A blog that explores Australian houses. If you love architecture, design, interiors and interesting buildings of all types, The House Hunter is for you.

Address unknown, Potts Hill

 

The photographs were too stunning to resist – ghostly, the house sits forgotten, perhaps headed towards demolition.

 

This derelict building is owned by Sydney Water at Potts Hill, which is a suburb in Sydney’s south-west. The corporation owns 116 hectares of land in the suburb, and portions of it are being redeveloped for residential and commercial purposes. I am unsure where this little cottage sits in relation to the construction project, but it is an eerie building cursed by neglect. Houses like these fill me with fascination – they are haunting, austere, melancholic, and the combination of these qualities results in a morbid sort of beauty.

 

 

It’s difficult to pin down when it was built, mostly as I’m unfamiliar with these types of buildings. It seems to be fibro, and on that basis I’d guess 1960s, but I could stand corrected.

 

 

My favourite image is this one above, as it bears signs of the room’s previous (and newer) uses. Having a few objects in a room tends to make them more nostalgic – it elevates a space from being an empty shell.

 

This post was highly collaborative, insofar as the photographs were taken by someone who can only be described as my accomplice. Unfortunately, there isn’t much I could dig up about the house itself. It is located near heritage-listed reservoirs, but I could find no evidence that it is a heritage item; Sydney Water is quite detailed in its heritage listings, and none of its descriptions appeared to match up with this lonely little edifice.

 

 

 

6 South Scenic Road, Forresters Beach

 

“It’s a knockdown,” according to one local.

 

I totally disagree, although I don’t doubt that the next purchaser will knock down the quintessential beach shack and build one of the sprawling contemporary mega-homes already adorning most of the plots that adjoin Forresters Beach.

 

I knew about this house, which is currently up for sale with offers sought over $1.55 million, as I grew up in the area. Its peeling paint, pretty front garden and unbeatable beachfront position render it the perfect holiday home, and the idea of building a new place on the land makes me sad. It’s the kind of vacationer I aspire to own … when I make all my riches, of course.

 

 

Forresters Beach is a Central Coast suburb wedged between Terrigal and The Entrance (it borders Wamberal and Bateau Bay). It is notable for having an unpatrolled beach, and for also having exclusive access to Spoon Bay, a lovely, secluded … well, bay … that will take you to Wamberal and Terrigal beaches if you keep walking along the sand. It is an interesting place – small enough to walk from one end of the suburb to another (if you can be bothered), built primarily on sand, yet accommodating a wide variety of housing styles and inhabitants.

 

 

The beach side of the suburb houses the most covetable real estate (and, well … people), while the northern end of the suburb contains mostly middle-of-the road suburbia brick and weatherboard places. A large portion of the houses were once weekenders, so the suburb has its fair share of small fibro cottages.

 

This house stands out as it has one of the suburb’s best positions (with direct access to the beach), yet retains its character. It’s a beach home through and through – the kind of place you look forward to travelling to in summer, its floorboards inescapably covered with sand, its floor-to-ceiling windows letting in the salty sea breeze.

 

Its private beach stairs

 

Forresters Beach, on an unfortunately gloomy day

 

3402/98 Gloucester Street, The Rocks

 

While I may be called the House Hunter, I am equally interested in apartments. Apartments are, after all, homes. With this in mind, I was eager to find an apartment to feature in the blog. I feel I’ve picked a very worthy candidate in 3402/98 Gloucester Street, The Rocks, which is a jealously-inducing, ultra-modern three bedroom apartment with jaw-dropping views across Sydney Harbour.

 

 

“The reaction everyone has when they come in is ‘wow’,” said Emma, the agent showing me through the place, as she gestured towards the view. I can see why. There’s no point describing the view when I can show it to you.

 

 

 

Standing on the balcony, terror and amazement mingled. It was difficult to draw my attention away from the view, but if I did for even a second I noticed the ridiculously long fall down to the ground from the high rise. Maybe I’m scared of heights and hadn’t realised it until now.

 

“The current owners did a full renovation, even though they didn’t need to,” Emma explained. This shows in the bathrooms’ and kitchen’s high-end finishes, the invisible television in the main bedroom (which appears out of cabinetry when you press a button on its remote), the acoustic sound system and the automatic blinds. There is a consistent dark colour scheme that runs throughout the apartment, enhancing its contemporary feel. This is a sexy, slick, salubrious apartment – not the high-ceilinged heritage house that usually occupies my blog posts.

 

 

Modernist furniture

 

The apartment was used as a “Sydney bolthole” for the owners, who are based in Queensland. The apartment block is used by Quay West, but it appears as though there are a number of privately owned units in the building, including this one. It is for sale, with the owners looking for offers around $4.9 million. No surprise with a multi-million view like this one, which thankfully expands out to all of the bedrooms and gives the apartment both a great deal of light and considerable aesthetic appeal.

 

Main bedroom

 

Gloucester St, The Rocks: a historic precinct to call home

‘Avondale’: 76 Wharf Road, Gladesville

The view of Avondale from its back garden

 

 

A not-so-small piece of Australia’s history is on the market at Sydney’s Gladesville, and I took along my point-and-shoot to capture the grand Victorian estate’s most charming features.

 

 

There were many, not least of which was the house’s history. Adam, the property’s agent, told me that “getting across the house’s history” was vital. ‘Avondale’, as the estate is known (Victorian mansions always seem to have impressive names), was owned by Banjo Paterson’s sister. (For those who need a revisit of their Australian literary history, Paterson, one of the nation’s most celebrated writers, was best known for penning The Man From Snowy River and Waltzing Matilda.) Her solicitor husband built the house in 1888, naming it ‘Elanerne’ (it has been renamed a number of times since).

 

 

The house sits directly across Looking Glass Bay from Banjo Paterson Cottage Restaurant, which was previously Paterson’s grandmother’s home. Standing on Avondale’s striking verandah, Adam pointed this out, indicating across the water to a sandstone cottage that he told me was once known as ‘Rockend’ (something that my fastidious Google searching subsequently confirmed).

 

 

The view from Avondale's back verandah

 

 

The property is, fortunately, heritage listed, with New South Wales’ heritage database pinning its significance to being “a highly intact residence of high quality”. The database specifies that the building’s overall form must be maintained, and that it should continue to be used as a residential dwelling. This is particularly valuable not only due to the obvious significance of the building itself, which is a picturesque example of large, extravagant Victorians, but because the house carries with it a noteworthy connection to one of the country’s most celebrated figures.

 

 

Frontage to Looking Glass Bay

 

 

Pretty as a picture

 

 

While I hate to start my description at the house’s rear, there is no avoiding the fact that its frontage onto Looking Glass Bay is one of its most breathtaking aspects. Being able to take your picnic gear down to the water and spend the afternoon suspended on a hammock by the bay is a luxury normally afforded to weekenders and national parks. The price reflects this incredible location (along with the rest of the house’s offerings), with offers being sought around $6 million.

 

 

Guest house

 

 

The five-bedroom house is a pleasing combination of charming heritage features (this house is positively bursting with nineteenth century attributes), and slick renovation. This is best seen in the guest house, which was once the property’s stables before the acreage was subdivided to the 2,114 square metre block it is now. The two storey guest accommodation is thoroughly modern, bearing a flow-through balcony, full contemporary kitchen and enviable views over the pool and the bay. The pool itself has an impressive new addition – a sandstone alcove leads to a wet bar (yes, please!) and full bathroom that soaking swimmers can take advantage of.

 

 

Backyard garden

 

 

The gardens have the elegant wealthy quality reserved to places like these – pretty, posh, pricey. Some of the best bits of the house can be found in the garden – mossed statues and rusted ornate gates preserve the home’s character. The rear yard is also blessed by nature – I was mercilessly attacked by a tiny spider while walking towards the guest house (prompting me to say at the time, lamely, ‘How terrifying!’).

 

 

 

 

Sun room

 

 

The house is best described through images, but, to summarise: high ceilings; sophisticated detailing; view-blessed sun rooms; long, commanding hallways; and – the contrast that can always be found in homes at this end of the market – brand new kitchens and bathrooms. As crazy as I am about heritage, I would be a little frightened at the prospect of using a Victorian kitchen or bath (but would still jump at the chance to photograph them) – they are the two rooms in the house where maintenance alone generally will not suffice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is always good to end a post with a general ‘sum-up’ of a house’s best points, but there are no individual qualities that stand alone in making Avondale so covetable. It is the combination of its parts – first-class location, elaborate gardens, grand features, high-end comforts, notable history – that make it one of Australia’s most interesting homes.

 

 

Stairs leading to Avondale's pool

 

 

Kitchen patio from a bygone era

 

 

The devil is in the grand details

122 Beattie Street, Balmain

 

 

 

 

This house is breathtaking. It’s a virtual collage of perfect features: a converted Federation missionary centre retaining its impeccable heritage features while incorporating edgy contemporary design elements. Plus, it hides a magic garden behind its walls. The house is currently for sale, with offers over $3.2 million sought.

 

 

‘Behind its walls’ may make it sound like I’m talking about an ancient city’s bulwarks, but 122 Beattie Street is so huge that upon entering you do feel as though you’ve entered your own fortified town. It’s a whisper-quiet (the main room’s walls are triple-bricked) sanctuary within walking distance to Balmain’s trendy shopping strip (so trendy that I made a mental note to return to the suburb to spend some cash in the future). While the frontage is incredibly impressive – there is no way a photograph can accurately depict the sheer size of the double front doors – it does not hint at the immense proportions of the home inside.

 

 

 

 

The house was initially built as Sydney City Mission in 1909 (which is still engraved in the facade), and was converted to a home in 1927. Sydney missions provided a Christian refuge for the poor and hungry, and sprouted up in Australia from the nineteenth century onwards. Monique, the property’s real estate agent, emphasised that the building has “a multiplicity of uses. It was used as the Sydney City Mission, for people who needed help. The hall has also been used as a cinema.”

 

 

The ‘hall’ is not a hall in the ‘walk through the hallway to the Dr Smith’s office, her door is the second last on the left’ sense. It is a double-height ceilinged town hall-style living area that serves as the central meeting point in the home. As well as containing the main kitchen (yes, there are two kitchens), it is looked down at from a loft space containing a gym and extra bedroom.

 

 

The room instantly reminded me of Megan Morton’s explanation of open plan living in her book Home Love. To paraphrase, practical spaces and divisions have to be created by furniture and other means in order for an open plan room to be successful. The hall’s industrial lighting (which hangs down quite low, providing a great juxtaposition to the sky-high ceiling) and on-trend interior design elements provide a modern frame to an otherwise historic room, and make the immense space feel incredibly liveable. Plus, it looks plain good, as the photos below illustrate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most exciting parts of the house is that it has so many different spaces. It feels almost as though you’re in Alice in Wonderland or a Kafka novel, and have popped into a house that continues on until infinity. The second kitchen, which is located at the house’s rear, would be particularly tempting to use on a summer’s evening – it flows out onto a living area and overlooks the back garden and courtyard.

 

 

 

 

Speaking of the garden …

 

 

 

 

 

 

With every house I’ve hunted down, I’ve struggled to choose the pictures to include – it’s difficult sacrificing some to make way for others. This has never been more true than with 122 Beattie St (as you can probably tell by the sheer number of images being included in this post).

 

 

One of the property’s best features is the contrast between sharp contemporary finishings and charming older elements. I noticed a Belle magazine while I was tip-toeing my way through the home – this didn’t surprise me at all, because the owners have great interior design nouse … and I felt inclined to photograph all of it! The house also contains an extremely friendly – and adorable – kitty, who I felt inclined to pick up and run away with due to her affectionate nature (which reminded me of my own cat, Le Chat).

 

 

 

 

 

Aside from having stunning bones, the house has benefited from its owners’ obvious interest in design and art. It is stylistically immaculate, true to its heritage, and is Balmain right down to its core.