Merchant Builders was a company established in 1965 with two business partners – David Yencken and John Ridge. It traded until 1986 when it was sold and shortly thereafter the business ceased trading. They utilised the services of architects, principally Graeme Gunn. It was a complete service including landscaping and interior design. The landscaper was Ellis Stones. Interior design services were provided by Janne Faulkner.
There were open homes and townhouses constructed by Merchant Builders in various suburbs including Toorak, Kew, Rosanna, Vermont and Doncaster.
I visited four homes in Rosanna located in what was known as the Elliston Estate. The name comes as a tribute to the landscape architect Ellis Stones. He was a proponent of the natural garden style with extensive use of strategically placed rocks with native plantings. The estate was established in the late 1960’s – back then the idea of using native plants in the garden was revolutionary.
Self-walking tour guide to the Elliston Estate
The subdivision ran along the Rosanna Parklands which has Salt Creek running north-south along its length. The pleasing sounds of Banjo Frogs and Magpies added to the sense of open space. Indeed the entire subdivision incorporates many original trees which the builder worked around as part of the initial plans – trees were seen as an asset. This is in contrast to the complete destruction of all plant life that occurs on nearly all building sites these days being a distinct feature of all knock down rebuilds.
Ellis Stones was brought into the design of the entire estate early in its conception, and the local council also retained him to design aspects of the parkland that lies adjacent to the subdivision to the west. This must have been a coup for Stones professionally and it would be unusual for both the developer and the council to have worked so collaboratively. However the results and benefits of that collaboration are still evident today. Adding to the aesthetics is the lack of overhead powerlines and footpaths. All of these factors make the overall feel of the estate one where the nature is enhanced. The houses sit low and comfortably in that environment rather than dominating.
No mission brown here but the colour scheme still blends well with the surrounds. The choice of bricks is also sympathetic to the landscape. Floor to ceiling windows allow for maximum light penetration.
Comfortable in every way – this design allowed plenty of natural light into the main living areas with highlight windows facing south.
View through rear of garden toward Rosanna Parkland and Salt Water Creek. The absence of fences adjacent to the parkland adds to the connection between the homes and the parkland.
The homes visited were all in first class condition and a tribute to both the builder and the owners who have kept up the maintenance on these homes over the decades. They are worn but still in good working condition with the only obvious change in most instances being the addition of a dishwasher. The entire estate is still relatively intact with homes of the same era. There was also an absence of Ikea furniture, oversized TV’s and oversized vehicles.
Each of the homes visited were slightly different with the highlight to me being the simplicity of the design, the sensible size of each house, and the use of strategically placed floor to ceiling windows that allowed maximum light without taking up too much wall space. Thin feature windows giving views of the garden were also incorporated into the designs.
Each house had an en-suite in the master bedroom. If the bathroom was in the middle of the house with no external view they would have a skylight. They were built to last with original tiles in each instance.
There was also the clever link between the kitchen and living areas which typically linked to a court yard. There was direct access to private garden spaces off the master bedroom.
Simple elegant timeless design and better than nice. And the house is not bad either.
I also visited townhouses constructed by Merchant Builders in Kew and Toorak. These had a different feel to them to the Rosanna houses but employed that same clever use of windows and simple material palette. Each site had difficult slopes to deal with and between the architect and the landscape design still managed to maximise the garden views and internal courtyards.
Kew double storey townhouse – there is actually a pool out of shot in the foreground. Note the retention of an original River Red Gum (Eucalyptus Camaldulensis) . The owner must have very large bottles of wine as there is a huge corkscrew located in the garden – just in case.
Toorak Townhouse – the Ellis Stones garden compliments the slope of the block. This home made great use of an internal courtyard that the townhouse wrapped around on three sides.
“The quality of tradesmen Supa Group employ are very good. Our original home was built by a volume builder and doesn't compare to the workmanship displayed by Supa Groups tradesmen.”Steve and Anna of Pascoe Vale South
“The works commenced in November and as promised the second storey was at lock up well before Christmas.”John and Grazie of Box Hill North
“Our previous experience of builders has not been great, however we immediately experience a far more professional, friendly and reliable approach.”David and Kathryn of Wantirna
“A big Thank You for a smooth project throughout all its stages, which did not interfere with our busy household of seven.”Naso and Eva of Bulleen
“Thank you for working with us over the last year to make our dream of renovating our much loved home a reality.”Mark and Catherine of Hampton
“Wez and I were very touched by the kind thoughts and flowers we received for our family loss, we warmly thank you so very much...and this is Supa Group!!!”Wez and Pina of Rowville
“You get results that make you smile every time you come home and open the front door. You get a home that brings you joy.”Steve and Jenny of Watsonia
“The Design process was like no other we have experienced. We were excited from day one and we are still smiling from ear to ear.”Kleanthis and Emma of Oakleigh East
“Our building supervisor Braidon Marshall was absolutely fantastic. He was friendly, approachable and accessible when we had a few issues out of hours. We sprung a leak on one rather rainy night, and he came to the rescue after his birthday dinner no less!”Danny and Melissa of Coburg
“The pleasant demeanor, accommodation of questions and assistance through the process has provide us with a feeling of a priority client. ”Peter and Louise of Alphington
“What was really impressive was that the building works were completed in an incredible 6 weeks!!!!”Chris and Michelle of Camberwell
“I highly recommend anyone to consider Supa Group for an extension on their home. I am absolutely delighted we chose Supa Group to make our dreams come true!”Tony and Claire
“We are very happy in our new home and we would like to thank all the staff at supagroup.”Dale and Cristina, Port Melbourne
“Supa Group has done a great job capturing our vision with the original ideas and plans we had in mind and the result is better than we would have expected.”Con and Daniella, East Keilor
“From initial plans right through to the end Supagroup have been polite, professional and super efficient and well organised. Thanks to everyone at Supagroup for helping realise my dreams.”Claudia, West Footscray
“We have no hesitation in recommending Supa Group and we have already started in our Church community, neighbourhood and Tin's work place.”David and Tina, Gladstone Park
“We would not hesitate to recommend Supa Group to any family or friends who may consider a house extension.”George & Elizabeth, Maidstone
“The end result has exceeded my expectations. Not only is the end result stunning but also the manner in which it was achieved was exemplary. I would have no hesitation in recommending Supa Group to others considering extending their homes.. ”Jane, Blackburn
“...we were looking for a no fuss solution, which would require as little input from us as possible. We certainly found that with the Supa Group. We found you professional and timely right throughout the building phase.”Peter and Rose, Taylors Lakes
“My family and I would like to thank you for your excellent quality of work done on our second level extension. It's been an exciting six months watching our house turn into the home we were hoping for.”Tom and Vicky, Mill Park
“We have found the whole experience of a new extension something interesting and exciting and are delighted to recommend Supagroup to our friends and neighbours.”Tim and Kathy, Beaconsfield
“Every day we look around and are amazed at what has been achieved. ...our journey with Supa Group has been amazing to say the least. ”Damian and Anthea
“We would not hesitate in recommending Supa Group to others that are thinking of renovating or extending.”Maria and Vince