Lounge suite: settee and three armchairs used by Curtin family

This lounge suite, which has three armchairs to supplement the three-seated sofa, replaced a leather suite with smaller chairs by 1935—the year John Curtin became Leader of the Opposition. Originally covered in a velvet fabric with an autumnally-coloured pattern, it was used in the family’s lounge room by the Curtins during the evenings as they read and listened to the wireless. Elsie Macleod remembered times when her father lay on the sofa to read while her mother played the piano. 

John Curtin and his wife and two children pose for a photo in a living room.

Photo: JCPML, Curtin University 

Curtin received calls from his constituents, colleagues, the press and other visitors in the lounge room. There was even a visit from Tatsuo Kawai, the Japanese Minister to Australia, in the period before Japan entered World War II. He came to dinner in July 1941 when Curtin, as opposition leader and a member of the Advisory War Council, was looking for ways to prevent hostilities between Australia and Japan. 

The sofa and chairs have built-in polished jarrah shelves within their arms. They pull out to support cups and saucers, drinks and, importantly during John Curtin’s lifetime, ashtrays. Curtin is reported to have smoked forty cigarettes a day during the war. John Curtin Jr later recalled that the house ‘always had plenty of ashtrays, all sorts. It’s a wonder that we didn’t have them hanging from the ceilings’. Elsie Macleod remembered ‘waving away the smoke’ as she remarked to her mother that her father was back, only to be told that she shouldn’t complain because ‘at least you know your father is at home’.

The suite was still in the lounge room when the house was sold in 1998.