Grand Designs Australia

Living in Minimal 1950’s Inspired Spaces and Not Letting the Clutter Take Over

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once said: "You have to go wholeheartedly into anything in order to achieve anything worth having."

And this is exactly what Warwick Noble and Melanie Hughes have done.  A passion for all things relating to the 1950’s, specifically American design, architecture and art has taken them on a journey that was a long awaited dream. 

Having lived in a 1950’s fibro home built by Mel’s grandfather, they outgrew their space and needed an upgrade with a twist.  With two artistic girls and a dedication to collecting pop culture items and furniture from the 1950’s and 60’s, they needed  a home met the requirements of modern living while  still paying homage to the passion they have for the 1950’s era. 

This was a challenge that they tackled and researched extensively.  The couple were influenced by the likes of American Architectural masters  Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Alvar Aalto, Mies van der Rohe and, closer to home, Harry Seidler, specifically  his early commission, the Rose Seidler House  built in the 1950’s in NSW.
Their architect David Boyle was able to achieve a perfect balance between design features from the era and the needs of living requirements today. This is a hard task as the 1950’s less is more and simplicity philosophy doesn’t accommodate clutter and the amount of possessions that most families accumulate today.  With cleaver planning and an emphasis on storage, storage and more storage, the final result is magnificent.

Here are 7 key features to designing a Mid-Century Modern style home that also works with the practicality and needs of todays living style.

1. Simple and rectangular volumes

Mid-Century Modern houses made use of simple volumes, linear geometries and expressing the material meaning that the true nature or natural appearance of a material ought to be seen, rather than concealed.  A natural stone wall would have been featured and celebrated rather than concealed.

2. Flat Roofs

A flat roof was a typical feature for homes of this era.  Unfortunately, flat roofs developed a negative reputation for their shorter lifespans and tendency to leak. However, the modern aesthetic that a flat roof presents is very much relevant today and has been replicated since the style first appeared. 

Flat roofing can be economic and efficient, regular inspections and maintenance can insure that your flat roof stands the test of time and weather conditions.

3. Privacy and Transparency

Mid-Century Modern homes typically transport you through a sequence of experiences, from arrival at the front door to the reward at the end.   Often, upon approaching a Mid-Century Modern home, the entryway is solid and private. Once you enter the home the interior becomes increasingly transparent, until you reach a common area like the living room where the interior opens up further to the gran reveal of a view or magnificent landscaping scene.

4.  Open-plan interiors

The concept of openness was vital to Mid-Century Modern architecture and remains prevalent today.  They designed open plan spaces that were broken into smaller more intimate spaces by key elements like fireplaces and partial walls.  These elements give the effect of open plan living by having lines of sight through the spaces that guide you to the next room. 

The open-plan design principal of the 1950’s has evolved but the ideology remains.  Open-plan today means larger open spaces with flexibility for multiple uses - kitchen, dining and living all as one space.

5.  Indoor-outdoor flow

Mid-Century Modern homes took advantage of the new passion for connecting the indoors to the outside and vice versa.  For this reason the homes siting within the landscape was extremely important.  The indoor-outdoor connection at the time was achieved by the intentional move to extend the material of a wall from inside to outside, creating outdoor intimate spaces and the use of large glass openings connecting to these.

Below is a list of significant examples of Mid-Century Modern Australian architectural design homes.

Harry Seidler – Rose Seidler House, NSW

Built in 1949-1950, the Rose Seidler House was considered modern for Australia at the time and questioned every convention of suburban residential design.  Harry designed the home for his parents Rose and Max Seidler and the Historic Houses Trust of NSW now owns the house.


Neville Gruzman – The Rosenberg/Hills House, NSW

Built in 1966, the Rosenberg/Hills House is surrounded by a series of hills on three sides, making it visually and acoustically private. The home has gone through extensive additions, however, existing owners have restored it to its original state. Two iconic 20th-century houses, Wright’s Fallingwater and Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House influence the building.


Robin Boyd – The Fenner House, Camberra

Designed in 1952, The Fenner House was the second commission by the family and draws its inspiration from Marcel Breuer’s Geller House.

Most houses in Canberra faced the street, the Fenner House, however, straddled the corner block diagonally in two completely separate blocks, connected by a glass link containing an entrance hall.  The home breaks away from what homes of the time looked like.

Peter Muller – The Audette House, NSW

The Audette House is located in Castlecrag, Sydney and was the first design by Peter Muller in 1952 as a qualified architect.  The home is heavily influenced by the architecture and philosophies of Frank Lloyd Wright.  The home challenges the 50’s residential design trends of small rooms and segmented living spaces.

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