeawei ceramics shares her story of becoming a mother to 18-month-old Ocean via sperm donor and IVF.

Tiny Homes

The Architect-Designed, Prefabricated Tiny House Of The Future

FABPREFAB have teamed up with TRIAS to create Minima – a series of prefabricated, small dwellings suitable as home offices, living spaces,...

News

A Father-Daughter Duo Explore Warlawoon Country In A New Show At Koskela Gallery

‘Ngaboo-lang’ by Rammey Ramsey and Kathy Ramsay comprises seven painted works exploring their ancestral land.
Sasha Aarons
  13 hours ago

Stays

This Origami-Style Beach Shack Is The Perfect Coastal Getaway

This architecturally designed coastal retreat on Stradbroke Island looks out over the glittering Coral Sea. The most dreamy vacation destina...

Similar Stories

Furniture

Featherston 2016

Iconic Australian design, reissued for a new generation.
Lisa Marie Corso

In Print

'Featherston' · A New Monograph on the Legacy of the Australian Design Icons

Design enthusiast Geoff Isaac has crowd-funded an invaluable book on designers Grant and Mary Featherston.
Elle Murrell

Homes

A Home Tailored To Fit

The sustainable Melbourne home of architect and furniture designer Polly Bastow and Tony Stuart.

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.