Ruth

Ruth Lane Pool
Ruth Lane Pool (Courtesy of Phyllis Hamilton)

Capital interiors

Ruth Lane Poole's work in designing the interiors of the first official residences for both the Prime Minister and the Governor-General give her a unique place in Australian history. She created an interior style as distinctive as the 'Federal Capital' architecture now widely recognised as characteristic of Canberra's early public buildings.

The residences of the head of Australian Government and of the representative of Australia's head of state were among these public buildings. But they are also required to retain a private character, as homes for first families. There were no precedents, as Australia's state premiers did not have official residences and all the state governors occupied pre-Federation buildings.

The new Canberra residences were the first to be planned in a 'civic' style, suitable for the leaders of a constitutional democracy. Like Australia's federal Constitution, these are 'Washminster' buildings, drawing on both London's No. 10 Downing Street and Washington's White House in their combined constitutional and domestic functions.

With The Lodge, architects Percy Oakley and Stanley Parkes successfully merged the Georgian Revival and American West Coast architectural elements favoured for Australian houses in the 1920s. An example was 'Pinehill', the private home built in 1926 for Stanley Melbourne Bruce and Ethel Bruce in Frankston, Victoria. But The Lodge's young architects also addressed elements of the Federal Capital style to provide a unique fusion with Canberra's other public buildings.

Other Canberra homes tied to the duties, and the tenure, of public office included those of some heads of department. One of these was the Lane Pooles' own home, Westridge House, the official residence of the head of the Forestry School. The interior style of public residences like these is just as significant as their exteriors in understanding Australia’s national history.

Federal 'Furniture Specialist'

The Federal Capital Commission was set up to create the national capital and arrange the transfer of the Parliament and the public service from Melbourne, which had served as a temporary seat of government since Federation in 1901. The Federal Capital Commission was responsible for all design and construction of the new city, the provision of services such as electricity, water and sewerage, and road and bridge building.

The official residences for the Governor-General and the Prime Minister were among the essential public buildings to be completed for the opening of Parliament in the new Parliament House on 9 May 1927.

Work on the residence for the Governor-General Lord Stonehaven and Lady Stonehaven was already under way when the foundations for the Prime Minister's residence were laid in December 1925. The furnishing of both was first discussed with Ruth Lane Poole in February 1926 and the Federal Capital Commission formally engaged her as 'Furniture Specialist' from 29 March 1926. She remained their consultant until 5 September 1927.

Ruth Lane Poole was required to prepare a furnishing plan for each house. Cabinet specified that the furnishing was to be done with Australian materials and 'Best British' manufactures. She needed to design the furniture as well as having it made by Australian artisans of Australian timbers and to select all furnishing materials and fittings, ordering imports from Britain as necessary. She was instructed to consult Ethel Bruce, the Prime Minister's wife, and Lady Stonehaven about her plans for their new homes.

In her design report submitted in July 1926, Ruth Lane Poole estimated that furnishing the Governor-General's residence would cost at least £12,000, but Cabinet restricted the expenditure to £10,000 for the Governor-General's residence and £5000 for the Prime Minister's (about $575,000 and $288,000 today). Her brief included interior design and furniture for the separate residence of the Governor-General's aide-de-camp in the grounds of Yarralumla.

When she offered to resign the commission, which she considered impossible without sufficient funds, Cabinet ordered a review of her estimates. When the review supported her original costing, Cabinet increased the allocation and the work proceeded.

Ruth Lane Poole had a very long shopping list. Most of the orders were placed with Melbourne suppliers. The largest single source was the rapidly expanding department store established in Bourke Street by Sidney Myer. Among other goods, Myers supplied the substantial quantity of imported carpets. Ruth Lane Poole ordered dinner services and Morris and Company fabrics and wallpapers direct from London, where Lily Yeats acted as unpaid buyer and Australia's High Commissioner as official dispatcher.

Ruth Lane Poole dealt with the conflicting demands of a tight schedule and the requirement to adhere to proper public service processes. She was expected to place and control every order, receiving and checking quality and quantity. Upholstery materials were delivered direct to the furniture makers and other goods dispatched to Canberra through the Department of Home and Territories' Melbourne store. Keeping track of the deliveries and accounting for the materials created frequent confusion and delay, as well as a mass of correspondence. Hold-ups were made worse by having to deal with architects, suppliers and government officials in both Melbourne and Canberra.

John Butters, head of the Federal Capital Commission, kept an eye on her procedures. Supervising architect for the Federal Capital Commission, Henry Rolland, kept even more minute surveillance of every item and any error. The most serious was in the first consignment of the Tasmanian mountain ash panelling she ordered for the dining room at Government House. Rolland's irritation on discovering the panels had been assembled with screws increased when he realised that Ruth Lane Poole might not have specified that only battens and glue could be used. He ensured responsibility for this error was repeatedly recorded as hers.

Ruth Lane Poole made more than 100 working drawings of her designs for the furniture and photographed some of the completed work. There was much to be done even after the residences were occupied in May 1927. Both Ethel Bruce and Lady Stonehaven requested additional household items over the following months and as each invoice and inventory from the complex projects was processed, she was called on to confirm receipt and condition of goods.

As a consultant without staff or even an office, her determination was as important as her training in her success as Furniture Specialist for Australia's new national capital. Equally important were her expert advisers, Charles Lane Poole and Desbrowe-Annear in Melbourne and Lily Yeats in London.

Ruth Lane Poole's role in the historic enterprise of building a city still awaits assessment. There is ample evidence waiting to be read in National Archives' records of the creation of Canberra.

Civic design

The Duke and Duchess of York arriving for the opening of the new Parliament House in Canberra, 9 May 1927
The Duke and Duchess of York arriving for the opening of the new Parliament House in Canberra, 9 May 1927 (A3560, 3058)

As the vice-regal residence, Government House combined both state and domestic functions. It was built on a grander scale than The Lodge, its rooms and grounds a suitable size for ceremonial state occasions. The representative of Australia's head of state was also the host for royal visitors and for visits by foreign heads of state.

In contrast, The Lodge was provided as the private residence of the Prime Minister. Both the architects and the interior designer recognised that the line between the political and personal lives of a head of government is blurred. Inside and out, The Lodge was recognised as a unique public building in the federal capital and also a prime example of the 'Ideal Home' movement. It featured in the new magazines of the 1920s, the Australian Women’s Weekly, the Australian Home Beautiful and H Desbrowe-Annear's own journal, For Every Man his Home.

Ruth Lane Poole's interior design schemes addressed the private and the public functions of both residences. She introduced a civic sensibility to the interiors in her design schemes, including the internal architecture, to address the needs of those who would spend most time within the walls of the houses. In both residences she argued for the wall panelling to extend from floor to cornice, so as to provide better proportions for pictures to be hung. Her instructions to the supervising architect were detailed and determined. Most of her changes were implemented, an exception being the full-length panelling at The Lodge.

At Ruth's insistence, the planned sand rendering of the interior, as well as exterior cavity brick walls of The Lodge, was also changed to a cement mortar render. This would have meant the interior walls had to be finished with kalsomine, a finish she thought more apt for a garage than the Prime Minister's residence. She made sure the finish would allow either tinting, painting or papering the walls, following the William Morris principle of merging utility and beauty. In drawing on this source for aesthetic inspiration and for practicality, Ruth Lane Poole wove values of artisanship and equality into Canberra's civic design. Her interiors were thus an ideal match for the democratic vision of the city's designers, Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin.

Ruth's schemes for interiors and her furniture designs, both express this sensibility to the private and public lives of the occupants. Changes she pushed through, even before she submitted her design scheme in July 1926, included having the fireplaces at The Lodge changed from English style coal-burning grates to Australian open hearths for wood fuel. After her first visit to Canberra in autumn 1926, she had The Lodge's internal doors panelled rather than glazed. She also ensured the east-facing breakfast room became a sitting room, creating a design for 'a sunny, well-proportioned room' where the Prime Minister's wife could receive visitors.

Ruth Lane Poole shared her ideas for the nation's prime residences with home decorators whose scale was more modest. She asked Lily Yeats in London to source William Morris wallpapers and cretonnes for the bedrooms of the small daughters of Lord and Lady Stonehaven. At the same time she asked her Australian Home Beautiful readers 'Why not paper your walls?', suggesting pretty floral patterns for a country-style bedroom without fussiness, to achieve an elegant but welcoming 'haven of rest'. A fellow contributor to the Australian Home Beautiful shared her preference for a new simplicity and spaciousness – Walter Burley Griffin stressed that bedrooms should be kept simple and cumbersome furniture and 'excessive elaboration' avoided.

Ruth Lane Poole's training and experience in Dublin and London, as well as her Canberra commission, made her an influential figure. Her journalism provided clear, vivid and practical direction concerning domesticity's civic role. Stating the 'very first rule' in furnishing a dining room was to leave sufficient space around the table, she stressed the importance of staff being able to move behind the seated guests 'with ease and comfort'. Equally important, she advised, was to include even a moderately priced carpet, to avoid disturbing the occasion with the noise of servants walking on bare floorboards.

It was marble, rather than floorboards, that raised a new problem for Ruth Lane Poole soon after the Stonehavens moved into Government House. They reported a hazard for the footmen carrying salvers around the mid-Georgian style Tasmanian oak dining table and the imposing leather-upholstered chairs. As the footmen passed in front of the fireplace, they were slipping on the two-and-a-half metre expanse of the marble hearth tiles. Supervising architect Henry Rolland considered this Ruth Lane Poole's fault and for several months pursued her with demands she locate the piece of carpet cut out for the marble hearth when the dining room carpet was laid.

For the dining room at The Lodge, the table was of Queensland maple and a less baronial, Chippendale-style chair featured an interwoven 'PM' monogram.

For public rooms like the dining room, drawing room and reception rooms of Government House, Ruth Lane Poole's furniture designs reproduced classic and formal styles for chairs, cabinets, book cases, side tables and mantelpieces.

Private rooms were less formal, and more innovative. The furniture for the study in each residence reflects this difference, with armchairs covered in Australian bullock hide. The chairs in the Governor-General's study were crafted from Tasmanian blackwood, with the desk highly figured and inlaid with Queensland tulip wood.

For the Governor-General's drawing room, she designed an elegant Chippendale-style chair.

Despite subsequent changes to both residences, the high ceilings, generous windows and proportions of the rooms are reminders of the civic design principles by which their original decorator dressed them.

National resources

Ruth Lane Poole made extensive use of timber and was enthusiastic about its possibilities. For both residences she specified richly coloured, darker woods such as Queensland maple, jarrah, blackwood and Queensland walnut. In the Australian Home Beautifulin 1927, she wrote of the 'fine range of beautiful woods' available in Australia and of her delight in choosing appropriate timbers to express her designs.

Ruth Lane Poole chose panelling of Tasmanian mountain ash for both The Lodge and Government House. Supervising architect Henry Rolland rejected the first consignment from Melbourne firm Pagets when he discovered the panels fixed with screws. Then, when replacement panelling was installed at Yarralumla, Ruth Lane Poole found the effect too dark and had the panels taken down and treated again to achieve the mellow nut-brown colour she wanted.

She sought advice on the use of Australian timbers and on choosing craftsmen for the furniture and cabinet work from those close to her. Charles Lane Poole was her specialist in Australian timbers and Desbrowe-Annear an accomplished furniture designer and authority on antiques. Charles Lane Poole also gave practical advice, recommending that the new furniture be allowed time to adjust to Canberra's dry climate before being used.

Empire trade

The Federal Capital Commission's brief for the purchase of all goods for Government House and The Lodge was 'British and first quality throughout'. This was no whim, but reflected the Empire trade policy of the government of Stanley Melbourne Bruce and Country Party leader Earle Page. The policy, directed to assisting Australian agriculture and British manufacturing industries, was fostered at Imperial conferences throughout the 1920s.

The Empire trade rule was an inflexible condition in furnishing the nation's first houses. Ruth Lane Poole adhered to it, at times reluctantly rejecting some of the finest 'foreign' items, including Lalique glassware and a dessert set. But, several of the paintings she ordered were noted as 'foreign' on delivery forms.

Both houses were outfitted by ordering everything from Britain, through the office of Australia's High Commissioner, or purchasing items of English manufacture already available in Melbourne. In effect this meant ordering English-made goods, including two custom-designed dinner services with prime ministerial and vice-regal insignia. Also ordered from England were silverware, glassware, tea sets, curtain materials, household linen, even porcelain soap dishes for the bathrooms.

In this long-distance shopping Ruth Lane Poole had the invaluable help of her cousin Lily Yeats, an unpaid London agent. Lily Yeats also assisted in satisfying special requests by Lady Stonehaven and Ethel Bruce, at one point searching for material in a particular shade of blue preferred by the prime ministerial wife.

An exception to this England-dominated shopping list was the work Ruth Lane Poole commissioned from Lily Yeats' Cuala Industries in Dublin. Three items were provided for Government House, an embroidered fire screen and two embroidered silk bedspreads, specially made for the bedrooms occupied briefly by the Duke and Duchess of York.

Gardens

Like the two residences themselves, their garden designs reflect their distinct purposes – the dual public and private nature of the vice-regal residence and the intended private nature of the Prime Minister's home. At Yarralumla the landscaping, like the residence, was developed from an existing, relatively grand base. At The Lodge, sited on a bare slope facing Capital Hill (now the site of new Parliament House) there was a clean sweep.

Both grounds were the responsibility of the same Department, headed by Charles Weston and his successor Alexander Bruce. They shared a basic plan with 'curved paths, stretches of lawn containing garden beds, and roses everywhere'. Each had a wide driveway with a turning circle arranged so that passengers alighting from vehicles faced the front door.

These were both English gardens planted in a bared, Australian cold-climate terrain. Some of the plants came from the government nursery at Yarralumla, but to develop the gardens quickly, hundreds of dozens of roses and other plants were ordered from Sydney nurseries in the winter of 1927. Vegetable gardens and picking gardens for flower arrangements indoors featured in the grounds of both houses.

But in intention and effect, the landscapes are very different. In tune with the architecture and interior design, the Yarralumla grounds gave Government House the look and feel of 'a gentleman's country seat'. The architecture and interiors of The Lodge were also matched by its landscaping. Its 1920s bungalow garden writ large contributed to the notion this really was just a private home and not also a place of work, provided at public expense.

While both gardens had roses aplenty – a love of Alexander Bruce's – at Yarralumla more unusual and formal flowers also featured. The Lodge's more suburban air drew on plantings of phlox, zinnias, asters and the inevitable petunias.

At the further stretches of both grounds were shrubs and trees, though at Yarralumla the stretch is much further than at The Lodge. Blending in the vistas at both places are the Australian native flora on which the Griffins' landscape design for the national capital was founded.

The Lodge

The Lodge under construction, June 1926
The Lodge under construction, June 1926 (A3560, 2010)

The Federal Capital Commission architectural office had a heavy workload creating Canberra, so the Melbourne firm of Percy Oakley and Stanley Parkes was asked to provide sketches for a provisional residence for the Prime Minister. Oakley & Parkes had won a design competition for a section of houses in the nearby Blandfordia (now Forrest) subdivision in 1924.

They designed a two-storey building, with a roof of natural green slate from the Goulburn quarries and roughcast-rendered cavity brick walls. Their initial plans provided four bedrooms upstairs, and four staff rooms and a kitchen and breakfast room downstairs, behind a dining room on one side of a large entrance hall and staircase. On the other side were a sitting room, a billiard room and a study.

The design reflects the 'Ideal Home' style of the 1920s. The Lodge was not intended to accommodate state visitors, but to be a home for the prime ministerial family. It is a home with a difference, however, with official visitors usually entertained at lunch or dinner there and much business conducted, both by prime ministers and their wives.

The builder, the Sydney firm of James G Taylor, started construction in January 1926. The Lodge, planned for completion in July 1926, was not finished until April 1927, with one of the significant hold-ups being the changes Ruth Lane Poole had insisted on. Like Parliament House, The Lodge was intended as a provisional building, to be occupied only 'until such time as a permanent monumental Prime Minister's residence is constructed, and thereafter to be used for other official purposes'.

The residence was called 'The Lodge' to distinguish it from the proposed, but still not yet built, 'monumental' residence. The name was first recorded in a letter sent from the head of the Federal Capital Commission to the architects on 19 April 1927. Until then it was officially named the 'Prime Minister's cottage', a title neither the Bruces, the house's first occupants, nor Ruth Lane Poole wanted to use.

When Ruth Lane Poole was commissioned as 'Furniture Specialist' on 29 March 1926, The Lodge was barely more than foundations. She worked from the plans. At the top of her concerns were the inadequacies of the size and facilities of kitchen, scullery and laundry, and of the accommodation for servants in the southern, kitchen wing. The contract had been let and construction was under way, but she considered the changes vital. When she consulted Ethel Bruce as requested, she enlisted her help. The architects did not wait for an official request and proceeded to draw up changes to the southern wing 'in anticipation of Mrs Bruce's wishes being conceded to'.

Ruth Lane Poole achieved all the changes she had sought for the kitchen, with a larger area including a scullery, cook's pantry and cold storage area. She also succeeded in the improvements to the servants' quarters, a better dining room, separate quarters for the housekeeper and more bedrooms for the maids. Her design scheme aimed at making these as comfortable and attractive as possible, with 'pretty floral chintz curtains and bedspreads to match', with sketches and prints on the walls and either 'good inlaid linoleum' or 'good quality hair carpet' on the floors. This emphasis on attractiveness as well as the utility of spaces used by workers also drew on the principles of the William Morris movement.

Once Ethel Bruce's authority proved effective, Ruth Lane Poole addressed further changes in her name directly to Oakley & Parkes in Melbourne. These included pointing out that while quarters for a married chauffeur were now in hand, there was neither stove nor sink for a wife to care for the apartment. Ruth Lane Poole wrote a personal letter to Federal Capital Commission Chairman, John Butters, suggesting that the architectural changes she had pressed for had originated with the Prime Minister's wife, but neither the Commission nor the architects were convinced. The Commission sought to remove the problem from their own architects by asking Oakley & Parkes to take over supervision of construction. The firm made it a condition of their acceptance that Ruth Lane Poole be refused any voice on architectural issues.

Ruth Lane Poole provided the Federal Capital Commission with her interior design scheme for The Lodge in July 1926. Her report described The Lodge as 'manorial architecturally and suburban in size'. She analysed the use to be made of each room, including formal reception rooms, private family areas and servants' quarters, and designed their complete furnishings.

That same month, Federal Cabinet rejected her estimate of costs of furnishing the official residences. Although Ruth Lane Poole objected to these cuts, she adjusted her initial estimate of slightly under £7000 to completely furnish and equip The Lodge to £5900.

The Federal Capital Commission ordered a review, however, that showed her costings were justified. In November, Cabinet approved an increase in the amount allocated for furnishing the Prime Minister's residence from £5000 to £7150 (about $411,000 today). Most of Ruth Lane Poole's original design scheme was implemented, with minor changes where fabrics and carpets she chose in Melbourne differed from what her cousin Lily Yeats could find available in London.

In outlining her scheme in her July 1926 report, Ruth Lane Poole noted the Entrance Hall 'needs great care in its treatment' as it was both the official and family entrance to the house. She used timber extensively, including Tasmanian mountain ash panelling for the walls and Australian oak for the hall table and chairs, a grandfather clock and rug chest. The timber floor was covered with three Persian rugs.

Noting the plans provided both a billiard room – the largest room in the house – and a study for the Prime Minister in the northern wing, Ruth Lane Poole again enlisted Ethel Bruce's support to turn a proposed breakfast room into a sitting room. Her design scheme created 'a sunny, well-proportioned room' where the prime ministerial wife could entertain her own visitors and write her letters. The room was finished with deep ivory painted woodwork, mauve and white striped wallpaper and hand-printed English linen curtains in soft yellow and mauve.

Aware of the unstated dual purpose of The Lodge, Ruth Lane Poole thought most of the rooms too small for the purposes they would serve in reality. To fit a piano into the sitting room without ruining its proportions, she had Melbourne piano-maker Beales build a baby grand. Simplicity was her design solution: 'In order to obtain a simple, impressive and cultured effect and yet allow the room to accommodate as many people as possible it is necessary to have little furniture and continuous colouring', with the right selection of pictures the key to achieving the required effect.

Ruth Lane Poole designed the Prime Minister's study as 'a most comfortable man's study', with down-filled arm chairs covered in Australian bullock hide, a richly coloured carpet and curtains of blue and purple stripes.

The total cost of The Lodge was £28,319, including the landscaping of 2.8 hectares of grounds, construction of a tennis court and croquet lawn, and furnishing and interior decoration. That figure also included alteration of the original plans and decoration of the additional rooms in the servants' quarters.

The Bruces moved in with their small dog on 4 May 1927, ready for the opening of parliament in the new Parliament House five days later. The designer's role was not yet over and either she or Ethel Bruce initiated requests for further changes, including improvements to the basement laundry.

Government House

Photograph of a finished armchair made to Ruth Lane Poole's design, for the Governor-General's drawing room
Photograph of a finished armchair made to Ruth Lane Poole's design, for the Governor-General's drawing room (National Library of Australia)

The official residence of the Governor-General at Yarralumla was originally the homestead of a rural property established in the 1840s. Fifty years later, the house was extensively altered by pastoralist Frederick Campbell with a three-storey, double-gabled brick addition and a new wing with a porte-cochere and conservatory. The Australian Government acquired Yarralumla in 1913, after Canberra was chosen as the site for the new national capital.

In 1925 extensive alterations commenced under the supervision of John Smith Murdoch, Chief Architect of the then Department of Works and Railways. The cost of transforming Yarralumla into a suitable residence for the Governor-General, his family and large staff was more than £70,000.

Like The Lodge, Yarralumla was to be a temporary official residence while a permanent residence for the Governor-General was built. Canberra's designer, Walter Burley Griffin, had included a Capitol, a large state building atop what was later renamed Capital Hill. This would have included the permanent residence of the Governor-General, had the Capitol ever been built.

The renovations at Yarralumla were under way when Ruth Lane Poole was officially commissioned as 'Furniture Specialist'. She found the task of furnishing Government House much more difficult than the brand new Lodge. Government House had to provide accommodation for state visitors and venues for state occasions as well as provide a home for the Governor-General’s family. As well, Yarralumla was an old and much larger house, with mulitple renovations as she described

Rooms were merged together, passages were absorbed into rooms, rooms built on and even separate cottages were erected to house the staff (Table Talk, 2 May 1927).

When Ruth Lane Poole provided her plan for the furnishing of Government House in July 1926, her costing of £12,000 'completely staggered' the Federal Capital Commission, who ordered an urgent review. She responded that she had looked to 'save every penny possible' while maintaining the required standards and quality. When the review vindicated her estimates, Cabinet increased the sum approved from £10,000 to £13,400 (about $771,000 today), later adding £325 for furniture for the royal visit of the Duke and Duchess of York, the first state visitors accommodated at Yarralumla.

Ruth Lane Poole was already ordering materials before submitting her design scheme in July 1926 and had finished most of the furniture designs by October 1926, despite the delay over approval of the necessary funds. With ongoing delays in getting necessary approvals, both she and the supervising architect, Henry Rolland, were concerned that six months would not be enough time for the pieces to be made, upholstered, transported and arranged in the house before Lord and Lady Stonehaven would occupy their new residence. It was a rare area of agreement between them as the deadline drew nearer.

The Governor-General and Lady Stonehaven visited the unfinished Yarralumla in December 1926 and were reported to be 'pleased with the appearance of the place'.

The furnishing and decoration of Government House had to balance the house's dual roles as official residence and family home. Ruth Lane Poole regarded the layout of the residence as not suitable for all its ceremonial purposes, with no ballroom and a dining room that could only accommodate 22 people.

In response, Ruth Lane Poole gave the reception rooms and other official areas what she described as a 'rather severe treatment' to declare to their formal purposes. For the private apartments and rooms used by the family, she created a lighter air. The bedroom designated for the wife of the Governor-General she decorated in primrose yellow with a greyish jade green and moonlight blue. The bedspread she provided was embroidered by her cousin Lily Yeats in Ireland. The children's rooms were decorated in fresh blue and white, with furniture of a lighter style than elsewhere in the residence.

A more complex problem arose in January 1927 when the size of the considerable royal entourage became known, as there was very limited accommodation in Canberra. Ruth Lane Poole had consulted closely with the architect throughout the building work and between them they managed to arrange sufficient accommodation within Government House.

Westridge House

Westridge House and garden, 1929
Westridge House and garden, 1929 (A3560, 5307)

Ruth Lane Poole's Canberra design work included a third residence – her own. After the Australian Forestry School was established in Canberra in 1927, a principal's house was to be built in Yarralumla, next to the school and the Commonwealth Forestry Bureau. The street was named Banks Street in 1928, after the English botanist Sir Joseph Banks.

A design for the house was created by Federal Capital Commission architects for the first head of the school, Professor Norman Jolly. When Charles Lane Poole succeeded to the post, the Lane Pooles obtained permission to choose their own architect. Their friend Harold Desbrowe-Annear worked closely with Ruth Lane Poole on the design of a house unique in the national capital.

The Lane Pooles knew Desbrowe-Annear through Ruth's involvement in Melbourne's arts and crafts society, and Charles' friendship with Russell Grimwade, whose Melbourne house was designed in a similar style by the architect. Westridge House is the only Desbrowe-Annear house in Canberra.

Ruth Lane Poole visited Canberra many times in 1926 and 1927 while working on the interiors of The Lodge and Government House. When the family finally moved to Canberra in 1927, it was much more convenient for Ruth to keep a close eye on the construction of their own house. They stayed in a hotel until the building was complete.

Ruth Lane Poole worked with Desbrowe-Annear on the most efficient arrangement of the rooms in her new home. On the ground floor were a hall, living room, library, kitchen, toilet, laundry and store, and on the first floor were four bedrooms, a maid’s room and bathroom. The house also had a cellar, but no garage until the Lane Pooles persisted in asking for one. Among the house's innovations were the first 'flush windows' in Australia. These opened completely, sliding vertically into wall cavities, with flyscreens raised automatically as the windows opened.

Ruth Lane Poole influenced the layout of most rooms, including the kitchen. She drew a kitchen plan to show how the cupboards should be fitted and chose the electric stove. The interior decoration and fittings were to her design, from 16 'twisted candle lamps' and the bellpushes to summon the maid, to the light in the toilet.

The Federal Capital Commission provided funds for an entrance drive and brick path and to establish the garden. Ruth Lane Poole arranged for fellow contributor to the Australian Home Beautiful, leading landscape designer Edna Walling, to prepare a plan for the garden.

Both Ruth and Charles enjoyed gardening, but took different sides of the garden. Ruth created colourful displays from herbaceous plants jumbled together, while Charles planted systematically and brought his scientific mind to bear by recording the seasonal growth of some of the plants.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017