Caring for historic houses takes enormous work and attention to detail. This year, with the help of your donations, we’re planning an ambitious program of restoration works to future-proof Art Deco icon, Everglades House.
Why is Everglades House so important?
Everglades House and the surrounding gardens were constructed during the late 1930s for the Belgian industrialist Henri Van de Velde. The Art Deco style was in full swing at the time, and Van de Velde set his sights on turning his Blue Mountains retreat into a stylish and extravagant example of Art Deco domestic architecture.
The result is a house that offers a rare glimpse into the inter-war period – from the Mediterranean-inspired yellow rendered walls, and curved bay windows, to the striking staircase with wrought iron balustrade, and show-stopping tiled bathrooms.
Van de Velde also worked closely with Danish landscape gardener Paul Sorensen to transform the surrounding 13 acres of land into what would become one of Australia’s most significant gardens, featuring European-style formal gardens, a garden amphitheatre, a sweeping lookout over the Jamison valley and even a fully-functioning waterfall.
Why does the house need work?
Everglades has both flourished and faded with the passing years. After Van de Velde died in 1947, the property passed through different hands, and was eventually gifted to the National Trust in 1962. Since then, the gardens have become a Blue Mountains must-see, attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year.
The house, however, has suffered over time. Many of the original features are either missing or in need of repair, and the clarity of the home’s original Art Deco design has slowly been lost. The aim of the Everglades Appeal project is to use original, archived plans and photographs of the building to guide restorations that will breathe life back into the building.
What needs fixing?
With the help of donations, the National Trust conservation team aims to embark on a range of restoration works that are both accurate to the Art Deco era, and respectful of the heritage and craftsmanship behind many of the house’s features.
For example, Beale & Co, Australia’s largest piano manufacturer, created the original custom timber doors and bespoke furniture throughout Everglades. This trailblazing design meant it even featured in Beale & Co’s advertising material.
Today, the veneered doors throughout the home are recognisable as Beale works by a brass ‘B’ insert in the joinery. We will be working to treat and restore these heritage doors, along with one of the original bedroom suites.
Of all the rooms in Everglades, the dining room has to be the quirkiest. Featuring a large relief artwork and water fountain by famous Danish artist of the time, Otto Steen, it’s a light-hearted nod to food gathering and a delight for visitors who want a peek into the lavish dining rituals of the Art Deco period. Over the years, the fountain has stopped working and the mural requires cleaning and careful conservation.
Everglades is also home to two remarkable tiled bathrooms, which will be conserved as part of the project. Although they might look over the top today, their extravagant size and flamboyant colour echo a popular trend amongst the wealthy of the time for luxurious bathrooms.
Often described as pure ‘Hollywood,’ the bathrooms include rare examples of some of the mod-cons of the era, including an authentic steam box – living relics of Van de Velde’s height and the importance of his fitness regime.
While Everglades currently has the feel of a beautifully faded and well-worn Art Deco icon, all of these restorations – plus other planned works on windows, light fittings and soft furnishings – will help bring the heritage home back to its former glory and create a special place for visitors to travel back in time.
How can donations help?
Conservation is costly, and even the smallest donations will make these immense restoration plans possible. A donation of $150 will cover the cost of two authentic Bakelite light switches and their installation. $3,000 will restore the original fountains and entrance statue. Read the brochure for a full list of works and costs.
If you would like to help us restore Everglades House for future generations, please donate today.
Plan your next visit to Everglades House & Gardens.
Everglades House sits on Dharug and Gundungurra Country.