A Lovingly Restored Mid-Century Marvel In Mount Martha

Oh boy, this house is AMAZING! A mid-century gem in Mount Martha designed by none other than Karl Fender (now one half of Fender Katsalidis!).

Katie Brannaghan and husband Ian, a dentist in Melbourne, purchased this property in 2017, and undertook some massive renovations to revive this modernist marvel. The house is now occasionally listed on airbnb, but act quickly if you are keen to stay – the lush green carpet and gently curving pool is mostly reserved for family getaways with the couple’s daughters Milla (12) and Yvie (9). The Fender weekender!

Lucy Feagins
Supported by Dulux

The Fender House in Mount Martha, with renovations from Whelan Project. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Say hello to that green carpet! And a peek of B&B Italia sofas from Castorina and Co in the background. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The ‘music room’ surrounded by huge double height windows. Chairs from Angelucci 20th Century Design, the table base was an Ebay find about 15 years ago with a new custom made top. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The view coming down the stairs from the kitchen, leading into the music room then the sun room, then out onto the deck. Karl Fender’s original hand-drawn picture of the house framed on the wall above the fireplace. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

There are stairs and split levels everywhere in this house. These stairs lead from the sun-room to the music room then up another level to the kitchen.  You can also see the original porthole lights in the ceilings and the very uniquely designed light boxes, which Katie and Ian re-furbished. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Corner nook holding part of Ian’s large vinyl collection, pot is from Milk and Sugar, and vintage frames of our girls from op shops.Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Ian relaxing in the breakfast room. The built-in cabinetry and wood panels are original, as are the wood panels, and Katie and Ian put in the Terrazzo tiles from Perini Tiles. Danish chairs and table from secondhand store in North Melbourne, and colourful champaigne glasses box on the shelf was a wedding gift from the UK. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

We love our kitchen, it’s so big and spacious and chunky. We can all Cabinet maker Roman rebuilt all the cabinetry as it was rotting and about to fall through the floors. He skilfully managed to match the wood stain to the original wood panels. On the bench is the 1970s Le Creuset pot, and vintage orange bowl. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

This is the top lounge or formal lounge. The 70s modular sofa is made by iconic brand, B&B Italia  from Ugo and Pratizia at Castorina & Co. The coffee table is an original Willy Rizzo, and the Danish occasional table is part of a nest. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Super 70s staircase! Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Milla and Yvie hanging by the front door. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The kids zone upstairs. Large smiley face artwork is called the Friendship Flag and is from Outré Gallery in Melbourne. The white pot is Melbourne designed, Mr Kitly (self watering) from My Grandfathers Axe. The small orange tulip table and brown Featherston chairs are from CCSS Melbourne. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Yvie busty on the phone! The large George Nelson ball light is from Luke Furniture in Prahran. Yvie is wearing clothes from Hipkin.Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Milla’s room with bed from BedTime, mushroom lamp from CCSS Melbourne, and linen from Kip and Co and Country Road. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Renovated ensuite with white 70s mosaic tiles. Orange floor vase by Kartell. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

This is the main bedroom., with  a Derek Swalwell picture, Jacobsen floor lamp and Patricia Urquiola clip bed (both from Hub furniture), little stool next to the bed is from Luke Furniture. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

A peek into the formal lounge, with vintage Bertossi lamp and ashtray. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

View from the rear of the house. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

The pool has undergone some restorations, but the incredible shape is the original design. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Hanging out pool side. Photo – Derek Swalwell.

A real 70s splash! Photo – Derek Swalwell.

Lucy Feagins
30th of October 2019

When Katie Brannaghan and husband Ian purchased this home in April 2017, they were met with slight shock at how much work needed to be done on the property. The previous owners were hoarders, so a large scale clean was necessary – but as these surface works were undertaken, Katie realised how many 90s and early 2000s renovations had altered the mid-century space. She explains ‘we wanted it to look similar to what it would have originally looked like, back in circa 73.’

The incredible home was originally designed by Karl Fender, who, incredibly, was only 23 years old when he took on this job for an eccentric local. (Things worked out pretty well for the architect wonderkid… he’s now one half of the iconic firm Fender Katsalidis!). Katie tried to research the property, but was met with dead ends, until  ‘one day I was posting about it on Instagram, and tagged Karl in one of the pictures, and to my delight he responded!’ Katie invited Karl to come and visit, who brought along his original hand-drawn plans and plenty of stories. Katie highlights ‘much to our relief and joy, he was very happy with what we’d done to the house.’

The Karl-approved renovations are extensive, and have brought the house back to life, by gently drawing upon the past. 90s tiles were retro-updated with 70s style terrazzo around the pool, and original-era-appropriate green carpet was introduced, that guests now assume is original!

Beyond these aesthetic features, the kitchen was a space that required a massive overhaul, not least because it was about to fall through the floor. Katie explains ‘it was a death trap!’ Other essential renovations included getting rid of asbestos, replacing termite riddled floors and walls, introducing hydronic heating and cooling system, rendering the pool, installing solar panels, landscaping, building a woodshed, and bringing in a septic tank. Phew!

Inside, the renovations look forward by looking back. Katie highlights ‘it feels like you could have stepped back into the 70s when you walk through the door.’ The original wood-paneled walls and high ceilings create a mid-century ambience, while the six bedroom home offers incredible views from every angle through the giant glass windows. Katie describes ‘when Karl design it, so much thought went into where the light streams in.’ As the home sprawls, it also offers plenty of nooks and crannies to feel cosy and homely across the large space.

The family have now moved back to the city for ease of commuting to work, but still love spending weekends down the coast here. The property is listed on airbnb  – but get in quick, as it isn’t available very often! It’s such a special place for the family they only rent it out a few times a year. Which seems fitting, seeing as Karl Fender himself told Katie and Ian ‘I’m so glad this house found you.’

Recent Homes