If you were paying attention to real estate articles like this one, you would be of the impression that Wahroonga is suffering from a major downturn in fortune. Its median house price has fallen below the $1 million mark (although not far below), and the 22 kilometres between it and the CBD has become an unfashionable commute. The impression given is that the blue chip suburb, which sits at the northernmost point of the prim and proper upper north shore region, is declining in favour compared to its more centrally located equivalents on the lower north shore.
This perception of Wahroonga befuddles of me. When you walk through its leafy streets – particularly those within its prestigious south-eastern boundary (east of the Pacific Highway and south of the F3), you can see why the suburb has commanded such reverence in the past – the estates are large, the streetscapes are pretty, and the facilities are strong. The homes are old and proud – grand federations rivalled only by those on the southern side of Mosman line many of the suburb’s streets. It boasts a nice little village and, crucially, has a train station. Its major detraction – lack of night life – isn’t much of a concern given its primary market is families. If anything, the relatively low median house price is an attraction – similarly, the darling of the lower north shore, Neutral Bay, has a median price hovering around $1 million, so there are some deals to be had north of the bridge currently.
One of Wahroonga’s most interesting aspects is, perhaps surprisingly, its diversity. While it is characterised by heritage, it also boasts one of Sydney’s most significant mid-century architectural accomplishments – Rose Seidler House. The modernist building sits in stark contrast to its older neighbours. Built by the renowned Harry Seidler between 1948 and 1950, the home sits as a testament to mid-century design. The bright oranges and blues that are splashed around the house, and the loud mural on the upper deck, are as attractive today as they were when the house were initially constructed; they are suitable to an interior design era that is increasingly gearing itself away from neutrals towards vividness.
Like other architects working on the north shore, Seidler was conscious of the relationship between the land and its buildings, resulting in a home that complements the site’s bushy landscape. The floor-to-ceiling glass featured in most of the rooms ensures the house is consistently light-filled. Meanwhile, the 1950s kitchen has barely aged, which is extremely rare for such a room – while a bit larger than our modern-day equivalents, it even has a dishwasher. The house is evidence of the way modernist design enables a home to retain its relevance and appeal, and also points to the importance of matching architectural plans with the urban landscape.