The Fight to Save Mid-Century Marvels From the Bulldozer

Mid-century homes are being torn down across Australia because heritage protection laws do not extend to their preservation – and lobby groups are not happy.

 

Recent demolitions include the 1966-built Breedon House at 34 Were Street in Brighton– which even won an architecture award in 1960 – and the stunning property at 17 Nautilus Street in Beaumaris, which was built in 1957 by architect, Charles Bricknell.

Without heritage protection, these design marvels are being knocked down to make way for new homes. Local councils are responsible for listing heritage protection on properties, but many fail to acknowledge the cultural importance of mid-century homes.

The Victorian suburbs of Beaumaris, Caulfield and Balwyn are hotspots, as is St Ives in New South Wales. Canberra is a mid-century capital, packed with well-preserved homes from the period.

Inside Breedon House in Brighton before it was demolished.


The oversight has prompted grassroots advocacy groups, such as non-for-profit organisation Beaumaris Modern, to raise awareness of the significance of mid-century architecture.

“Only a handful [are protected]… councils are slowly recognising mid-century modern homes – we are way behind America on this – and in recent heritage studies these houses are being recognised,” said the group’s founder, Fiona Austin.

“Our council here in Bayside is hopelessly behind and we are losing many significant homes. In fact, we just got news today that we have lost a VCAT [Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal] fight to save a significant house, which should have been protected.”

Adopting a mid-century lifestyle

There is a certain type of buyer who is drawn to mid-century homes – ones who want to preserve a piece of history and enjoy an architectural style that prioritised large family living areas, indoor-outdoor living and artisanal features.

“They are often a ‘one off’, so architects in the ’50s and ’60s were experimenting with new designs and materials and often designed really interesting houses, designed to face the north with large windows and flat or skillion roofs,” explained Ms Austin.

“Inside, they were open plan and designed to look out on the garden… Sadly, once they are demolished there is not another one around the corner, like with Victorian and Federation style houses.”

Jenny and Peter Hyatt, who both work in photography, bought their own mid-century home two years ago in the Victorian bayside suburb of Sandringham. Despite not setting out to look for one, they were caught by the home’s clever design detail and emphasis on the outdoors.

Peter and Jenny's mid-century house suits their outdoorsy lifestyles. Picture: Peter Hyatt

Peter and Jenny’s mid-century house suits their outdoorsy lifestyles. Picture: Peter Hyatt


“It really suits our lifestyle. We are very much outdoors people and the whole house is centred around the pool… it’s basically another room and we spend a lot of time out here,” said Mrs Hyatt.

“It considered that the outdoor space was as important as the indoor space,” added Mr Hyatt. .

Previously, the couple lived in a Victorian home in North Melbourne, but moving into a mid-century home also meant embracing a new style of decor. They embraced the challenge, sourcing beautiful pieces from both new and vintage stores.

“I think the house here is a work of art. There aren’t a lot around, they’re a threatened species, so they do have a real value. We will never have that era again,” said Mr Hyatt.

“For now, we are the custodians of the house and we hope to eventually pass it on,” he added.

Finding mid-century homes

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For those wanting to enter the mid-century market, the best bet to finding a mid-century home is to do a keyword search on realestate.com.au.

Adding ‘mid-century’ as a keyword will narrow down the properties, but it’s also a good idea to get in touch with real estate agencies that are experienced with selling this popular style of home – especially if they are based in mid-century hotspots.

There are several stunners currently on the market seeking new owners.

1 Kenarra Court in Hurstbridge may be under offer, but the home is an example of the well-kept mid-century gems fanatics can find on the market.

1 Kenarra Court, Hurstbridge is an example of the beautiful mid-century homes that can be found on the market. Picture: realestate.com.au/buy


29 Leura Grove in Hawthorn East is another beauty currently on the market, where open-for-inspections have been inundated with mid-century fans.

The four-bedroom, three-bathroom home comes with a games room, a large pool and, of course, a bar for entertaining.

29 Leura Gove, Hawthorn East shows off large family living and artisan design. Picture: realestate.com.au/buy


The homes hold their value, too – 33 Godfrey Street in the ACT suburb of Campbell recently sold for $1.25m. Considering the median house price for a four-bedder in the suburb is $1.33m, it demonstrates that demand for these marvels is still present.

33 Godfrey Street, Campbell recently sold for $1.25m. Picture: realestate.com.au/sold


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