Serpentine Parade house
In 1959, Polish-born retailers, Mr & Mrs Moses and Musia Greengarten, commissioned fellow Pole, architect Henry Kurzer, to refurbish their recently purchased home at Serpentine Parade Vaucluse. Kurzer designed a new lounge and dining space, which was fully furnished with custom-made furniture and cabinetry produced by Paul Kafka. Viennese-born craftsman and furniture manufacturer, Paul Kafka, had a well-established business, P E Kafka Exclusive Furniture Pty Ltd, with a clientele ranging from private home owners and architects and interior decorators to corporations. Many of his clients were, like Kafka, Jewish refugees from war-torn Europe.
Apart from their common European heritage what attracted many to Kafka’s work was its stylishness and fine craftsmanship, qualities that were part of a strong tradition in European cabinet-making. The asymmetrical geometry of Kafka’s designs for the Serpentine Parade house demonstrates the blending of the European Art Deco style and the inter-war modernist aesthetic synonymous with Kafka’s approach. The use of light coloured woods, patterned veneers, mirror backing, glass and chrome was also typical, shown in the Serpentine Parade dining suite crafted in Queensland Yellow Sycamore and burr walnut wood veneers. The Kurzer-Kafka interiors remained intact until 1991 when the house was refurbished. The furniture was later auctioned and The Historic Houses Trust acquired one of the 12 trapezoidal-back dining chairs, upholstered in 1950s green metallic threaded fabric known as ‘Lurex’.
Our Home: Emoh Ruo, Reflections on the Way We Live, Historic Houses Trust of NSW, 1995.
Anne Watson “Kafka and Kalmar” in The Furniture History Society Australasia Journal, no.2 2004, pp.10-13.