Retain? Reinvent? Restore? These are just a few of the questions you may ask yourself when buying a house designed by a big-name architect.
Usually, owners in this position take a measure of custodianship over such a property, sometimes going to considerable lengths to keep intact or reinstate the architect’s original vision.
More so, too, when the property was once the architect’s own home.
But how far do you go? Do you turn the house into a museum or some kind of shrine to the famed architect? Rework their original design and intent sympathetically? Or perhaps overlay it with your own vision?
Over the years, it’s something that undoubtedly has occupied the minds of the owners of this Iwan Iwanoff-designed modernist gem in the coastal Perth suburb of Floreat, as the property has been passed down from one to another.
The late Bulgarian-born architect, one of Western Australia’s most celebrated and idiosyncratic, built the two-storey house in 1966 both for his family and as a place of work.
The residence – logically named Iwanoff House – is particularly noteworthy on several levels. First, as his own house, he had the freedom to experiment. Second, it also showcased Iwanoff’s distinctive style, which favoured a European modernist idiom.
You see it in the clean, minimalist lines of the building, the strip windows connecting the house to the surrounding trees and garden (something Iwanoff was big on) and the use of concrete.
More notably, though, it signalled his foray into the creative application of Besser concrete blocks, which lent his design a sense of drama and brutalism – an architectural approach that emerged from the modernist movement.
More than half a century on, the exterior of the house looks virtually unchanged – save for the front door and window frames, which have been painted a rich red – a clear sign that each set of owners has shown the building due respect.
Inside, though, has been more challenging. Iwanoff was highly thorough and detailed with his work, with bespoke fit-outs featuring custom furnishings and fixtures.
In its original plan, the first floor served as the living, dining and sleeping quarters. On one side of a central staircase were twin bedrooms, each with an en suite bathroom, while the other side housed the kitchen, dining and living areas.
The ground floor was halved into Iwanoff’s studio at one end and a carport at the other.
But today the interiors are altered, mainly by one former owner – an interior designer – who modified the residence to meet the demands of her growing family.
Some of the key changes included the transformation of Iwanoff’s studio into an extra living area, the conversion of the carport into a main bedroom, the replacement of the kitchen and the upgrading of the bathrooms.
At the same time, though, she was mindful of staying true to the architect’s vision. For instance, the new kitchen occupied the same footprint, the bathrooms retained original features, and the main bedroom used screening that referenced the joinery.
Interestingly, before they decided to sell, the current owners had been keen to restore the house, particularly the internal timberwork, to a more pristine state.
The owners – who, at one time, owned Iwanoff’s Frank House in Menora – had suitably furnished the Iwanoff House with authentic examples of vintage mid-century furniture.
“They have an affinity for Iwanoff’s work,” says selling agent Danielle Geagea. “Having owned an Iwanoff previously, they’d really wanted to do it justice by bringing it back to what it was.”
Now it is something for the next owners to ponder.
Geagea from Zsa Zsa Property is selling the home with a guide over $2.75 million.