In the early 1990s, this writer purchased a significant post-war house, designed by Montgomery King & Trengove in 1954. At the time, neighbours gave pity for having purchased the ‘ugliest’ house in the street. Fast-forward to 2001 and people queued to inspect this house located at 39 Inverness Way, North Balwyn, when it came onto the market. Restored and filled with Featherston furniture, it had become almost ‘mainstream’ in terms of public taste. Since then, with the advent of magazines such as wallpaper*, mid-century homes from the 20th century enjoy a considerably wider appreciation, with Toorak fortunate to have a number of fine architectural gems from this period.

1. Sir Roy Grounds –early 1950s

Location: 24 Hill Street, Toorak

Designed by architect Sir Roy Grounds as his own home for himself and his wife Betty (pictured), he went on to design the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). The similarities between the two buildings are striking even though the scale of each differs enormously. Although the NGV was designed a number of years later in 1968, this modest house was as a prototype - a relatively blank façade with high windows to the street for privacy. The Hill Street house centres on a circular courtyard, with each room having direct access to this garden. Restored by Dr. Martin Hiscock, the heritage-listed Hill Street house will continue to shine for decades to come.

2. Holgar & Holgar –circa 1968

Location: 3 Glendyne Court, Toorak

Los Angeles comes to Melbourne! Designed by architects John and Helen Holgar, this unique home even includes the client’s initials in the distinctive steel screen creating a ‘veil’ for the home’s upper level. At ground level, the arched windowed façade has a Californian feel. This glamorous home, complete with an indoor pool and manicured gardens, remains virtually intact. At the pinnacle of design, both then and now, this wonderful home appeals to a younger audience who have no memory of the adventurous design associated with the late 1960s and the ‘swinging ‘70s’.

3. Marcus Martin –circa 1936

Location: 42 Wallace Avenue, Toorak

This heritage-listed house (of State Significance), was designed by the highly esteemed architect Marcus Martin. Built for the family of oil magnate Sir Hamilton Sleigh, founder of Golden Fleece petroleum, the Toorak house excudes a sense of restraint - Georgian inspired with a modernist overlay. Martin designed a number of fine homes in Toorak and South Yarra, many unfortunately disappearing entirely or renovated beyond recognition. Fortunately, this gracious home remains virtually intact, including the dramatic foyer with its wrought iron staircase.

4. A. Jodell –circa 1967

Location: 4 Mathews Court, Toorak

The street number, rather than the house, is the first thing noticed travelling along Grange Road. Overscaled, as with many of the ‘super graphics’ popular in the late 1960s, the number 4 is a feature of the high white rendered front fence. Following the slope of the land, this single-storey house features raked ceilings and split levels, popular of that era. The home’s many floor-to-ceiling windows also flood the house with natural light and views of the garden.

5. Guilford Bell –circa 1972

Location- 3 Heymont Close, Toorak

This house, with its remarkable pyramid-shaped roof, stands proudly at the end of this cul-de-sac. Concealed behind a high brick fence, Bell was mindful of creating privacy to the six courtyards that surround this home. Considered to be one of the architect’s finest designs, the focal point is the stepped limed timber pyramid-shaped ceiling over the formal lounge at the centre of the home. As well as the intimate courtyards that function like outdoor rooms, there’s also a swimming pool pavilion to the south of the irregular-shaped site. In more recent times, architect Nic Bochsler reworked the now all-white kitchen and bathrooms.

Words by Stephen Crafti

Lifestyle & Design

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