Modernist Streets of your Town


After much anticipation the moment has finally arrived when we can all sit down and enjoy the new 2 part series Streets Of Your Town featuring Australian comedian and lover of all things modernist Tim ‘Rosso’ Ross.
It’s not often that you get to visit so many iconic Aussie modernist homes, let alone have a chat with important architects such as Peter McIntyre who designed the small but incredible River House nestled in bushland and floating above the Yarra river in the leafy suburb of Kew, Melbourne.

The River House , Kew (1955), designed by Peter McIntyre.

The Australian love affair with modernism can be seen in the design of homes, public buildings and of course, our furniture. The great thing about this series is that it provides an Australian perspective on modernist design. Tim not only travels from state to state, including modernist treasure trove Canberra, he also looks at the ways our relationship with design has changed since the post-war era up until the present day. From iconic homes designed by Robin Boyd through to more obscure delights such as homes by Pettit + Sevitt or Merchant Builders.

The McMansions that are populating new and existing suburbs are a far cry from the 12 square homes of the post-war era when building restrictions required that Australian homemakers did more with less.

The Marriott House, Flinders (1954), designed by Robin Boyd

What also emerges in this series is a real sense of how Australian designers re-imagined international design trends to create unique designs that respond to our environment. Established and run by Melbourne architect Robin Boyd in 1947, then later directed by architect Neil Clerehan in the 1950’s, The Age Small Homes Service offered house plans by top architects for the reasonable sum of 5 quid. The idea behind this clever scheme was to make good design available to the masses. For those on a budget but adventure in their hearts, such as my parents, these plans provided a real opportunity to build a modern home and live the Australian dream.


In the case of my Mum and Dad, they built their small home (see above) in 2 stages over 3 years. The house was designed to accomodate their growing family, with a separate dining room that would later be converted into another bedroom. Dad built his own window wall that wrapped around the lounge room, flooding the home in glorious light and blurring the distinction between indoors and outdoors.

Flash forward to 2016 and you’ll see that what  Robin Boyd called the ‘Australian Ugliness’ is still very much part of the Australian landscape. Whereas once builders may have worked towards meeting the needs of their clients, it now seems that many home buyers choices are driven by the needs of large building firms who arguably put profit margins ahead of the needs of the client or our environment. Or is it simply that the Australian obsession with enormous homes outweighs the need for good design?

At a time when Australia is in the grip of a housing affordability crisis and untamed urban sprawl, Streets Of Your Town raises important issues about the ways that good design can enhance everyday life. I think that’s a very worthwhile premise for a documentary and an important discussion we need to have now. Perhaps we can learn much from the lessons of the past. Good design can change your relationship with space, it can also enhance your life.

You can watch episode 1 of Streets Of Your Town on ABC iView or check out episode 2 next Tuesday at 8:30pm on our ABC or pre-order the DVD and watch it whenever you feel like it.

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Australian Mid-Century Modern Exhibition closes Sunday Oct 19

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If you have a passion for mid-century design and haven’t seen the Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design exhibition at NGV Australia Ian Potter Gallery then you will need to get down to NGV today, October 19, for the last day of the exhibition.

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I dropped into the gallery recently for a last look at the show and I still can’t believe how many rare and beautiful pieces curator Kirsty Grant has managed to get under one roof. From Melbourne based designers and craftsmen Feathetston, Fred Lowen and Krimper through to Sydney designers Gordon Andrews’ and George Korody. The highlight for me is the incredible collection of lighting and furniture designed by Clement Meadmore in the 1950’s.

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The gallery shop had some very cool Home Beautiful fridge magnets, and I was surprised to hear that the exhibition catalogue has almost completely sold out. There are only about 20 catalogues left for sale, so be quick to get yourself a copy of what can only be described as the best illustrated reference on Australian Mid-Century Modern furniture design. The exhibition was a long time in the making and I would like to say a big thank you to all involved for what has truly been a fantastic and memorable exhibition.

Step Back in Style: Mid-Century Modern in Melbourne

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The moment we have all been waiting for has arrived. Of course I’m talking about the opening of the Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design exhibition at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia in Melbourne. I had a chance to preview the exhibition and it’s every bit as good as I hoped it would be. Curated by Kirsty Grant, the exhibition is a wonderful blend of mid-century furniture, lighting and textiles designed by some of our most iconic designers. A clever touch is the inclusion of a selection of corded chairs produced by ‘unknown’ designers of the period to illustrate the active appropriation and interpretation of dominant design trends. Walking through the gallery space, you sometimes feel like you’re attending a 1950’s furniture trade show. The walls are flanked with enormous images taken from the front covers of 1950’s Home Beautiful magaznes.
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A highlight is the recreation of the interior of the living room featured in The Age Small Homes Service display house deigned by Neil Clerehan in 1955. A nice detail was the inclusion of a knotted pine panel at the back if the room and a Stegbar style ‘window wall’. It instantly brought back memories of my parents 1950’s modernist home in bayside Aspendale.There are little nooks where you can relax and pick up a portable touchscreen to flick through digitised copies of Home Beautiful magazines from the post-war period. There is also a wonderful display of archival photographs and trade catalogues.
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The furniture and lighting is the star of the show. Chairs float on plinths at various heights on the wall and ground level. Expect to see rare pieces by Grant Featherston, Clement Meadmore, Douglas Snelling, Roger McLay, Fred Lowen, Fred Ward and Schulim Krimper and many more. There is a interesting archival film that takes a playful look at the making of a Featherston contour chair. There is also a wide range of Featherston chairs on display, including a rare prototype an ‘Eleanor’ chair from his popular contour range.
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For me, a personal highlight is a rare collection of lighting designed by Clement Meadmore in the mid-fifties for the Legend Cafe and the Teahouse in Bourke St, Melbourne. Another favourite thing is a short video documenting the process of re-cording a Meadmore chair.

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A collection of pieces by emigre designers George Korody and Schulim Krimper brings a distinctly European flavour to the exhibition. One glance at Krimper’s beautifully crafted furniture and you instantly understand why he has long been acknowledged as a master craftsman in this country.
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It was also nice to see the inclusion of printed fabrics by textile artists such as Frances Burke. Simply pinned to the walls, the bold abstract patterns compliment the furniture whilst providing an insight into the emergent trends in textile design. The design of the exhibition space is brilliantly conceived as you effortlessly navigate your way in a linear fashion through the furniture of the 1940’s up until the 1970’s. There is so much to enjoy in this exhibition. I liked it so much I went back this afternoon for another viewing, but mostly I wanted to experience that feeling of being in a space that is energised by the optimism, innovation and creativity of these great Australian post-war designers and artists.

I have been waiting a long time for this exhibition and it was everything I hoped for and more. If you have a passion for Australian post-war furniture design, you will savour every moment. Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design will run from 30 May – 19 Oct 2014, Open 10am–5pm. Tickets Adult (16 years and above) $10 Child (up to and including 15) Free Concession $7 NGV Member Adult $6 P.S. If your planning on going a number of times it’s worth considering an unlimited ticket. It doesn’t cost a lot more and you can go as many times as you like. For more details ask at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia ticket counter.

Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design

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The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia in Melbourne will host one of the most anticipated and extensive exhibitions of Australian Mid-Century furniture design ever held in this country.

Curated by Kirsty Grant, the exhibition brings together a selection of pieces from both public and private collections across Australia. If you have a passion for Australian Mid-Century furniture, this is your opportunity to see rarely exhibited pieces created by our most talented crafts people, artists and industrial designers from the post-war period.

A highlight of the exhibition is an extensive collection of furniture and lighting designed and/or made by sculptor Clement Meadmore. Expect fabulously curvaceous chairs by Grant Featherston, along with the timeless elegance of furniture designed by Gordon Andrews. Also featured are rare designs by Fred Lowen, Schulim Krimper, Steven Kalmar and George Korody.

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To celebrate the event, the NGV has produced an extensive catalogue which features contemporary photographs of over 100 pieces. There is also a collection of designer biographies and essays. The catalogue fills an important gap in knowledge around this important period in our design history and is sure to please with its smart design and low price. For more information on the catalogue or to order a copy
visit The NGV Bookshop

Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design will be on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia from 30 May to 19 October 2014. Open 10am–5pm, closed Mondays. Admission fees apply: Adult $10 | Concession $7 | Children (16 and under) Free.

Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design Exhibition.

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Contour chairs c.1953. Grant FEATHERSTON (designer); EMERSON BROS PTY LTD, Melbourne (manufacturer).

The National Gallery of Victoria will be hosting an exhibition of original Mid-Century furniture. Featuring works by some of Australia’s top designers of the period (Featherston, Meadmore, Fred Ward) and many more, the exhibition will showcase over 100 iconic pieces from the post-war period.

“Mid-Century Modern is the first major Australian survey to provide an in-depth look at this period, revealing how Australian furniture designers moved away from traditional, conservative pre-war styles and forged a new language of design that was innovative in its use of materials, functional and often imbued with a good dose of style.”

This is a great chance to see iconic pieces by some of Australia’s best post-war furniture designers. Curator Kirsty Grant has searched through Australia’s best public and private collections to source original pieces, many to be displayed for the first time.
There will also be a stunning exhibition catalogue featuring designer biographies, articles and loads of beautiful photographs of mid-century Australian furniture.

Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design will be on display at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia from 30 May to 19 October 2014. Open 10am–5pm, closed Mondays. Admission fees apply: Adult $10 | Concession $7 | Children (16 and under) Free.

If you would like to know more please check out the NGV media release.

Please note that some of the text and the Grant Featherston furniture photograph (see above) was sourced from the NGV website
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California Design: 1930-1965 Living in a Modern Way.

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If you have a passion for Modern Design, then be
sure to check out the California Design exhibition
currently showing at the Queensland Art Gallery.
The exhibition features “a broad spectrum of industrial,
architectural, commercial, fashion and craft design from
California”. Highlights include a great selection of iconic
furniture and an aluminium 1936 Airstream ‘Clipper’ trailer.

The catalogue, a beautiful hardcover book, is a comprehensive
study of the California Design movement and includes a wealth
of information and images of furniture, ceramics, graphic and
industrial design, architecture, metalwork, textiles and fashion
of the period.

Why not make a weekend of it and check out the Gallery
of Modern Art (GOMA). The exhibition runs from
2 November 2013 – 9 February 2014, Queensland Art Gallery (QAG).

For a sneak preview of the exhibition see the Share Design blog.

Modern Design Auction In Melbourne


If you haven’t heard heard the news, then you will be pleased to know
that Leonard Joel Auctions in Melbourne are holding a Modern Design auction
on 12 pm Sunday 7 October, 2012. The auction features pieces by well known
international designers, but more importantly there are loads of original and
rare pieces by Australian industrial designers, ceramicists and artists.


One of the highlights has got to be the pair of Danish inspired chairs (see above)
designed by Clement Meadmore in the mid-fifties. These chairs are extremely rare,
so expect quite a tussle over these little beauties. There are also a few more rare
Meadmore designs such as the ultra rare steel rod and string recliner (see above)
and an original  Calyx light fitting. The Meadmore Sling chairs have low estimates,
but if you plan to bid be sure to ask if they are the superior U.S. model made
in 1963 or the inferior model produced in Australia during the 1980’s.

Another favourite would have to be The Montreal Chair (see above)
designed by Kjell Grant for the Australian Pavillion at the 1967 Montreal
Expo. This Australian Modern classic is rarely seen and is sure to  be scooped
up by someone with a discerning eye. Other good buys include the stunning
‘arts and crafts’ style chairs by Walter Burley Griffin fashioned in oak and
thick brown leather.  I don’t know what it is about these chairs, the design
is refreshingly simple and practical, yet they are also majestic and beautiful.

No Modernist auction would be complete without Featherston, and there
are plenty of pieces to choose from which include a range of original
contour chairs, dining chairs (see above), tables and steel furniture produced
by Aristoc. The super rare Obo Chair (see above) is estimated to fetch
$6000-8000, which seems a a lot for a foam ball but it’s scarcity really
does make it the cherry that tops off the perfect Featherston collection.

Also featured are iconic designs by  Rosando Bros and master
craftsman Schulim Krimper. The Krimper pieces are a bargain
when you consider the quality and the care that has gone into the creation
of these stunning pieces. Handcrafted and beautifully balanced, this is
cabinet making as an art form.  The Krimper lounge (see above) is a
standout piece, as it embodies all the quality and elegance that you have
come to expect from the King of modernist timber furniture.

Timeless works by Australian photographers Mark Strizic and
Angus O’Callaghan will give those blank walls some focus, whereas
ceramics by Greg Daly, Tom Sanders and Ellis Potteries will add a touch
of class to your mid-century modern surfaces and make you smile.

In some cases the estimates seem particularly low, so don’t be
surprised if these items sell for a lot more. On the other hand, I have
been caught out by not attending an auction because I though the
estimate was out of my price range, only to find out that the piece sold for
well below the estimate. When it comes to buying at auction remember
the important rules.

1. ALWAYS inspect the piece for damage and get a condition report.
2. Ask if it is original and it’s provenance.
3. Arrive early to the auction, register and give yourself time to relax.
4. Do your homework and get an idea of market value.
5. Determine how much you are willing to spend  including buyers premium.
6. Never get caught up in a bidding war that will take you far beyond your limit.
7. If you don’t win, think of what you saved instead of what you lost.
8. Have a great day and enjoy.

For more information on the Modern design Auction and viewing times
check at the Leonard Joel website.

Please note all images used on this post have been sourced from the
Leonard Joel Auctions website.