A quiet and unassuming structure (as are many mid-century houses in Beaumaris), The Browne House belies the place that this home now occupies in Australian post-war modernist architectural history. This house, quite possibly, has the first ‘window-wall’, designed by Robin Boyd and manufactured by Brian Stegley, which is now famous.
The house was simply built and modest in size, so that it would serve as a cost-effective option for a project home. The large window-wall stretched across the facade of the house, providing northern light to the living room, family room and bedroom.
The service areas were kept to the south, including a smaller bedroom, bathroom and laundry. To keep the house within a tight budget, the construction utilised timber framework and brick veneer. Circulation spaces were removed in favour of free-flowing open-plan living, with the architecture containing the most striking element of the house— the soaring window-wall. The pitched ceiling that follows the line of the window-wall fills the internal rooms with an incredible feeling of space and light and a strong connection to the garden.
When purchased by the current owners, the house was in poor condition and they had to re-stump, re-plumb, re-roof, rewire, and repair all the windows, as well as installing a new kitchen, before being able to live there…The house is now a lovely family home and, upon arrival, the impact of the scale of the window-wall is quite wonderful. The owners say it is a beautiful house to live in, not only because of the northern light that bathes the living spaces, but also due to the incredible feeling of peace and quiet with the majestic window-wall connecting the house to the trees and nature.
The current owners enjoy a few laughs now when reading articles in current magazines mentioning the importance of large windows to the north. This house has had this feature since 1955 – a house ahead of its time. Although modest in size, the house is a very important example of modernist architecture and the way it revolutionised people’s desires for a new ‘modern home’… This house is an example of the revolution in design thinking that took place after the Second World War, where new materials and a more relaxed way of life changed how we wanted to live in our homes.
This is an edited extract from ‘Beaumaris Modern: Modernist Homes in Beaumaris’ published by Melbourne Books. ‘Beaumaris Modern: Modernist Homes in Beaumaris’ is now available to purchase at all good bookstores.
Find out how you can help preserve these incredible pieces of architectural history at Beaumaris Modern.