So I’m going to make a bold call here, but I have to call it - I think I’ve found my favourite Iwan Iwanoff house yet. (At least my fave of all the ones I’ve visited so far!) It’s this quietly shy beauty – the Frank House in Menora.
The house is owned by Michael and Carmen Forde, who own Mary Street Bakery and MAKERism and who live with their gorgeous one-year-old daughter Wylie and their very funny German shorthaired pointer Ferdinand.
The Frank House was built in 1961 and is perhaps one of the lesser-known Iwanoffs, but is no less special than its more publicly lauded counterparts. Unlike more iconic Iwanoffs such as Paganin House, Kessel House or Marsala House that have been the subject of much media attention, The Frank House has always flown a little under the radar.
It’s not entirely surprising. It sits on a whisper quiet cul-de-sac in tucked-away Menora, a quiet garden suburb that I once featured in a story for Domain on Perth’s best-kept secret neighbourhoods. I frequently find that Menora is a suburb that many long-time Perth residents don't even know about. Or they know of it, but they don't know exactly where it is, despite its close proximity to the CBD. If you are a spy, you should go live in Menora.
“I didn’t even know where Menora was!” Carmen tells me of the first time she and Michael went to see what was to become their new home. The Frank House was also built on a whisper quiet cul-de-sac opposite parkland. Teamed with its lovely yet understated façade, and the fact that chances are, you would never find this Iwanoff unless you were seeking it, and it’s not too surprising that The Frank House has been a quieter Iwanoff. Before the Fordes bought it seven years ago, it had stayed in the same family for decades, its original owners living in the house until well into their old age.
As you might expect, the house hadn’t changed much since 1969. It was in almost entirely original condition, from the 1969 shagpile carpet to the frayed wallpaper, but some bits were a little rundown. Despite the fact that the house was in need of work, Carmen and Michael both loved it straightaway.
Michael, who had always loved modernism and already had a beautiful collection of mid-century modern pieces, was an Iwanoff fan and was thrilled by the opportunity to buy one. He and Carmen began work on a very thoughtful and sensitive renovation. I really like what they have done. The 40-year-old carpets were all pulled up and the concrete floor polished, a look that I thought suited the house perfectly. (No-one is going to like me saying this, I know, but carpet that is decades and decades old almost always gets a smell, no matter how much it is cleaned. And Iwanoffs are no exception!)
Carmen and Michael tried to replace the peeling wallpaper in the entry (above) but couldn’t find a replica they were happy with. So they painted the walls a classic white, a look that perfectly complements that Iwanoff feature, an abundance of timber.
It also brings the focal point to their mid-century modern furniture and the home’s carefully designed built-in cabinetry – another Iwanoff signature.
At 40 years old, the kitchen didn’t quite meet modern standards. Carmen and Michael replaced it with a sleek, modest design that beautifully complements the style of the house, with glossy black cabinets and textured solid stone benchtops.
The retro-inspired splashback tiles is a quirky touch that pays homage to the home’s modernist roots (I actually thought the splashback tiles were original).
The two bathrooms and laundry were also upgraded. Honestly I thought the main bathroom was all entirely original, it was that sensitively done). The classic Iwanoff vanity there they kept – with original purple tiling above!
In the much smaller ensuite, they decided to deliberately go more modern, while choosing cabinets and vanity from Retreat Design in a glossy retro green that complements the house’s history.
What I loved so much about this house was how warm and welcoming it felt. You can tell that everyone in the Forde family is content here. Baby Wylie is nothing but toothy grins, and Ferdinand excitedly lollops to and from the house to the park across the road and back again, looping back around to lovingly slurp Wylie across the face.
Michael says his favourite part of the house is the courtyard. The U-shape of the house wraps around this internal courtyard, with big jarrah sliding doors opening up the house to it. The design is one of the features that makes Iwanoff’s designs so cool: Perth homes designed for seamless indoor-outdoor living and entertaining long before it was mainstream!
Meanwhile Carmen’s favourite part is the lounge at the front of the home, a beautiful light-filled room that overlooks the pretty park across the street.
I felt particularly envious of the very cool built-in bar area and cocktail glass cabinet, lit from within, and ask Carmen if they entertain often. “We do really like to entertain,” she says. “We have had some great parties here.”
Perfect! Iwanoffs like this are meant for memorable nights. Looking at the vintage glasses all neatly lined up in the bar, I had a sudden daydream of myself pouring a Brandy Alexander or a Rusty Nail, laughing with my guests, probably wearing flares. (Can we bring back flares? They are so much more comfortable than skinny jeans).
After having had seven wonderful years in the house, Carmen and Michael are now putting it on the market – the house is listed with Jen Jones of Harcourts City Central, you can see the listing here.
Carmen and Michael are thinking of buying or building a house – or possibly a barn and converting it! - down south. But with such a special home here, they say the offer they take will have to be the right one! “We really want it to go to an Iwanoff lover,” says Michael. I have no doubt that it will. Meghan and I left the photo shoot buzzing.
It was a really nice house to visit, and I’m feeling very chuffed to be able to feature it on here! “It’s such a great house that it’s nice being able to share it with people,” says Carmen, kindly. I love that attitude! Thank you guys, for having us visit. Maya x
Michael and Carmen Forde, who own Mary Street Bakery, their daughter Wylie, one, and their German shorthaired pointer Ferdinand
The Frank House, a 1969 home designed by the late architect Iwan Iwanoff
Menora, Western Australia
THEIR PREVIOUS HOME
A house in North Perth
The late great Iwan Iwanoff
Front lounge, U-shape floor plan, internal courtyard, open-plan kitchen, dining and living, ‘servery’ window from kitchen to dining, built-in original cabinetry, main suite with ensuite, family bathroom, four bedrooms (one currently Carmen’s studio and office)