Designer Spotlight - Ms Modernism

We couldn't possibly look at Mid- Century Modern architecture and design without first catching up with
the ever inspiring Annalisa Capurro, or as she is more affectionately known, Ms Modernism.

Kaufmann House Photo Credit: Annalisa Capurro Photography

Ms. Modernism Photo Credit: Curtesy of Annalisa Capurro

Ms. Modernism (Annalisa Capurro) is an interior designer, educator, architectural historian, preservationist, speaker and architectural photographer. As an advocate for the preservation of mid-century modern architecture, Annalisa is passionate about educating and inspiring others to appreciate and care for this significant and vulnerable aspect of our architectural heritage. Annalisa lives in Sydney in the iconic and award-winning 1957 Jack House designed by architect Russell Jack.


When or what made you realise your connection with Mid-century was going to be a life long love affair?

I first became fascinated with the style as a child. I would spend my summer holidays at my Great Uncle and Aunt’s extraordinary modernist homestead designed by one of Melbourne’s leading mid-century modern architects, Guilford Bell. To this day, I remember every detail of that house, from its open U-shaped plan built around a Japanese style courtyard with geometric Koi fish ponds, to the dark slate floors, full height glass walls blurring the boundaries between inside and outside and the exquisitely sleek built-in timber furniture.

My passion was further ignited when I discovered the Bauhaus and the work of leading modernists whilst studying architectural and design history. It’s a Pandora’s box! The more I learn the more in love I fall.

Photo Credit:  Annalisa Capurro Photography

Can you name a career highlight?

A memorable moment in my career was winning the inaugural Society of Interior Designers Association (SIDA) Foundation, Professional Development Travelling Scholarship. This allowed me the opportunity to further investigate mid-century modern architecture and design overseas. So inspiring!

Another career highlight has been the opportunity to be a regular speaker at Modernism Week in Palm Springs, California, the world’s largest celebration of Modernism. It is always exciting to introduce an international audience to our special Australian take on mid-century modern architecture and design.

Modernism Week, Palm Springs Photo Credit: Curtesy of Annalisa Capurro

Stahl House Photo Credit: Annalisa Capurro Photography

What are some of the key design features or/and principals of mid-century design?

The predominant design features of mid-century modern architecture and design include:

Functionality - as in form follows function

Clean, minimal aesthetic with organic and/or geometric forms

Presence of expressed structures

Emphasis on an inside/outside connection

Open planning

Inclusion of built-in furniture

Juxtaposition of different, and sometimes contrasting materials; often considered avant-garde at the time.

Why is lighting important in interior design, specifically mid-century interior design?

‘We are born of light. The seasons are felt through light.
We only know the world as it is evoked by light.’    

                                                                              - Louis Kahn

As one of my architectural heroes Louis Kahn reminds us, it is through lighting, both natural and artificial, that we are able to read our built environment.

In interiors, both mid-century and contemporary, lighting can be either practical, such as task lighting in a kitchen or work area, or alternatively, it can be ambient lighting and used to create a specific mood or highlight key elements of the design. Lighting can also be a focal point, especially with all the cool sculpture-like lights available, both vintage and contemporary. Whatever the case, it is lighting that brings interiors to life!

Jack House Photo Credit: Darren Bradley

Jack House Photo Credit: Darren Bradley

Jack House Photo Credit: Darren Bradley

What are some must see museums and houses?

In Australia, must see mid-century modern houses include:

Rose Seidler House, Sydney

Boyd House II, (Walsh Street House) Melbourne

My favourite galleries are Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne and the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Both feature stunning modernist buildings along with inspiring collections of modern and contemporary art and design.

Internationally, there are so many extraordinary mid-century houses but the following are all open to the public and should be at the top of any serious “mcm” bucket list!

- Fallingwater, Mill Run, PA

- Stahl House, Los Angeles CA

- Eames House, Los Angeles CA

- Farnsworth House, Plano, IL

- Glass House, New Canaan, CT

- Miller House, Columbus, IN

- Frey House II, Palm Springs CA

- The Vitra Design Museum in Germany, is a must see for both the great architecture by leading contemporary architects and the world’s largest
collection of iconic modernist chairs in the world!

Fallingwater Photo Credit: Annalisa Capurro Photography

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Do you have any mid-century book recommendations?

The following are great titles and all proudly feature our beautiful 1957 Jack House:

Atlas of Mid-Century Houses by Dominic Bradbury

Iconic: Modern Australian houses 1950-2000 by Karen McCartney

Australia Modern by Hannah Lewi & Philip Goad

Boyd House II (Walsh Street House) Photo Credit: Annalisa Capurro Photography

Jack House Photo Credit: Darren Bradley