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Chisholm House (fmr)


City of Nedlands

Place Number

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32 Genesta Cr Dalkeith

Location Details

Other Name(s)

Residence: 32 Genesta Crescent

Local Government




Construction Date

Constructed from 1939 to 1940

Demolition Year


Statutory Heritage Listings

Type Status Date Documents More information
Heritage List Adopted 18 Dec 2017
State Register Permanent 26 Aug 2003 Register Entry
Assessment Documentation
Heritage Council

Other Heritage Listings and Surveys

Type Status Date Grading/Management More information
Category Description
Municipal Inventory Adopted 27 Apr 1999 Category B

Category B

Worthy of a high level of protection; to be retained and conserved; provide maximum encouragement to the owner under the City of Nedlands Town Planning Scheme to conserve the significance of the place. A more detailed Heritage Assessment/Impact Statement to be undertaken before approval given for any major redevelopment. Incentives to promote heritage conservation should be considered.

Classified by the National Trust Classified 09 Sep 1996

Heritage Council

Statement of Significance

This house has aesthetic, historic and representative cultural heritage significance. It is highly significant as a
fine and intact representative of an Art Modeme style mansion built in Perth in the late 1930s. Constructed
just prior to the onset of the Second World War, it is a glamorous reminder of the few years of prosperity
experienced in Western Australia before the years of rationing and a shortage of building supplies. A time
when Perth was in vogue with the outside world.

The house was designed by the respected architect Oswald Chisholm for his family. Except for a 1988
extension which is completely in sympathy with the original design, the house has changed very little since it
was built in 1939/40. With the declaration of World War II, the Art Deco style of architecture was virtually
brought to a standstill in WA (and elsewhere). The Genesta Crescent house could be seen as the last original
and authentic Deco styled house designed in suburban Perth.

Physical Description

The two storey brick rendered house at 32 Genesta Crescent is built opposite a secluded park in a quiet tree
lined location. II demonstrates most of the elements which characterise Art Deco architecture as it was
realised inWestern Australia in the late 1930s. These include:

vertical and horizontal massing of building elements
circular and angular elements
horizontal banding to unify shapes
simplified shapes
inspiration of form from ocean liner (Nautical Modeme)
curved porches
shades constructed as part of the building block
verandahs existing only as porches
pastel shades
wrought iron balustrading
glass block
decorative panels
stepped building elements
limestone base
horizontal mullioned windows

At the front of the building a 'wall to wall plan' is set well back from the footpath in a curved tree-lined street.
The lawned garden space is broken only by a circular bed of roses planted when the house was new. Seen
from the front bedroom this garden space is enhanced by the park beyond, where a quiet shady space is
occupied by ancient blackboys - a reminder that this 'Hollywood Dream Home' is situated in suburban Perth
and not the Hollywood Hills or Miami Beach.

Like many designs from the period, the Genesta Crescent house demonstrates balance of vertical and
horizontal elements. A strong, angular tower contains the stairwell, with an interplay between angles and
curves in the balustrading and alcove, while a striking vertical window provides interior lighting. At the same
time, the architect took great care to emphasise the horizontal line by the use of horizontal banding on the
curved porch and across the front of the house, and by keeping the roofline as low as possible. The low
roofline was attained in two ways:
1) The upstairs floor level was kept low by recessing that section into the ground floor level. This resulted in
a lower than standard ceiling height in the downstairs entry, dining room, bathroom and passage areas.
2) The upstairs ceiling was designed to extend into the roof cavity, resulting in a Mansard style ceiling.

Both these design strategies involved a compromise with the local government authority so that an average
ceiling height was considered to be acceptable, rather than a consistent recommended height. Recessed
window seats in two of the upstairs bedrooms are physical evidence of the manner in which the upper storey
was recessed into the lower one.

The extensions have been carried out with great care to retain the building's horizontal aspect, where the
waterfall effect, noticeable in the stepping over the enclosed garage, is repeated at the rear of the building.
This theme is a integral part of the whole design and enhances the original stepped Iimestone garden layout at
the rear of the house which includes a conversation pit and a barbecue area. Limestone has also been used as
a means to support both tower and front bedroom.

The Nautical Moderne motif is seen to good effect in the external wrought iron balustrading on the upstairs,
the curved entrance porch and the rounded comer windows. This motif is repeated in the porthole shaped
lighting fixture in the entrance hall, the spectacular chromium-plated curvilinear staircase balustrading and the
curved window seating and original circular mirror over the fireplace in the loungeroom. Below, funnel
shaped pillars support the banded mantelshelf which in turn is balanced by a vertically incised motif overhead.

The remainder of the house pays homage to the luxury and comfort of the great ocean liners and the ambience
of 'Screen Deco'. The hint of a Hollywood set is captured in the colourful and exotic three-roomed bathroom
suite with stage lighting, imported blue and apricot Czechoslovakian tiles, shiplike bulkheads with racing
stripes flanking the bath and elliptical mirrors.

Another evocative touch from a bygone era is an original set of maid's bells retained in the kitchen by the new
owners when the space was renovated and enlarged for today's living. This historic relic is also a poignant
reminder of a gracious mode of living, which, designed to summon the live-in maid, was thwarted by the start
of the Second World War, when lifestyles changed rapidly and the maid remained in the employ of the
household for only two weeks!


The plans for 32 Genesta Crescent were submitted in 1939 by the owner/architect OV Chisholm (of Cameron,
Chisholm and Nichols, Architects). Chisholm moved in with his family early in 1941. The architect at the
time was 28-29 years old and he and his family lived there until 1960/61 when Mrs Chisholm died. At this
point the house was sold to someone with the name of Telfer. This owner enclosed the rear verandah and
replaced some light fittings. After this the house was owned by a series of investors. Prior to the present
(1998) owners the house was occupied by the senior manager of Garuda Airways for 10 years.

The house was purchased by the present owners in 1988. In the same year an extension was carefully built to
reflect the original style of the house. The owner noted in correspondence that some of the interior finishing
touches were very innovative for their time and that a harvest moon dressing table was made by Chisholm
himself to copy a French design. Chishold thought he was one of the first to design a bathroom area within
the house which included the lavatory. He said that his wife was appalled that he should wish to do so, as it
was the norm at that time for the lavatory to be at the rear of the house ofTthe back verandah. It is also a point
of interest that there is a plaster wall plaque upstairs of 'galloping gazelles', which is one of the major
decorative design features established by the 1925 Paris Exposition. In the early 1990s Oswald Chisholm
donated to the owners a set of four black and white photographs of the interior spaces taken before Chisholm
moved away from the house in 1960/61.






Name Type Year From Year To
Oswald Chisholm Architect - -

Other Reference Numbers

Ref Number Description
D26 LGA Place No

State Heritage Office library entries

Library Id Title Medium Year Of Publication
9711 Oswald ("Ossie") Victor Chisholm, FRAIA, FRIBA (1903-1989). Journal article 2010

Place Type

Individual Building or Group


Epoch General Specific
Original Use RESIDENTIAL Two storey residence
Present Use RESIDENTIAL Two storey residence

Architectural Styles

Inter-War Functionalist

Construction Materials

Type General Specific
Wall BRICK Rendered Brick
Roof TILE Aluminium Tile

Historic Themes

General Specific
OCCUPATIONS Domestic activities

Creation Date

16 Sep 1996

Publish place record online (inHerit):


Last Update

13 Apr 2018


This information is provided voluntarily as a public service. The information provided is made available in good faith and is derived from sources believed to be reliable and accurate. However, the information is provided solely on the basis that readers will be responsible for making their own assessment of the matters discussed herein and are advised to verify all relevant representations, statements and information.