The Modernist – “this house has such a feeling of optimism – Even as a child i had a sense this house was very special, very futuristic.”
His personality might be splendidly loud, but designer Henry Roth’s stunningly minimal mid-century family home reveals the depth and creativeness within. Home is where the heart is , the saying goes. And for Henry Roth, his heart lies in his childhood home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Designed by prolific Australian architect Harry Seidler in 1959, the breathtakingly modernist creation sits perched on a hill amongst natural bushland.
“This [house] is the headquarters of the soul of our family. It doesn’t matter how long I live in New York, this is home,” remarks the designer, and fashion correspondent for the Nine Network’s Today, who, after residing in the Big Apple for 10 years, now splits his time between New York and Sydney.
With its clean lines, all-white palette and sizable glass panelling, the home’s minimalist footprint represents everything Roth’s parents, Joseph and Aneta Weinreich, craved after surviving the Holocaust of WWII. “It was light and bright, and all about embracing Australia—you hear the kookaburras in the morning and magpies at night. And when I think about my parents being survivors, I realise now that the architecture reflects and embraces life,” says Roth. “This is the epitome of freedom.”
Inside, the spacious open-plan living area is accentuated by the sparse placement of the original, iconic furniture, each piece handpicked by the architect himself. “Not one centimetre of this house was touched without consulting Harry Seidler,” says Roth. The centrepiece is its raised, curved dining room with the circular dining table fixed beneath an oversized skylight. “There is this feeling of continuity and unity in the house with the circular lines,” says Roth, adding, “we’re a strong, close family, and I think that the architecture of this house reflects that.”
Despite the home’s showcase appearance, none of the decor was ever off limits to the rambunctious Roth and his two younger sisters, Lilian and Michelle. “We could touch everything,” he says. “We were allowed to run riot.” These days, when the family gathers it’s a far more tame occasion.
The much-loved home, says Roth, is the source of his creativity and self-belief. “The design has influenced how I feel as a person,” he explains. “My parents weren’t scared of being different, and that’s why I think I am, still today, quite flamboyant. I’m not scared of expressing anything. It comes from the house, it seriously does.”
Text by Natalie Bridgewater / Photographed by Nick Bowers / Styled by Amber Mackay
Such is their closeness that Roth and his sister Michelle work alongside their parents in the family bridal business, named Henry Roth; Roth is manager, his sister Michelle is head designer based in New York, and mum Aneta is head designer based in Sydney.
The label is one of Australia’s longest-running fashion design houses, with studios here and in the US. Roth’s signature “passion for fashion”, the phrase he made famous as mentor to budding designers on Runway Australia“From the age of five I would go to the showroom and do draping,” he says. “And every night when my parents came home, we would sit around the table and hear about the dresses they were creating.”