If you live on the eastern seaboard of Australia (and a little of the western) or at least visited this side of the country, you’ve almost certainly been in the presence of a magnificent Harry Seidler creation. From the mushroom façade of the Commercial Travelers Association in Martin Place Sydney, to the shell-like edifice of Number One Spring St, Melbourne; Harry Seidler’s work is dotted around the country like little drops of architectural magic.
On a recent trip to Sydney, I had one target in mind – Rose Seidler House. Back when I was growing up, Wahroonga may as well have been as far away as Wyoming. It was a distant land of diamonds, Volvo 140’s and triple-decker jacuzzi’s. Content with our little quarter acre of perfectly manicured lawns nestled between the rusty brick boxes of Cabramatta; Northern Sydney was just not somewhere my family ventured. In fact, the furthest we ever seemed to travel was to my Aunty’s house in the suburb of ‘Greystanes’ (for a place we thought was ever so posh, could you have asked for a worse name?).
So last weekend on a snap decision trip off I set, GPS in hand, venturing into the gumtree wilds on the border of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Wahroonga sits 27kms north of the Sydney GPO, take the leafy journey and you will find yourself at Rose Seidler House set back off an unassuming suburban side street, hidden from dog walkers and lawn mowers, whiling away her years in dappled sunshine.
The house was designed and built by Harry for his mother Rose and father Max, and as soon as the last polka dot was painted on the exterior wall, the design caused an uproar – flat roof, cubed, glass walls – it was unlike anything that had been built before and from day one people peered down the drive to catch a glimpse of this futuristic beauty. The house is not particularly opulent or bling-drenched, keeping in line with the sobering economic constraints of post-war Australia. Lucky for us, the house has stood the test of time, never needing bells and whistles. It sits happily in its skin of classic linear design, quality materials and minimalist décor.
Fast forward to today and not a thing has changed, except that now the house is a ‘museum’ – $8 entry, take your shoes off at the door please. You ascend the carpeted stairs straight into the bright, sparse area of the open plan dining/living room which is dominated by a heavenly floor to ceiling sandstone fireplace. Most of the house is in its original state – the custom woven carpet has been replaced, some of the black glass has been refitted and the fridge (although extremely delicate) is not the original one that Rose would have pulled her maraschino cherries from. There are Eames/Miller plywood chairs dotted throughout (like, LOADS of them), Saarinen ‘Womb’ and ‘Grasshopper’ chairs grace the lounge room and the bedrooms; the latter’s feature walls painted a deep matte chocolate shade. Bright tangerine curtains are highlighted with electric blue, cerise and stone coloured bed dressings.
On first glance the house reeks of post-war solemnity until you see the bold Mondrian-esque primary glass cupboards, punching your right in the pupils. Utterly fantastic. What is most striking about these surfaces is the reflective bush scenery that glances back at you depending on what angle you are standing. I could make a mean aspic salmon in here, friends.
The outdoor deck area is another space in the house that is filled with colour. Seidler himself painted one exterior wall from ground to first floor, all curvy shapes which contradicts the sharp lines of the house, the art lines and polka dot sections are surrounded by greys, teals, yellows and browns with flashes of bright red. A few Hardoy Butterfly chairs add a vibrant accent to the grey of the faded timber decking.
The house is sensibly dreamy. You could move in straight away and not add a single thing. It doesn’t need a single thing – maybe just a few martini glasses and a floaty nylon nightie behind the bathroom door. No TV, maybe just a wireless radio.
Let me preface all of this by saying I am not an architect. Or an Interior Designer. I’m just a huge fan of the era and far from the ‘fifties’ red vinyl chairs and black and white chequered tiles, this house is the quintessential ‘modern’ of mid-century. I can easily describe how it makes me happy, but it is much more difficult to explain how and why it makes me feel sad. Maybe it’s because I’m a huge believer in your surrounds (not necessarily material but for the sake of this blog, why not) having a profound impact on your emotional state and it’s all I ever really wanted growing up. Peace. Serenity. Structure. Order. Things I’ve only learned (and still learning) as I’ve aged. This entire space evokes some weird emotions in me and I dead set felt privileged to tip toe around here.
Anyway, enough mamby pamby – have a look here at the original Home Beautiful article that was published when the house was built. Barely a thing has changed.
Rose Seidler House
71 Clissold St
Open sundays 11-4