The Johnston Collection
A Museum of Fine and Decorative Arts, East Melbourne
Fairhall House Museum | Gallery | Shop | Reference Library |Friends | Ambassadors
Barb Brownlow & Alexandra Brownlow Rearrange Mr Johnston’s Collection
Tour dates: Tuesday 12 March 2013 – Wednesday 19 June 2013
Barb Brownlow and Alexandra Brownlow, two of Melbourne’s most talented and well-regarded interior designers, will apply their famously refined design sensibility to The Johnston Collection house museum, Fairhall, in March 2013.
Working together, the mother and daughter team will bring their combined expertise to William Johnston’s extraordinary collection, and in the process explore the idea of 21st century living designed around historic objects.
It was Melbourne-born antique dealer and benefactor William Johnston’s wish that his East Melbourne home Fairhall be regularly rearranged. So each year one or two individuals with a background in design, art, interiors, fashion or antiques have been invited to rearrange thehouse-museum with Barbara and Alexandra Brownlow being the latest to give their response to this spectacular collection.
Barb Brownlow has worked in the design industry for over 35 years and brings a wonderful aesthetic and much relevant expertise to William Johnston’s collection. Barbara has a special interest in early English and continental furniture, materials and textiles.
Her daughter, Alexandra has also worked extensively in the interior design industry, having completed a degree in interior design at RMIT and spent seven years at Australian Design House, de de ce, before joining Brownlow Interior Design.
For their rearrangement of Fairhall, the mother and daughter team will pool their complementary skills and bring a refreshing approach to the Collection.
In thinking about the proposal, Barb and Alexandra arrived at the idea of treating William Johnston as if he was a client living today. Drawing upon what they have learned about his history, his work, his interests, his tastes and his friends, they have created a design for the house that they feel would have suited Johnston’s public and his private life.
With this in mind, the Brownlow’s will approach Fairhall as if it is a gentleman’s residence in the 21st century. They have put much careful thought and planning into the style and purpose of each room with particular emphasis on its functionality.
The Green Drawing Room on the ground floor will be designed as a formal reception room, decorated with many of Johnston’s finest pieces to create a sense of luxury and refinement, while still remaining comfortable and inviting. Barbara and Alexandra felt that as the finest room in the house, this would be a place where Johnston would want to spend a great deal of time, and so they have also included his desk, positioned with a view out to the garden. It is in this elegant room that the Brownlow’s imagine Johnston might also have brought clients, to impress them with the understated luxury of the furnishings and objects.
In contrast, the Brownlow’s have conceived The White Room as a quiet place of private reflection, where Johnston might have spent time alone writing letters or considering his collection. The colours and the choice of furniture are intentionally simple in contrast to the opulence of the surrounding rooms.
Upstairs, the Study has been arranged as a traditional gentleman’s room, with sturdy English furniture arranged against a backdrop of luxurious textiles. The series of portraits hung around the walls suggest the grand traditions of the English country house.
The Yellow Drawing Room is the most extravagantly decorated room in the house, with its opulent French gilded furniture, bear skin rugs, and exotic-styled objects from India to Egypt to Venice. This room is conceived as a space where Johnston might have entertained his closer friends, who would appreciate the flamboyance of this room, in contrast to the more understated refinement of the decoration downstairs.
The Barb Brownlow & Alexandra Brownlow Rearrange Mr Johnston’s Collection tour willgive visitors to Fairhall an opportunity to view The Johnston Collection through the eyes and aesthetic of two exceptionally talented interior designers.
The Johnston Collection, incorporating Fairhall house-museum, Gallery, Reference Library and Shop is a hidden treasure in the heart of Melbourne. Fairhall house-museum has three guided tours daily Monday to Friday. Bookings are essential
The Johnston Collection was bequeathed by William Robert Johnston (1911-1986) to the people of Victoria, Australia and is administered as an independent Museum by The WR Johnston Trust.
title of tour Barb Brownlow & Alexandra Brownlow Rearrange Mr Johnston’s Collection
when Tuesday 12 March 2013 – Wednesday 19 June 2013
contact Felicity Cook or Fil Natarelli
03 9416 2515/0412 460 450
About The Johnston Collection
The Johnston Collection is a house-museum of fine and decorative arts centred in an historic Melbourne townhouse.
William Robert Johnston was born in Lilydale, Victoria in 1911, the only child of Robert Alexander Johnston and Louise Friedrichs. His father was a bootmaker and his mother, before her marriage, worked as a maid at Stanford House, East Melbourne.
Around the age of eight, William was given a Minton cup by his grandmother Mary Theresa Friedrichs (nee Clarke). This became the first piece of his collection and provided the inspiration for a career in antiques that took Johnston around the world.
After an early career in window merchandising in Melbourne, Johnston relocated to London to begin a fulltime business dealing in antiques. He purchased Fairhall in 1952 with money made from the sale of antiques brought back from England. Originally named Cadzow, built in 1860 and extended ten years later, Johnston renamed it Fairhall and remodelled it in order to create the appearance of a late 18th century Georgian-style townhouse. The interior rooms were converted into three rental flats.
By 1972 Johnston decided to return to live part-time in Melbourne, and gathered his expanding collection of Georgian, Regency and Louis XV fine and decorative arts into Fairhall and other rental properties he owned in the area. At the same time he opened Kent Antiques in High St, Armadale.
Johnston’s house, collection and estate were bequeathed to the people of Victoria after his death in 1986 ‘as a place of historical and educational interest,’ now administered as an independent not-for-profit museum by The WR Johnston Trust. Fairhall was converted into the house-museum and a garden was designed in the English manner to highlight Johnston’s love of gardening. The Trust also acquires new works for the permanent collection, which now cares for over 1200 items.
For over twenty years, Fairhall has displayed works from Johnston’s collection, and is currently rearranged for three themed tours per year. Today, The Johnston Collection incorporates a reference library, as well as a dedicated gallery and lecture space offering an active and engaging range of exhibitions, lectures, workshops and events for all.
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