Grand Designs Australia

Deakin House - Expert Tips

Discover tips from the experts behind the Deakin '70s retro house from episode 9, season 6 of Grand Designs Australia.

Barb Coyle and husband Bill love interesting architecture -  a passion consolidated by seventeen happy years spent in their Harry Seidler-designed home in inner Canberra.

But while the late architect’s split levels and vaulted mezzanines are retro-cool, they’re causing problems for Bill. He’s been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and can no longer manage the stairs.
Reluctantly the have to move into a single level house but what they’re looking for proves elusive; a home with a stylish vintage aesthetic, but one that can eventually accommodate a wheelchair. The only solution is to design and build something that will suit their evolving needs, in a style that’s close to their hearts.

Enter their architect - a key figure in Australian 20th Century architecture who’s lived and worked in Canberra for 40 years. Barb and Bill are delighted with his plans for their modern 70’s home - a T-shaped, north facing house with featured curves, raked ceilings, bagged walls and sloping roofline.

?It’s a textbook modernist silhouette which Barbara adores, but then fine architecture is as important to both her and Bill, as a house that will meet life’s practicalities. Not one to accept the mundane, Barb has plans to use her years working with interiors to stamp her individual style on this house. Fabrics and furnishings in vibrant colour will eventually fill the rooms, but Barb has to get the house built first.

With Bill unable to move freely, Barb takes the lead overseeing developments on site first hand, learning quite quickly that the reality of building is harder than expected, especially in adhering to a woefully tight 7 month schedule.

If the house isn’t finished it’ll mean another move for Barb and Bill but with last minute tweaks to the original design and an unexpected delay on the steel for the roof and the special curved windows, it’s a foregone conclusion.

When the highly anticipated curved windows finally do turn up, Barb is hit for six once again. They’re simply not right.

With Bill’s health foremost in her mind, Barb has to manage his needs, overcome a disheartening array of setbacks and navigate a particularly sensitive relationship with her architect.
What she learns is that the fine art of vintage architecture cannot be rushed.


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