October 9th, 2019.
The Fender House, nestled amongst an engagingly beautiful hybrid landscape of eucalypts and palm trees on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, is iconic architect Karl Fenders nod to the modernist aesthetic and its unexpectedly charming affinity for an Australian bushland aspect.
Katie and Ian Brannaghan’s journey with The Fender House began when they purchased the sprawling 6 bedroom modernist property on 3.5 acres in rural Mount Martha in 2016, and it was one of pure happenstance. “We were originally looking for an old ramshackle beach house” says Katie who grew up on the Peninsula and, like many, was drawn to the idea of a weekender to counterbalance the family’s mid-week city life. As a long time fan of the mid-century aesthetic, Katie and Ian had seen the property listing in their real estate search and were drawn to its history and compelling design. They initially dismissed it, given its enormous size and aligned price tag, but when opportunity came knocking to purchase closer to their terms, snapped up the home, salmon tiles, rotten floors, weird customisation, 90’s additions and all.
What followed was 1 1/2 years of commitment, compromise and back breaking hard work. The Brannaghan’s sold their home in inner Melbourne (not something that was part of the original plan) and relocated the whole family to the Peninsula to facilitate the renovation. The Fender House began a painstaking metamorphosis that started with a gargantuan cleanup that involved stripping back the years of accumulated dirt, hoarded objects (the land surrounding the house alone was filled with a junk yard worthy array of boats, fences and broken barbecues that equated to ten skips worth of rubbish), cosmetic adjustments and overlaying styles that had been systematically added over the decades, revealing the bones and originality that Karl Fender had designed over four decades previously.
Slowly, as the interior was restored and updated with sensitive consideration for today’s modern standards of living, the house has embraced an entirely new chapter that is beautifully instilled with a sense of passion and determination care of the Brannaghan’s who clearly have devoted much into their modernist gem. The panelling that covered the walls has been restored, matched and seamlessly integrated with other cohesive interior finishes genuine of the homes 70’s era. Walls are hung with curated artworks that include original hand drawn elevations from Karl Fender himself. Lightboxes built into door thresholds and above bathroom mirrors have been re-wired and re-instate an ambience to the home that is both warmly domestic as well as cleverly design-focused. Windows in the upper reaches of interior walls draw the eye to the mid-century signature raked ceilings, and charmingly frame glimpses of the gum trees and blue sky outside whilst allowing light to flood right through the entire house.
Outside, the Fender House is Palm Springs meets Australian outback. The palm trees, terrazzo flooring which flows from interior to exterior, the restored clean lines and turquoise lure of the brilliantly white pool, and the sculptural furniture true to the mid-century aesthetic are all backdropped by the unmistakable Australian landscape which, far from being jarring, introduces a harmony that is seamless and utterly suited to the property in its entirety.
Karl Fenders’ 1970’s folly into the residential landscape of Mount Martha has been given a new lease on life and it seems that it was the Brannaghan’s who were destined to bring it into the 21st Century – and beyond.