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Australia’s Best Beachcomber By Modernist Architect Nino Sydney Is For Sale

Mid-Century Modern

It’s hard to imagine now, but when this 1960s Blue Mountains home was last on the market, artists Dr Billy Gruner and Sarah Keighery were the only ones interested. Today, the house is considered the best standing example of architect Nino Sydney’s work, who passed away last month at 89 years of age. 

Despite a flurry of current media interest in Nino and this particular house, the architect’s 1950s and ‘60s ‘beachcomber’ homes have only recently become recognised for their Bauhaus-inspired, affordable, and practical design. 

Billy and Sarah were lucky enough to eventually meet and befriend Nino, who they worked with to carefully restore this home’s original features. But, it’s now time for new custodians to appreciate this magnificent property! 

28th February, 2022

The most intact beachcomber by modernist architect Nino Sydney is for sale in the Blue Mountains. Photo – Alicia Taylor

Located at 32 Russell Avenue, Faulconbridge, NSW, the house was restored by the original owners under the advice of Nino. Photo – Alicia Taylor

The house is considered the best standing example of architect Nino’s work, who passed away last month at 89 years of age. Photo – Alicia Taylor

Nino’s ’50s and ‘60s ‘beachcomber’ homes have only recently become recognised for their Bauhaus-style, affordable, and practical design. Photo – Alicia Taylor

‘It was very futuristic looking. As a fan of Le Corbusier, it seemed similar,’ says Sarah. It was love at first sight,’ says owner Sarah Keighery. Photo – Alicia Taylor

Billy and Sarah were only the second owners in this Faulconbridge house’s history. Photo – Alicia Taylor

Nino advised the owners how to repair the home’s existing features, such as the ceiling beams that had been damaged by white ants over time.  Photo – Alicia Taylor

The house has three bedrooms. Photo – Alicia Taylor

One of two bathrooms. Photo – Alicia Taylor

Not interested in extending the house, Billy and Sarah are reluctantly selling their home in search of a studio and larger space for their work. Photo – Alicia Taylor

‘It’s been a really gorgeous house to live in,’ says Sarah. Photo – Alicia Taylor

Amelia Barnes
Monday 28th February 2022

‘No one seemed to know who Nino was even a few years ago.’ 

Dr Billy Gruner (artist, curator and owner of West Projects) and artist Sarah Keighery had no idea who designed their home when they first came across it 15 years ago. The couple were on a road trip to the Blue Mountains at the time, and the 1960s house stopped them in their tracks.

‘It was very futuristic looking. As a fan of Le Corbusier, it seemed similar,’ says Sarah. ‘It was love at first sight.’

Architect Ken Woolley eventually identified the house as the work of Nino Sydney – the Croatian-born architect and creator of the ‘beachcomber’, who worked as the chief architect for Lendlease for 12 years. 

Following a profile on the house (cleverly titled ‘Finding Nino’) in 2013, Billy says other beachcomber owners began reaching out. Turns out, the architect had designed approximately 200 houses in this beachcomber style, 118 of which still stand today.

‘No one seemed to know who Nino was even a few years ago,’ says Billy. ‘The floodgates finally opened.’ 

Ever since, there’s been growing interest in beachcombers from architecture enthusiasts who applaud their futuristic rectangular shape, elevated position, and energy-efficient design. Nino was one of the first architects to create simple, affordable and practical designer homes accessible to the ordinary Australian. 

Billy and Sarah are only the second owners of this Faulconbridge house, which needed some love at the time of purchasing. They eventually met with Nino, who assured Billy and Sarah that the house could be restored without a large budget or architect. ‘He told us to put our money away,’ says Billy. 

Nino instead advised Sarah and Billy how to repair the home’s existing features, such as the ceiling beams damaged by white ants. The restoration was so successful, it went on to win the top prize at the 2015 National Trust Heritage Awards.

Not interested in disrupting the original design, Billy and Sarah are reluctantly selling their home in search of a studio and larger space for their work. The couple desperately hope the house will end up in the hands of another modernist enthusiast who will appreciate Nino’s forward thinking design for years to come. 

‘It’s been a really gorgeous house to live in,’ says Sarah. 

32 Russell Avenue, Faulconbridge, NSW is for sale through Modern House. 

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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. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net