Domain: Historic mid-century home on Beach Road, Beaumaris, is back on the market

Domain published the following article on 13 Feb 2019. Author: Jenny Brown 

Abrahams House, 372 Beach Road, Beaumaris

This mid-century brick house has been saved from demolition three times in recent memory and now its original owner hopes there will be a fourth.

Designed by noted Melbourne architect Arthur Russell, the house dates to 1961 and sits on a block of name-your-price land on Beach Road, Beaumaris.

The oddness of the kite-shaped corner block and the unimpeded bay outlook have previously helped rescue the home, which otherwise lacks heritage protection, from the wrecking ball and potential dual-occupancy redevelopment.

On this latest occasion, it was the remnant specimen native trees such as the lantern blossom-laden banksias that original owner Daryl Abrahams planted in the early 1960s that saved it.

The 650-square-metre block has a “significant trees vegetation overlay”. So with some of those trees in awkward placements on the land, 372 Beach Road is back on the market with an asking price of $2.5 million to $2.8 million.

Patting the hoary bark of a double-trunked tree he put into the sandy soil as a seedling almost 60 years ago, Daryl Abrahams, 84, says: “I’m astounded at what they’re looking for price-wise.”

He and his late wife, the famous art gallery owner Christine Abrahams, had bought the land next to an undeveloped block owned by the painter Arthur Boyd for £2000 “because I always wanted to live by the sea”.

It was a carefree, sand-between-the-toes kind of place to bring up three sons.

Returning with their father during a recent scheduled open-for-inspection, two of the boys, Guy and his younger brother Damian, recalled that as soon as they’d come home from school they’d be across the road to the beach.

Having co-opted the Boyd land as an extension of their play space, Guy Abrahams tells how the garden his father planted made it “a natural bush wonderland, full of cubby houses and lizards. Like a park. I loved living here.”

Damian says “it was an arcadia”.

Experiencing the bittersweet “floods of memories” of returning to a home he occupied for 17 years, even if “99 per cent of the trees I planted are gone”, Abrahams snr can see the care-worn yet still admirable bones of an elevated, pale brick building that he’d asked architect Arthur Russell to design to have two bedrooms and one bathroom.

Why an architect and not the cheaper, local knock-it-up builder? “I’d never thought of doing it any other way,” he says.

And why did he choose Russell? Because, he says, he’d so appreciated the curved elegance of the former BP House on St Kilda Road that Demaine, Russell, Trundle, Armstrong & Orton had conjured in 1962 and that has layers of heritage protection as a commercial structure of state significance.

Although not fundamentalist about opposing residential development per se, he  “would be happy to see it saved as a family house”.

Fiona Austin, interior designer and founder of the Beaumaris Modern group that is carrying on a house-by-house fight to preserve the remnant originals of one of Australia’s most important Modernist enclaves, says the Abrahams House is one of the best of the many she’s been in.

“I knew it was special the first time I saw it.” And, she asks, what replacement “could they possibly build that would be better?”

Austin jokes that for the first time in her life she’s buying lottery tickets and would take up a restoration project on “a rare and precious house” in a heartbeat.

“It’s so well designed for the shape of the block; for the view and the light. And the rooms are so beautifully proportioned that it wouldn’t take much to bring it back to extraordinary … new bathrooms and kitchen, a new balustrade, double-glazing.”

Buxton Sandringham agent Romana Altman says even with renovation costs on top of the multi-million base pricetag, “you cannot overcapitalise on Beach Road. And this is one of only 20 per cent of Beach Road properties that have uninterrupted sea views.”

“In Beaumaris, the mid-century houses always have that extra appeal,” Altman says.