VOGUE Living Australia
All in the BALANCE
Interior designer Edwina Glenn elevates the everyday in the Melbourne home of philanthropist, advocate for women’s rights and self-described “brazen hussy” Jill Reichstein OAM.
Offer any mother the Albert Schweitzer insight that happiness belongs to those who have found how to serve and get ready for the ensuing rant. The bare truth of it, as recently told with biting reality, is that women still bear the brunt of household hardship and have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The notion of serving, in this gender regressive moment, seems more rooted in perpetuating patriarchy than the pursuit of happiness, which makes this project all the more deserving of scrutiny. Not because it’s an object lesson in how to redress period architecture for 21st-century living but because it enshrines the discretion, humility and quiet strength of two women who live by the Schweitzer maxim.
One does so with a design vigour that seeks to elevate the life experience of others in structure, and the other does so with a philanthropic determination to effect structural change so that everyone has equal access to that elevated experience.
Meet Edwina Glenn, the interior designer, fielding a full-time design practice and three young children, and her client Jill Reichstein OAM, a mother of two whose overtaxed time has long fed entirely into philanthropy. She currently serves as chair of the Reichstein Foundation, the not-for-profit charity established by her late industrialist father Lance Reichstein; a member of the Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network, an entity matching donor
dollars to change-makers, science and sustainability; and as a board member on trusts including Australians Investing in Women (formerly Australian Women Donors Network), an organised advocacy for women, which she cofounded with Eve Mahlab AO in 2009.
For services to philanthropy Reichstein was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2000. But the altruistic activist is at pains to counter any perception that she belongs to a privileged coterie of wealth dispensing money through private trust fund for the feathering of family nest and crest. She frames more as an agent of change — a ballsy blond, or, better still “a brazen hussy” as she self-describes in borrow of the title attaching to a recently released documentary on 1970s Australian feminism.
Reichstein stood at its rebellious frontline, marching in protest of the Vietnam War, fighting for abortion law reform, forging community child-care centres for working migrant mothers and cofounding the first women’s refuge in Victoria. “It’s still so critical for women,” she says in reference to Covid’s fanning of domestic violence flames. “I’m so pleased the state government has decided to get behind social housing.”
‘Change not charity’ is the mantra that pushes her philanthropy down uncharted pathways. “But in order to create real change,” Reichstein says, “it’s important that you don’t do it for people, you do it with people.”
This missive about collaboration and change makes any ensuing ask about improvements to her bayside terrace home sound utterly superficial. But ever the advocate for women, ››
“We inserted a generous new arched opening between the two front rooms, demolished a dining room wall and reorientated the kitchen, laundry and powder room. This transformed the house”
‹‹ Reichstein regales with the list of females who, over the years, have elevated her domestic experience with design and enthuses about Glenn’s grasp of her character. “I’m a triple Libran,” she says in generalisation of her own aesthetic sensibility, “always fighting for a balanced world view.”
Glenn, who came to Reichstein’s attention through the recommendation of friends, fed that desire for equilibrium into a revised plan that opened up an introspective front-of-house to the picturesque vista of a tree-lined street and reinstated division between rear kitchen and dining rooms where recent renovation had merged them into an indiscriminate whole.
“We inserted a generous new arched opening between the two front rooms, demolished a dining room wall and reorientated the kitchen, laundry and powder room,” recalls Glenn. “This transformed the house and created two new sight lines.
“No need to appease a tribe here,” she adds in reference to all the child-centred design requests she receives from clients with lives likes her own — “getting up at 5am, pumping out concept, getting breakfast for the kids, getting them to school, continuing to work with a toddler at my feet, doing school pick-up, homework, more work, dinner…”. Refreshingly, Reichstein is a “grounded” and busy empty-nester, who expressed a liking for Carrara marble and the rugged bush-meets-beach coastline of Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula.
Glenn accordingly clad rejigged service areas in honed Arabascato Corchia marble from Signorino, and conjured the Peninsula coast as a textured and tonal evocation of its mist
filled air, washed-out eucalypt woodlands and bleached driftwood. Grey, the defining colour of Flinders’ bluestone boulders and stormy seas applied to oak cabinetwork, painted in Resene Silver Chalice, while the white of foaming waves coloured key walls and sculptural lamps by Ingo Maurer and Anna Charlesworth.
“I need everything around me to be quiet,” says Glenn, who majored in Chinese History and Gender Politics at university before diving into post-grad studies in interior architecture. “I think most mothers do.”
Balancing period detail with modern comfort and her client’s want to find a new home for any site discard, Glenn was at pains to manifest Reichstein’s self-deprecating philanthropy with an understated generosity of space, as displays in the upper-level master suite — a luxuriously low-key synthesis of stair landing and two small bedrooms.
“She is such an extraordinary woman who practices what she preaches,” says Glenn in justification of this expansive gesture. “I’ve learnt so much from her in such a short time and know that I and many others stand on her shoulders.”
And after walking so tall for so long under such collective weight, Reichstein is deserving of the long luxury lie-down posits Glenn. But knowing that her triple Libran client will only consider the nap after true balance is found for all repeats her role model’s words: “Only when there is equity for women will there be social justice.” edwinaglenn.com.au reichstein.org.au