On a recent (very rare) sunny day here in the Blue Mountains, my partner Rob and I visited the recently restored Everglades House at Leura. I had read a feature about it in the January 2024 National Trust magazine. Even though we live nearby at Blackheath, it was a shamefully long time since we had been there.
The Art Deco house was built in the mid 1930s when the estate was purchased by wealthy businessman Henri Van de Velde and his wife Una. Fire had destroyed the previous residence in 1926.
The following photo was taken during construction. It is a good illustration of how the mountain views were incorporated into the design of the home. That figure on the right may be Una Van de Velde. If so, it’s the only image of her I have found.
From the very beginning the Van de Veldes opened Everglades to the public to raise money for charity;
The three-storied cream home has been designed rather as a background for the garden than vice versa, as is usual. Its plate-glass windows look over the grounds from every angle, and the spiral staircase commands views of the Jamison valley. (Sun, Oct. 9 1936)
On room I found particularly interesting was the guest bedroom, with it’s sleek, replica furniture in Queensland maple veneer.
Here is another example of the faithful restoration. The two images were taken from the National Trust magazine. On the left you can glimpse what is now the beautiful cafe, originally a sitting room.
The well known photographer Harold Cazneaux (1878 – 1953) had taken a series of photographs of Everglades House soon after it was built. Along with contemporary newspaper features, these were used as references during the restoration.
I’m afraid I don’t quite have the presence necessary to show the spiral staircase to its best advantage.
Here is Henri’s spacious bathroom, with its ‘hot box’ sauna.
Una’s more feminine bathroom has an octagonal tub and overhead shower.
It’s worth looking carefully when touring the house because there are special details such as Bakelight switches and light plates, sourced by the Trust from the United States.
The building below was originally the squash courts and gym, and is now exhibition space. In his youth Henri Van de Velde had been a very good boxer and rugby player. He was six foot three and a fitness fanatic.
After Henri died in New York in 1947 the property was put up for sale by Una. It struggled to find a buyer, but was eventually purchased by grazier Harry Pike.
Everglades was acquired by the National Trust in 1962.
It is such a joy to visit Everglades, especially if you are a fan of Art Deco architecture and style.
We still have the wonderful gardens to explore, but that will be for another day. Meanwhile we visited the cafe, a space very much in keeping with the rest of the property.
A traditional serving of scones with jam and cream is the most popular choice on the menu, but honestly…. the carrot cake was sublime. 😊
There is a reason why I was so fascinated with Everglades House. Rob’s grandmother had a beautiful home in Adelaide in the 1930s and we have inherited many items from it. The longcase clock pictured below still has its receipt dated 1937. Perhaps I should bequeath it to the Trust.
NOTE – Henri Van de Velde made his fortune via the woollen floor covering Feltex.
For more on his life CLICK HERE.