Robin Boyd was a celebrated Australian architect and interior designer, on par with United States’ Frank Lloyd Wright and France’s Le Corbusier. As an influential Victorian architect, his works made him a leader in Melbourne’s Modern Architecture movement in the 1950s and 1960s.
The House on Walsh Street
Of his many architectural works, the house on Walsh Street is perhaps one of his most iconic. Boyd designed this home for his family in 1957. The house is considered, both nationally and internationally, as an example of modern Australian architecture. This magnificent mid-century modernist structure can be found not far from Melbourne’s Royal Botanical Gardens. The house, with its regal living spaces, was designed to serve as a retreat as well as for entertaining guests.
Having designed the house, Boyd thought it was only fitting that he creates the furniture as well. Most of the furniture were designed by Boyd. The rest were designed by his associates, namely Grant Featherston and Clement Meadmore. The furnishing Robin Boyd created for his Walsh home reflects the architect’s design principles. These include a pair of sofas, a dining table, two coffee tables, a sideboard and a daybed. Each was a masterpiece carefully designed and crafted to be beautiful, yet comfortable and built for everyday use.
The house has been kept unchanged from the day it was occupied by the Boyd family in 1959, continuing to provide a glimpse of design philosophies and principles from the 1950s and 1960s. In July 2006, the Walsh Street house became the winning nomination for the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA Victoria) 25 Year Award. It also won the National 25 Year Award in October 2006. Currently, the house is home to the Robin Boyd Foundation.
The Robin Boyd Foundation
Established in 2005 by Tony Lee and in conjunction with Boyd’s family, the Robin Boyd Foundation aims to continue the architect’s passion for promoting good design. The foundation, with its student residencies, lectures, symposiums and events, continues to foster the expansion of community awareness and understanding of design. The foundation provides a series of events and open days that serves as an important contribution to the discourse of contemporary design in Melbourne. The Walsh home, while featuring Boyd’s works and designs, is unlike other heritage houses. The house is an active hub of learning with Boyd’s design philosophy and practice at its heart.
The foundation is a registered charity. Its membership is comprised of people who possess design expertise and interest in the advancement of design, representatives of the Boyd family, the Victoria Chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, faculties of architecture from Deakin University, RMIT University and the University of Melbourne.
The Big Collaboration
Collaborating with KFive+Kinnarps, the Robin Boyd Foundation decided to release the Robin Boyd Collection to the market for the first time. 46 years after his death, the public can now own pieces of furniture designed by the prolific Melbourne architect. This partnership was brought about by the foundation’s mission to continue the architect’s work and spirit. It was also due to the long-standing friendship between founder Tony Lee and KFive CEO Erna Walsh.
KFive+Kinnarp, founded in 2001 by Walsh and Kearon Carr, is a well-known distributor of one of a kind designer furniture. Their products are sought after not only for homes and hotels but in commercial and retail sectors as well for their quality and innovative designs. They have one of Australia’s most comprehensive collections of European furniture. Some of their brand partners include Inno, Kinnarps, Materia, Segis, Nikari, Kallemo and Skandiform as well as other brands from Sweden, Italy, Denmark, and Finland.
Erna Walsh, with her years of experience in the furniture industry, was taken aback by the furniture in the Boyd home during her visit to the foundation at the Walsh Street home. She was inspired to collaborate with the foundation after learning from Lee that the iconic Boyd designed the pieces, thus brought about the birth of the Boyd Collection.
For the Boyd Collection, Walsh and Lee worked hard to ensure that the pieces were built to the exact specifications Boyd established. Walsh had to work closely with excellent woodworkers and upholsterers to guarantee that each piece follows the consistency and high standards of the originals. The KFive CEO envisioned the collection to boast pieces made with great attention to detail, yet sold at an affordable price point. Both collaborators believed that the Boyd Collection is pertinent not because they’re designed by Boyd, but because of their good design. This belief can also be said to be the core of Lee’s foundation as well as the heart of this collection.
KFive funded every step of the production process, including the prototyping, marketing, advertising and the collateral. The collection is a not for profit project, and sales of the furniture will go to the Robin Boyd Foundation. The proceeds will be used to fund the foundation’s numerous design-oriented programs that help educate people on good design and its benefits. For Lee and Walsh, this was a way of giving back and supporting the legacy of Australia’s pre-eminent designer.
The Boyd Collection
Each piece from the Boyd Collection is exclusively manufactured in Melbourne. Like the originals, the furniture is made from Australian hardwood and Australian wool fabrics. With the help of the original drawings, each item faithfully follows the exact specifications and functional solutions that Boyd imposed on his originals. While the pieces look deceptively simple, it took great technical expertise and demanding perfectionism to execute them well. Each piece from the collection has its own number, and every purchase comes with a certificate, so you are guaranteed its craftsmanship and quality.
The Boyd Collection features typical modern designs. With their streamlined silhouettes and pared backs, they are a blend of comfort and stripped back elegance. Every item serves as an expression of Boyd’s creativity and versatility. They are a testimony of his design principle: that they must be durable and possess the quality and clarity of form. Currently, the Boyd Collection features four pieces: a sofa, a chair, a dining table and a coffee table. A follow-up collection would be released by 2019. The collection would also feature a different designer each year, who would create new fabrics for the collection. This is in line with the foundation’s goal of promoting Australian design.
Walsh Street Sofa
The original three-seat sofa was designed for the house in Walsh Street. Elegant yet simple, this piece was created with everyday use in mind. It’s a piece of graceful geometry that would make an ideal choice for a commercial foyer or one’s living room. Its framing and legs are made from solid Victorian oak and therefore ensures its durability. The sofa guarantees one’s comfort with its webbed and braced seating, foam cushions, and sprung backrest. The sofa stands 830 mm tall with a length of 2440 mm and a seat height of 440 mm.
Walsh Street Coffee Table
This coffee table makes a perfect complement to the Walsh Street sofa. Like Boyd’s other designs, this coffee table is a testament of form and functionality. The table-top edges and legs are made from tough hardwood – Victorian oak. The table-top finish made from natural cork is heat resistant for added durability. The table is 2465 mm in width and stands at 420 mm.
Walsh Street Dining Table
This is the third item originally designed for the Walsh Street house. Its stripped back elegant design makes it ideal for restaurants, hotels and even one’s dining room. This dining table’s heat resistant natural cork table top finish could handle one’s fresh from the oven – or stove – dish. This impressive table is made from high-quality Victorian oak, making it a true heirloom quality piece. This rectangular dining table stands 760 mm high with a width of 2750 mm.
Domain Park Chair
Boyd originally designed this chair for his Domain Park apartments. Despite its original intention, this chair could easily complement the Walsh Street sofa and coffee table.
This chair, with its sophisticated yet comfortable design, makes it the perfect piece for a home or establishment. It has foam cushions, webbed and braced seating, and a sprung backrest that tapers to a gentle curve at the top. Its frame and legs are made from Victorian oak, making it a solid, durable piece of furniture. The chair has a seat height of 400 mm, stands 830 mm and is 820 mm long.
Robin Boyd’s Legacy
Boyd was an insightful critic and assiduously commented on his country’s idiosyncrasies. The Australian Ugliness is a burning critique of the ornamentation obsession, highlighting Boyd’s emphasis on practicality. Therefore, his designs are well-known for their minimalist and streamlined structures and functionality. As an author, Boyd’s writings inspired the community. He encouraged everyone to expand their thinking and urged them to reassess current standards and to innovate.
As a public educator, he shared his passion for good design, devoting his life to ensuring a greater public understanding of its benefits. More than just influential, Boyd was beloved as well. Robin Boyd and his works continue to inspire those in the design and architectural professions.