Every now and then, a home comes along that’s anything but typical.
The Bolt house on Gidabal Street in Aranda, with its quintessentially modernist exterior, is an unassuming presence, abound with possibility. Nestled elegantly on an elevated block, the property’s roots are firmly grounded as one of Canberra’s most distinctive homes.
Designed by iconic mid-century modern architect Dirk Bolt and constructed in 1967, this home was one of many freestanding dwellings designed in the 6 years Bolt lived in Canberra.
Bolt’s stunning designs find the desirable middle ground between extremes and often create an effortless flow between contrasting materials and spaces, and this Aranda home is no exception.
Originally, designed for a public servant who was set to move to Canberra but who never actually arrived, the Aranda home was purchased by Anne Willsford in 1984. Anne’s appreciation for modernist design and love for the area meant she would occupy the home for the next 37 years.
Unfortunately, with passing time, Anne was unable to maintain the property as well as she would have liked, and when the time came to sell her home, Anne was hesitant to put it out to market.
Being in a highly sought-after area and needing major rectification works, Anne was concerned potential buyers would knock down the historic home. Protecting this culturally significant building (by finding the right buyers to continue the legacy of the property) was important to Anne.
Sally from home.by holly appreciated Anne’s desire to preserve this important piece of Canberra’s history. She worked closely with buyer and seller to ensure both parties experienced a smooth transaction. Sally’s customised approach to the sale of this unique property meant that Anne was able to comfortably part with her home, eventually selling it to newlyweds Elle Cobanov and Chris Coombe, who instantly fell in love with it.
With their intention to restore the property to its former glory—the interior designer and builder duo were the perfect buyers. Seeing an abundance of potential in the property, Elle and Chris plan to bring the house back to life.
“We just fell in love with so many elements of the property,” Elle said. “The iconic Canberra mid-century design, with the flat roof, timber features, the blockwork, was exactly what we were looking for. Plus, it needed a lot of love and we’re in the perfect position to do it.”
Elle and Chris will keep as much of the original design, footprint and façade as possible, with slight modernisation and modification work, while undertaking a full structural revitalisation.
“It does need a lot of work structurally, but we’re up for the challenge. It’s going to be a real labour of love to keep it authentic—we’re even keeping the custom shoe racks from inside the robes—to make sure we preserve the legacy of Bolt’s beautiful design,” Elle said.
Architect Shannon Battisson (The Mill Architecture) will assist with architectural advice for this exciting renewal project.
“Architecture of the mid-century period is in a precarious position right now. Serious investment in their maintenance—and a need to bring them up to current standards of living and environmental performance—rests awkwardly alongside the fact that these buildings are not yet considered old enough to be heritage,” Shannon said.
“It’s vital that, wherever possible, these properties are given a new lease on life, and remain part of Canberra’s next chapter. Considered renovation and adaption will ensure we don’t find ourselves wishing that we’d held on to an important part of our heritage.”
Shannon noted that the Aranda home is a perfect opportunity to preserve an important part of Canberra’s history and loves getting to know these buildings in fine detail.
“The house has a beautiful relationship to both the land around it and to the incredible views across Canberra. My favourite spaces are definitely the sun drenched living spaces and the wonderful enclosed verandah,” Shannon said.
“I find immense satisfaction in seeing these buildings standing proudly after our work is done, knowing that they will live on with a new family to appreciate them.”
From Sally’s perspective, maintaining the historical significance of such an important moment in design history, while getting to know her clients are the highlights of her job.
“It’s an incredibly rewarding experience connecting passionate buyers and sellers with an appreciation for MCM design. In this instance, the sales process was quiet, and without the typical fanfare and public exposure—finding the perfect buyer was paramount,” Sally said.
Sally is a property specialist in Aranda and has an unwavering passion for mid-century modern design. She often comes across beautifully designed homes that need a little love, just like this one.
“The thing I enjoy most about working in Aranda is discovering these older, architectural gems. The opportunity to play a key role in ensuring this important legacy continues is a big part of why I love what I do,” Sally said.
While the refurbishment will be a large undertaking, there’s no doubt this home will be one of Bolt’s most significant works in Canberra for many years to come. It is indeed a mid-century modern marvel.