I remember Feltex as a rather dingy, grey floor covering that only poor people had in the 1950s. Mind you, my family only had linoleum and mats!
Apparently Feltex did come in other colours. The following advertisement was published in the Australian Women’s Weekly in 1952.
The company Felt & Textiles was registered in 1921 by Brussells born businessman Henri Van de Velde (1878-1947) (often spelled Vanderveld).
Henri had begun his working life in Australia as a wool classer. He made a lot of money supplying woollen blankets to the Australian army during the first World War. He later owned the fabulous Everglades estate at Leura in the Blue Mountains.
The headquarters of the company was an art deco style, three storey building in Sydney’s George Street. Ahead of its time, there were sound proof windows and hanging plants. As an indication of Van de Velde’s prominence it was opened by Sydney’s Lord Mayor SirNorman Nock on July 7 1939.
The building also had a formal roof top garden designed by the landscaper Paul Sorenson. The main feature of the space was a very striking gazing globe. Here is a pre-construction model of the building. The arrow indicates the future garden space.
‘There is a lawn bordered by flower beds and shrubberies, At one end is a pond and fountain, and at the opposite end the board-room leads off from the garden. Poplar trees have been planted at the four corners.’ (Sydney Morning Herald, July 7 1939)
The completed garden (1940), by photographer Alan Evans.
Note the mature poplar in the left background of another shot by Alan Evans in 1940.
Entry to the garden was from the glass sliding doors of the boardroom.
From Sydney’s Sunday Herald, May 17 1953. Look at the growth.
Note that the above caption mentions the rarity of rooftop gardens in the city centre. Ironically, they were to become even rarer. In 1961 Feltex House was revamped, with an additional nine floors being added, It was a sympathetic extension, but sadly this meant that the iconic rooftop garden was demolished.
The building today at 261 George Street, now the Telford Trust Building.
For the story of Henri Van de Velde’s home Everglades House, CLICK HERE.
FOR MORE ON THE LIFE AND WORK OF HENRI VAN DER VELDE, CLICK HERE.