Whilst spending the 2015 Christmas period in Melbourne I was delighted to squeeze in the opportunity to photograph a residence that was recently acquired by two mid-century lovers of design in my family “J & D”.
Located in the leafy foothills of the Dandenong Ranges at Heathmont, the 3-bedroom house was completed in 1956 during the Post War housing boom by the government war homes services. Bought third-hand in 2015 (and very luckily so as the previous owners subdivided the block and were going to knock it over) the old girl is need of some TLC, but her new owners fell in love with the classic mid-century styling that still shines through, showing off a striking butterfly roof-line and standout exterior turquoise colour scheme that adorns its vertical weatherboard cladding, making the house look somewhat like an iridescent dragonfly perched high upon its allotment.
The new owners loved that they had bought an original mid-century home that still retained many unique features such as: the distinctive vertical ship-lapped pine boards that clad the exterior and line part of the interior; the large floor-to-ceiling plane glass windows that provide pleasing expanses of light in the study and lounge areas; and the quirky but very functional top-hung awning windows well-placed above and below the large windows to cleverly provide controlled ventilation through the house.
The living areas are spacious and have a natural airy feel to them which invites one to lounge around and casually relax. The owners are gradually collecting beautiful modernist design classics to furnish their abode and Danish designed side-boards, drinks cabinets and a Ray Eames lounge chair are notable. The native timber hardwood floors have weathered time well and add a warm honey-coloured glow to the living and dining areas.
The polished corkwood floor in the entrance immediately transports you to a past era, your arrival confirmed by the multicoloured Ray Eames designed “atomic” hat rack on the pine board walls sporting a 1960’s inspired “Mad Man” hat.
The house is arranged as two pavilions (housing bedrooms in one and living, dining & study areas in the other) linked by a utilitarian arm housing kitchen, bathroom, toilet and connecting hallway. “J” thinks that this works very well as “The living area is separated from the bedrooms but still very much visually connected via the glass hallway. We could very happily host kiddies in one end and adults in the other!”
Although having funky looking cupboards featuring in part some novel sideways-sliding doors, the kitchen area is relatively small by today’s modern living standards and J & D have plans to lovingly rework it along with some reordering of the bathroom and perhaps extend the spare room.
The bedrooms also feature favourite mid-century furniture pieces that are proudly displayed beneath windows that have a calming garden outlook.
Madam Butterfly is well placed in Heathmont as it is home to many Post War era residences and a range of mixed architectural styles including 1950s, 1960s, 1970s-1980s and 1980s-1990s buildings that are generally single storey and made up of a mix of weatherboard and brick veneer exteriors. Although a handful of houses can be classed as modernist or international in style (along the designs of Marcel Breuer, Harry Seidler and Frank Lloyd Wright), most are representative of a ” austere post war” style of a simple dwelling design, comprising flat or low slung gable roof forms, built of lightweight timber framed construction without decorative ornamentation. Notable architects active in Heathmont during the 1950s – 1960s include David Caldwell and Patrick & Chancellor.
Following WWII increased car ownership as well as residential lot subdivision became major drivers of growth in Heathmont. In 20 July 1956, The Argus newspaper featured a property guide article that extolled the new “Inner Dandenong Suburbs” with:
“Heathmont the first station beyond Ringwood, is rapidly becoming a show residential suburb,with many good examples of modern domestic architecture. In this attractive area, home sites in picked positions, on made roads, near the station, sell from £700 each.” “Builders are erecting timber homes with two bedrooms to sell from £3,250, and with three bedrooms from £3,600.”
At the time is was noted that besides having attractive house sites with favourable views the establishment of large factories in the neighbouring Bayswater area by Dunlops and British Nylon promised employment opportunities and a secure income to buy a house.
The favourable views of yesteryear are still to had, but with the advent of time they have been rendered ever more sylvan with the growth of established gardens, making the “turquoise dragonfly” feel very home indeed!
I am sure that over the next few years that this home will be lovingly restored to its former mid-century glory, making the decision in choosing the moniker of a turquoise-coloured “Madam Butterfly” or “Iridescent Dragonfly” all the harder to choose.
It’s that time of year when people are placing large unwanted household items (or ”waste”) out in front of their residences in preparation for the annual Brisbane City Council kerbside collection.
Indeed “one person’s waste” can be “another’s treasure” and quite often I spotted people placing a pre-loved set of golf clubs, children’s bike, or old washing machine in their boot or on the back of a van. Curious as to what was appearing on the kerbs in my immediate neighbourhood, I scouted around and documented what was being placed in front of people’s homes to see if there was a pattern of disposal occurring.
This is what I found:
- Furniture (desks, lounges, couches, indoor chairs garden patio chairs & tables, shelving, drawers, cabinets, TVs, bed mattresses, foam bedding, blankets, cupboards, cushions, light stands, kitchen benchtops, dressers)
- Timber (structural house framing & weatherboards & VJ’s; toolboxes, doors, windows, glass panes, fence posts, fence palings, garden edging & retaining walls, pallets)
- Garden equipment (hose reels, hoses, rakes, camping chairs, tarpaulins, gumboots)
- Metal items (clothes racks, 44-gallon drums, iron trunk, Toolboxes, wire fencing, BBQs, sheet metal, drain pipes, washing drying racks)
- Cardboard box and styrofoam box packaging (from electrical goods like computers, stoves, fridges etc)
- Kids toys (games, play yard equipment like swings basket ball rings and back boards, shell-shaped paddle pools/sandpits, radio controlled cars, table soccer, hula-hoops )
- Electronic waste / e-waste (computer towers, monitors, & circuit boards, vacuum cleaners, Sound system speakers, oil heaters, faxes, printers, fridge)
- Sport items (gym equipment, gold clubs & bags, bicycles, boogie board)
- Plastic (waste and laundry baskets, milk crates, plastic pallets, storage boxes, buckets & pails)
- Baby equipment ( prams, baby playpen, cot)
- General household goods (mop, books, video cassettes, CDs, DVDs, photo albums, magazines, CD rack, photo frames, window blinds, suitcases)
- and many more other items!
In general where items were broken, they could be repaired. Where they were worn, parts could be replaced. Where they were obsolete,thay could re-purposed. If used passed on or reused.
Our council website states what can and can not be placed out for kerbside collection and many of the above items do not comply. I made a telephone enquiry to the council officesto learn that it that there are several contractors who participate in the kerbside collection who specialise in reclamation of metal waste, furniture, and household goods (which are cleaned up and resold at Council “Tip Shops” which is heartening) and also white good items (e.g. fridges, washing machines).
However there is a lot of material that still ends up as landfill meaning on many cases that they become a lost resource. Considering that the council has a Towards Zero Waste strategy to reduce waste going to landfill using the waste reduction hierarchy of avoidance>reduce>reuse>recycle>disposal, it is surprising that there is no mention of upcycling, which is the process of converting old or discarded materials or useless waste products into new materials or products that maintains or increases its value by being more useful, of better quality, or having a different and more valuable purpose. This is not only an important waste reduction link, but also a critical finite resource consumption-reducing link that is a natural addition to recycling. Through upcycling, new products are created from waste streams that have a higher value than if they were just disposed to landfill. For example, by reclaiming metals and constructing or refashioning something new from them, obviates the need of mining new metal from the earth thus reducing fuel/energy consumption and environmental impact. Tyres can be refashioned into water buckets, plant pots or sandals! Creative reuse has become very popular amongst arts & crafts and homeware & gift suppliers. Others are taking this further by using upcycled products with a net-positive design approach.
In fact many of the items listed above would be seen as a resource boon to those living in developing countries where reclamation, re-use, jury-rigging and repurposing mwaste materials can be critical for providing shelter and housing, an income, or reducing urban pollution. For more info see Junkyard Planet and ideas/inspiration here.
So if you no longer have a use for something, don’t throw it, get it repaired, repurpose it, pass it on, recycle it, or upcycle it!
Postscript 6th November 2014
It was disturbing to witness the council refuse truck arrive on the day of the kerbside collection in my street. During the short 30 minutes it took for them to “clean up” the street, I observed the council workers place the kerbside items into the compactor hopper of the garbage truck, hydraulically crush the items to fit into the truck, and then drive off (ultimately to the landfill site to dispose of their load of “rubbish”).
A wasted opportunity… !