Beaumaris Modern: Modernist Homes in Beaumaris

A Beaumaris Modern compendium by Fiona Austin


Beaumaris Modern: Modernist Homes in Beaumaris is a collection of mid-century modern Beaumaris houses, beautifully documented by Jack Shelton, a bayside local now living and working as a professional photographer in LA.

Some are original in their design and are the architects’ own homes from the 50s and 60s and other homes have been sensitively restored and renovated.

All the houses have a back story, fascinating interiors and architectural details, particularly the houses in which the owners have lived for over 50 years. Each house features a history, written by Fiona Austin, a Beaumaris resident, interior designer and local Beaumaris heritage expert, and Alison Alexander, a Beaumaris mid-century home owner, writer, editor and daughter of prominent architect Ross Stahle, from the architectural practice Mockridge Stahle Mitchell.

Each house includes a biography of the original architect, written by mid-century expert and architectural historian, Simon Reeves. A detailed floor plan also accompanies each house.


Fiona Austin grew up in a mid-century house in Sydney. Her early exposure to all things mid-century was engendered by her parents who had a strong appreciation of contemporary design.

After studying fine art and then design, Fiona worked for on staff for three years at Home Beautiful Magazine and then went on to edit The Period Home Renovator magazine, whilst studying restoration and conservation at RMIT.

While her children were small, Fiona freelanced for three years, writing about design for the then “Home” section of the “Age” newspaper and Home Beautiful Magazine as well as working as an interior designer for various companies. Fiona established her own interior design practice, Austin Design Associates, in 1999.

In 2001, Fiona and her husband, Craig, and their two sons, purchased a mid-century house in Beaumaris. Over time, Fiona became distressed at seeing many mid-century houses being demolished. Fiona started photographing Midcentury houses and interviewing the owners, then started the Beaumaris Modern Facebook page in an effort to link up possible purchasers of mid-century houses with houses for sale in Beaumaris.

Fiona has operated her design practice for over 20 years and specialises in residential design, with a particular interest in mid-century homes. Fiona is a Chapter councillor and Fellow of the Design Institute of Australia.

Title: Beaumaris Modern
Author: Fiona Austin with Alison Alexander and Simon Reeves
Publisher: Melbourne Books, 2018
ISBN: 9781925556407

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2 days ago

Beaumaris modern


Stephenson House
2 Stayner Street, Beaumaris

Even within the broad closed-set of architect-designed modernist houses in Beaumaris, the work of one particular firm looms large and lavish: the triple-threat triumvirate of Grounds, Romberg & Boyd. Once cannily dubbed by an unnamed contemporary wag as Gruff, Homberg & Boyish, but more readily abbreviated by the catchy portmanteau of Gromboyd, the firm was responsible for at least half a dozen individually-commissioned residences in Beaumaris and Black Rock, to say nothing of perhaps the same number of specimens of its standardised Peninsula House, arguably Australia’s first true blue project house.

While the indefatigable Robin Boyd helmed most Gromboyd projects in Beaumaris and environs, today’s installment revisits a late lamented dwelling that emanated instead from the drafting-pen of Boyd’s mercurial and mustachioed colleague, the redoubtable Roy Grounds. This house, hailing from the firm’s late 1950s acme (ie, prior to its spectacular dissolution circa 1962), was commissioned by newsagent-about-town W J Stephenson (1911-1975). The son of a builder, Stephenson grew up in Caulfield but, after marrying in the 1944, he and wife Jean edged steadily closer to the bay, residing in Brighton and then Mentone before snapping up a site for a new house in Stayner Street, Beaumaris.

We should pause to mention a crucial fact: W J’s wife, June Stephenson (1917-1999) was an easel painter of repute; she worked in a lively and engaging modern style that might be described as post-Post-impressionist (think, semi-Cezanne with a teasp of Matisse). June was a founding member of the Beaumaris Art Group when it sprung forth in 1953, and her artwork featured in the club’s maiden exhibition that year. More trenchantly, she was one of a handful of early BAG members whose penchant of visual delight was such that they commissioned houses in Beauy from top-rung architects. Enter Roy Grounds. Befitting June’s aesthetic tastes, she and her husband received a smartly modern dwelling with low-pitched roofline and vast window walls. Way ahead of its time, it included a number of features that, while boringly ubiquitous now were startling back then, such as double garage and a master bedroom with en suite bathroom. There were three more bedrooms for the large-ish Stephenson family, and a dedicated studio for dedicated artist June.

The Stephensons resided therein for over a decade before retiring to Queensland in the early 1970s. Fortuitously, this at least coincided with the recent ennoblement of the home’s architect, so when the family offered the place for sale, it could be shamelessly plugged as “unique and attractive brick house designed by Sir Roy Grounds”. It had several subsequent owners and, latterly tenanted, still remained extant in 2008, when the local authority embarked upon a long-overdue heritage survey of mid-century marvels. The consultant on that project was perhaps the last person ever to photograph the house in the flesh, as it was quietly demolished before more detailed research and assessment could be undertaken. Ashes to ashes, grounds to grounds.

Research and text: Simon Reeves
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Mission Statement

Beaumaris Modern is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to celebrate, educate and promote public awareness of the importance of preserving the mid-century architecture of Beaumaris.