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Neale Whi­taker goes back to the fu­ture with mid-cen­tury de­sign.

On a chilly win­ter’s night in Mel­bourne’s South Yarra, I re­cently en­joyed a cosy, can­dlelit din­ner – the very em­bod­i­ment of the Dan­ish spirit of hygge we’re all talking about – in a house that felt wel­com­ing, mod­ern and, above all, Aus­tralian. Open-plan with raw brick and a seam­less in­door/ out­door con­nec­tion, it seemed in­cred­i­ble that the in­te­rior was ex­actly as its cre­ator – dis­tin­guished Aus­tralian ar­chi­tect Robin Boyd – had con­ceived it al­most 60 years ago in 1958. Back to the fu­ture, for sure.

We were din­ing at the Walsh St house head­quar­ters of the Robin Boyd Foun­da­tion (robin­, to cel­e­brate the re­lease by re­tail­ers Kfive + Kin­narps ( of some of Boyd’s iconic fur­ni­ture de­signs from the early 1960s. El­e­gant, stream­lined and func­tional, the Boyd Col­lec­tion (three-seater sofa, chair, din­ing and cof­fee ta­bles) could eas­ily have de­buted at this year’s Mi­lan De­sign Week, but such is the en­dur­ing in­flu­ence of mid-cen­tury style that each piece segues neatly into the present.

It was the sec­ond time in as many months I’d come across Robin Boyd. While plan­ning Vogue Liv­ing’s 50th an­niver­sary is­sue, I dis­cov­ered he had penned an ar­ti­cle (Boyd, who died in 1971, was also a pro­lific writer) in the mag­a­zine’s first-ever 1967 is­sue, ad­vis­ing read­ers on how to deal with an ar­chi­tect. By all ac­counts, he was an out­spo­ken critic of the Aus­tralian cul­ture and ar­chi­tec­ture of his day.

It seems fit­ting that as mod­ern Aus­tralian de­sign gains recog­ni­tion through cur­rent stars, such as Adam Goodrum, Charles Wil­son and Tom Fere­day, we’re look­ing with fresh eyes at some of our past gems. There’s a lot to be proud of in the Aussie archive. Just last year, Mel­bourne-based Grazia & Co (grazi­ reis­sued fur­ni­ture by an­other great Aus­tralian de­signer, Grant Feather­ston. As with the Boyd Col­lec­tion, Feather­ston’s orig­i­nal de­sign spec­i­fi­ca­tions were hon­oured but up­dated with new fab­ric and colour op­tions.

Kfive + Kin­narps di­rec­tor Erna Walsh says that Boyd’s fur­ni­ture “truly cap­tured my imag­i­na­tion”, as did his “de­sire to pro­vide qual­ity, af­ford­able de­sign to con­tem­po­rary Aus­tralia”. And no doubt the late ar­chi­tect would ap­prove of his new man­u­fac­turer’s com­mit­ment to plough­ing pro­ceeds from the fur­ni­ture back into the Robin Boyd Foun­da­tion. Boyd’s most fa­mous book, pub­lished in 1960, was called The Aus­tralian Ug­li­ness. Fas­ci­nat­ing to think what he might have called it to­day – or if it would have even been writ­ten. Neale Whi­taker is ed­i­tor-at-large of Vogue Liv­ing.

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