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

Floating Houses, The Spit, Mosman

Photo courtesy of Marion Simmonds

 

My friend Marion was kind enough to snap a couple of shots of some ‘floating houses’ (as I’m calling them) at The Spit, which is a locality in Mosman that is getting ever-s0-close to the Northern Beaches, today. The above one (which is apparently the lucky owner’s weekender) is particularly pretty, and quite incredible: it’s not a house boat, it’s a proper house situated over water.

 

Interestingly, I found an article in The Age - ‘Home is Where the Harbour is?’ - that proposed “the idea of building on the city’s water” as a way of expanding its “urban growth boundary”. While the article was referring to Melbourne, it’s obviously also a pragmatic idea for Sydney, going by the houses pictured here. It also suggests potentially floating community infrastructure. It might cause chaos for boats, and annoyance for those lucky enough to have berths, but I think it’s an amazing idea – I, at least, would love to call the above house home.

 

Photo courtesy of Marion Simmonds

59 Lower Fort Street, Dawes Point

 

I first spied this row of terraces when hunting my first ever house, which was also on Lower Fort Street, Dawes Point. These three conjoined terraces are nearby, and at the time I snapped some pictures of them and the development approvals they had tacked to their doors.

 

 

When in the area recently, I noticed that construction has started on these beauties, and I felt compelled to take some snaps while they’re still in this transitory phase. Overgrown and ageing, the houses still summon grandness – probably because terraces of such enormous scope, with soaring, gorgeous windows, so close to the Sydney CBD are remarkable.

 

 

The ivy (if that’s what it is – I hope so, because I feel it adds a dash of romance to the picture) creeping up the front of the building signifies the beautiful neglect dichotomy that characterises the terraces.

 

Since the last time I was in the area, a sign recounting 59 Lower Fort Street’s history has been erected. Signs like these make me giddy with excitement – particularly when there is no owner around to interview.

 

 

According to the sign, 57-61 Lower Fort Street were constructed in 1855-1856. This places them in the early Victorian period. Unsurprisingly, given the scale and opulent finishes of the buildings, they were occupied with the upper echelons of society (including “the superintendent of electric telegraphs”!). There seems to be a prevailing myth that terraces were ‘slums’, which isn’t so; while many became slums, particularly in areas like Waterloo in the first half of the twentieth century, the easiest way to discern the social stratum of the original occupants of a terrace is common sense – does it looks like it was occupied by a blue collar worker, or by a well-to-do professional?

 

 

In 1900, the row was resumed and used as a boarding house during the period of the Bubonic Plague – a tidbit of information I found eerily intriguing.

 

According to the sign, the row of terraces will be refurbished as single private dwellings, which is good news – they will remain houses, rather than becoming apartments or a trendy office space.

 

24 Glebe Point Road, Glebe


This house is as amazing as it appears to be from the street – an old mansion with a character-filled history, an exquisite representation of early Federation architecture, and a great opportunity to restore a Glebe landmark. The hard-worn rooms are fitting for Glebe, where once-grand terraces and Victorian homes were routinely left to fall into a sad state of disrepair before being revived by new-to-the-area professional couples (maybe they’ve been priced out of the north shore and eastern suburbs, or they could be part of a new upper-tax bracket group who wants to experience the ‘grittiness’ of the mostly gentrified inner-inner-west).

 

 

 

That renovation is presumably what is going to happen to this house, which is currently on the market (to be auctioned next week, with estimates around halfway between the suburb’s median and the highest sale price in the Glebe in the past twelve months). It needs it – as much as I tend towards peeling paint and retro tile arrangements over perfect limestone bathrooms and exquisite entry halls, there are some rooms on the second storey where I trod gingerly in case I fell through the floorboards (the house is said to be structurally sound, so this was mostly psychological – the bones of the house are good, which makes renovation a surface job). Many of the home’s features are so well maintained that, thankfully, it will be easy to preserve the house’s character and identity upon restoring it. Nevertheless, there is something to be said for the house’s raw ghostliness currently – you breathe in decades of life as you move through the rooms.

 

The house has all of the hallmarks of fine period architecture – the ceilings are soaring, the fireplaces are gorgeously ornate and the house’s front garden couldn’t be prettier. One thing it offers in spades is space – the rooms are huge, and there are many of them. I could’ve gotten lost in the place.

 

 

 

24 Glebe Point Road was first recorded as existing, according to the house’s heritage listing, in 1902. That seems about right – the house’s face appears to blend Victorian and Federation themes, although the exposed brick (rather than stucco coating) confirms its Federation background. The listing concludes that the house “is a rare, high quality, outstanding example of a highly intact original residential exterior and interior of high quality design with outstanding potential to be restored with minimum effort”. The steep gables, tessellated tiles and front verandah are given special in the mention in the listing, which makes sense as they, firstly, represent key period design features, and, secondly, are still in good order.

 

 

 

Walking through this property in original condition is worth it – faded grandeur has more character than a refashioned mansion, although it will make an exquisite home once restored; one to impress and inspire envy in guests. The house may seem eerie to some, but that tingly feeling of suspense you get before entering each room connects you with the house’s century of existence.

 

 

South Yarra, Melbourne

 

As in love with Sydney as I am, Melbourne is always fun to blog about because the city seems as though it was made to photograph and comment on. It is an extremely creative city – moreso than any other city I’ve visited, easily.

 

 

This stunning house is further evidence of the carefully orchestrated design that goes into Melbourne’s prettiest precincts. South Yarra is definitely one of those – it is one of Melbourne’s shopping highlights, is lined by beautiful heritage homes, and its back streets provide a surprising level of serenity in a suburb so close to the city.

 

The house featured here was built in 1929, and was originally a pair of duplexes. Famed patron of the arts Sunday Reed lived in one of them for a period.

 

 

The property has been architecturally re-designed, which can be perceived in the now generous floorplan (generally speaking, heritage homes’ floorplans are their worst features – cramped, devoid of light, and inconvenient for modern standards of living). Black gloss timber, steel frames, cement rendered walls and polished aluminium transform the house into a modern space, while the refurbishment of original features retains the home’s footing in the past. It straddles the line between historic and contemporary charmingly.

 

 

The addition of a pool and a lower garage on the 639 square metre block would be particularly awe-inducing to Sydneysiders, given the fact that South Yarra is a mere four kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD. I’d hazard an educated guess that all three features are extremely rare within Sydney’s inner-inner-ring.