Living in Brisbane

For their family home in Brisbane, Australia, John and Cathy Dillon spent countless hours poring over design magazines and books to strike the right updated-mid-century-modern balance. “We drew heavily from the mid-century modern ethic in terms of house design and layout, but did not wish to replicate this era through furnishings and fixtures,” says John Dillon. While the structural influences of this home by local architect Bud Brannigan range from the Case Study work of Pierre Koning and Craig Ellwood, and Australian architects Glenn Murcutt and Harry Seidler, the interiors are a mix of the residents’ own personalities and histories, including a love of Japanese design and art collecting.

The home is adjacent to a park and the residents wanted to seamlessly bridge the interiors and exteriors. The concrete floors extend underneath the deep eaves and sliding glass doors open up the interior space, making the home feel larger than its 2,300 square feet. Bud Brannigan, the home’s architect, is known for designing art galleries and takes some of the sensibilities he uses for those spaces and employs them in residential design. “Like a gallery, the design of our home emphasizes the form and function of the internal spaces. For example, curtain rails, door jams, and knobs are either recessed or concealed so as not to detract from the seamlessness of the interior,” says John.

The home boasts a traditional Japanese genkan, an entryway that’s a couple of steps down from the main level.

The living and dining rooms are joined together in one large central space. When the sliding doors on either side of the room are open, cross-breezes can flow through—a passive cooling technique that helps keep the interiors comfortable in Brisbane’s sub-tropical climate.

The dining table and chairs are vintage Moller, sourced from Denmark and restored in Australia. The cabinetry is American walnut.

Floor-to-ceiling shelves in the library (at the end of the corridor) house the family’s collection of books, many of which are from John and Cathy’s childhood.

Here’s a view looking into the library. Though the surfaces of the home are more utilitarian, the textiles and furnishings used throughout are warmer in look and feel. The cushions, rugs and wall hangings were sourced locally, but originate from Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, and Swaziland. “My father was a professor of agricultural economics and traveled frequently to developing countries. He would bring back presents—little objects and ethnic sculptures that aroused my curiosity and gave me an appreciation of arts and crafts from other cultures,” says John.

The house’s deep eaves (another passive cooling technique) accommodate an outdoor dining area.
This window box frames the park adjacent to the home and provides a display area for the family’s objects. The Dillons requested that each room have large windows for practical and aesthetic reasons: to capture as much natural light as possible and provide a connection to the garden.

This shelf provides an attractive space to display the family’s pottery collection.

Their collection of artifacts spans from the Stone Age to contemporary works of art.
Photos by: David Sandison. Article featured in Dwell.

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