Have you ever watched “The Dr Blake Murder Mysteries” on ABC starring Craig McLachlin? The less charitable amongst us may suggest that it’s a bit forced and the acting a bit camp. But to me the star of the show is the house that serves as Dr Blake’s surgery and residence in the series.
The house, located in Crown Road, Ivanhoe (with the area specifically known to the local’s as “Fairy Hills”) is the former home of artist Napier Waller and is now owned by Banyule Council.
Napier Waller’s house in Crown Rd, Ivanhoe
There’s a number of things to recommend this house – firstly there is the location. It sits on a large site at the confluence of the Darebin Creek and Yarra River, a special place in the Melbourne geographical scene.
The driveway at the front of the house is neat and ordered whereas out the back where the terrain is steeper, nature has been less tamed and there are several mature river red gums and other native vegetation. There is a large space running down to the creek.
Then there is the original owner of the house – Napier Waller. He was an influential multi-media artist of the 1920’s and 1930’s with many public commissions, including the Hall of Memory at the War Memorial in Canberra. There are also many public buildings in Melbourne that display his work, including the upstairs dining room at Grossi-Florentino in Bourke Street.
There are other buildings in Melbourne that he has decorated including Newspaper House at 247 Collins St, Melbourne. Blink and you’ll miss it but the façade was reclad in the Art Deco Style in 1933 – the actual building itself dates back to 1884.
Newspaper House, Collins St, Melbourne.
Napier Waller, born at Penshurst, enlisted while he was living in Hawthorn, and served as a Private, later Bombardier (corporal) in the Australian Army during World War One. He lost his right arm on the Western Front defending the allies. A natural right hander – he had to train himself to create with his left hand which makes his artistic work all the more remarkable.
Napier Waller in Army Uniform – right arm intact.
Portrait of Christian Waller with her Airedale Terriers painted by Napier Waller. She clearly loved her dogs to the point she made her hair style similar to their wooly coats.
Napier and Christian lived in the house for some fifty years.
Then there is the house itself. According to the Banyule Heritage Places Study (1985), a building permit was sought by a local builder, Philip Millsom to erect a concrete residence in September 1922. As no architect was named it is assumed that the house was designed and constructed by Millsom in conjunction with the Wallers. The house is largely as originally designed, although there have been two ground floor extensions in the form of a guest room and a separate studio.
So what’s so special about the house itself? There is the palette of materials that gives it that hand made rustic look – lots of timber and stucco. It resonates with the Arts and Craft movement – buildings that were not mass produced and appear individualistic. There are also hints of the Californian Bungalow style typical of the period, with the roof extending over the front verandah. While it is a large house it addresses the street in a polite way, and there is a split-level that follows the slope of the block towards the river, so it has been built to adequately and comfortably sit on the site, without dominating.
Internally there is a large hall with a massive fireplace that speaks of winter warmth and the coziness and security that a fire can offer.
Main living area of the house
It may not speak to the tastes of modern homes built today – it has limited natural light and dark internal finishes. But is certainly has the individual character reflective of an artist that has been preserved.
Tours of the house can be arranged through Banyule Council.
The house is on the Victorian Heritage Register and is of State Significance, and is on the Register of the National Estate.
“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