Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Guertner, Beryl Annie Blanche (1917–1981)

by Howard Tanner

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Beryl Annie Blanche Guertner (1917-1981), magazine editor and author, was born on 22 October 1917 at Paddington, Sydney, daughter of Eugene Henry Gürtner, a German-born pastry-cook and sports masseur, and his Sydney born wife Maude, née Ireland. Beryl was educated (1931-33) by the Presentation Sisters at Mount Erin, Wagga Wagga, before training as a secretary. Drawn to the written and spoken word, the natural actress in her saw the writing of elegant and informed prose and the ability to hold an audience as skills that might lead her into a more creative world. Metropolitan life beckoned; she went to Sydney aged 21, and lived in the Mosman Bay area until 1949. She worked in the publicity department of Paramount Pictures and as a journalist on the Daily Telegraph. An active member of the Society of Women Writers of New South Wales, she was its president in 1960.

During the late 1940s, after years of economic recession, wartime shortages and frugal living, there was a surging demand for new homes, household equipment and fresh interior decoration. Ken Murray, an enterprising young magazine publisher, sensed the opportunity and found a suitable editor in Guertner to tap the market. With only sixteen weeks and limited resources, Guertner, buoyed by her natural drive and sharp eye, produced the first issue of Australian House and Garden in December 1948. Almost alone in its field, this magazine opened up the possibilities of living with style on modest means, and of pushing aside staid `cream and mushroom pink’ residential conformity. It was an era of self-help, and the magazine provided ingenious small-home plans by the architect W. Watson-Sharp, conveyed the excitement of good design, and promoted innovative paint colours and decorative schemes. From the start Guertner introduced the public to important designers such as Robin Boyd, Syd Ancher, Harry Seidler, Grant Featherston and Marion Hall Best. Gardening advice was influenced by her friend Margaret Davis, founder of the Garden Club of New South Wales (Garden Club of Australia).

As an editor for the K. G. Murray Publishing Co. Pty Ltd (which came to include Gregory’s guides and maps), Guertner was responsible for Australian House and Garden until 1973 and Good Gardening in 1970-77. She wrote many books including The Australian Book of Flower Arrangement (1964) and the Australian Book of Furnishing and Decorating (1967); her Gregory’s Guide to Better Gardens (1964?) ran to six editions; and she produced over thirty homemaker and gardening guides.

At Warrimoo in the Blue Mountains Guertner and Catherine (Kate) Warmoll created from 1949 a sophisticated country retreat for themselves. Moving to Macmasters Beach, they retired from full-time careers in 1973, and made a subtropical garden beside Lake Cockrone. Guertner was of medium height, with an expressive face, brown eyes, and blonded hair, and was always smartly dressed. Recalled as a strong and engaging personality—of great warmth, generosity and quick wit—she was a persuasive advocate for the new ideas and designs that helped transform domestic life in postwar Australia. She died of cancer on 25 November 1981 at Gosford and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • R. Aitken and M. Looker (eds), The Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens (2002)
  • Australian House and Garden, Dec 1973, p 35, Dec 1988, p 8, Dec 1998, p 18
  • private information.

Citation details

Howard Tanner, 'Guertner, Beryl Annie Blanche (1917–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/guertner-beryl-annie-blanche-12573/text22639, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 22 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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