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

104 Robert Street, Islington (Newcastle)


Architect Joey Trongchittham reinterpreted a 1940s weatherboard in Islington, an inner-city suburb of Newcastle once considered the ‘badlands’ but, like all inner-hubs, now undergoing regeneration. Playing with bright colors while keeping the home’s best features, including the original mismatched wooden floorboards, he made a contemporary home for his young family that retains vintage accents.


Is the bicycle further evidence of Newcastle becoming ultra-hip?


Joey drew on his work with architectural practice Husk when reimagining the space, seeking to ensure the home met his exacting standards. “It‘s easy to take shortcuts and do things badly then cover it up with bog and paint but to do a proper job requires careful planning and attention to detail. Our property is a small urban block and there is not a lot of room to store materials or waste, so everything had to be carefully planned and sequenced,” he says.


The home’s original floorboards have been shellacked, and the different shades and levels of wear make sure the home keeps its pretty cottage feel in the midst of its contemporary additions.


Studio … and part of Joey's arm.

My favourite room is definitely the studio built out the back – it comes with a fantastic loft-space and an en suite, with ultra-modern finishings (polished concrete floors – massive win!) and built-in cabinetry custom-designed for the space.


The home, on a fairly nondescript street three kilometers from Newcastle’s central business district, was an easy choice for the family. It popped up for sale in a nearby area and had the right foundations for Joey’s designs. “The house was built on top of an old concrete tennis court that was originally part of the property next door. This made it a pretty safe bet with no rising damp or pests. We were also won over by the agent’s sales pitch of a low maintenance yard,” Joey says.


The studio's frontage.


The studio's sleeping quarters.


The kitchen is the house’s sleekest space, with Joey’s tendency towards minimalism highlighted by the clear surfaces. It’s their favorite room. “We both love our food and I cooked professionally for several years before I was an architect. The new kitchen is my laboratory and I’m like a mad scientist concocting new experiments all the time.”





More important to me than the modern accents and contemporary feel – although these add to the appeal, and are carried off particularly well in the kitchen and cute hidden laundry area – are the pretty, vintage spaces, which can most obviously be seen in the couple’s daughter’s room. Bunting instantly gives a child’s room a preppy, playful feel.



The building that once occupied the site was the caretaker’s residence of an old birthing hospital that has long been demolished. The driveway was the cart access lane used for picking up bodies from the morgue. “If the walls could talk, they’d have a lot to say. We’re happy that they don’t.”


The couple is currently focusing on “suppressing the mess” due to the arrival of their baby daughter. “Apart from artworks, we avoid collecting too many things that are made just to sit on a shelf and go out of fashion. We prefer to buy well designed functional things that last or give new life to preloved items that have been discarded,” Joey says. Their furniture choices are practical but deliberate, and he says their favorite places to shop for the home are the butcher and the bottle shop!



The back deck.


46 Highgate Street, Bexley


The St George region is home to a reasonable amount of character homes – unfortunately, not as many as it once was, given residents’ penchant for bulldozing them, which is what makes this Victorian sandstone a real gem. It’s been modernised but its best features remain intact – patterned tiles, ornate ceilings, elaborate fireplaces. Good stuff!



Unfortunately, I can’t find much heritage information about the home – but hopefully the pictures give you a sufficient idea of its charm. The living area has polished hard wood floors, stained glass windows looking out into the garden and looking through to the kitchen, a sandstone feature wall, a tiled fireplace and an ornate ceiling. The furniture is classic and complementary.


Original ceiling


The high ceilings are benefited by the design choices the owner has made, particularly the large mirror in the drawing room (which, incidentally, is my favourite room).



The home is currently on the market for offers over $1.15 million. For those wanting a character home with plenty of space, it provides good value for money 14km out of the CBD – just south of the inner-west.



Thomas the Tank Engine!

Grand Designs Live

Jamie Durie's outdoor living area


This weekend marked Sydney’s Grand Designs Live, a home/landscape design exhibition that features products from some of Australia’s most noteworthy designers (think Dinosaur Design, top3 by design) and appearances by television hosts/contributors such as Peter Maddison and Andrew Winter. On Friday, I was given a run-through of the outdoor section by noted landscape architect Jamie Durie and interior designer Shaynna Blaze. There was also an awesome breakfast offering. So it was good times all ’round, really.


Blaze, Durie and the umbrella that features in Durie's Big W range


The pictures here are primarily from Durie’s outdoor setting, which he ran the other bloggers and me through. Unfortunately, I had to run off before Blaze took the other bloggers (and my amazing dad who stuck around to take photos, which will be posted in a separate post as there is so much content for this event that I wouldn’t want to overload anyone) around the displays, some of which were still being constructed.


As an aside, Blaze mentioned she knows of The House Hunter – very cool! – and also agreed with me that the seriously sexy Victorian home sold on Selling Houses Australia was a total bargain. I was drooling over that place for the money…



The first feature Durie focused on was the outdoor-kitchen-on-steroids, which is currently available to the Australian market. “It’s not just about cooking,” he said, emphasising the precedence social interaction has in his designs. “I designed this kitchen with Electrolux and we’ve sold our first few into Germany this year. It’s got the Electrolux integrated barbecue. The technology’s really sort of coming up – salt’s fine as it’s all marine-grade stainless steel. In fact, this is going into my house, which is on the ocean at the northern beaches …” That’s particularly impressive; when we were living on the beach, everything rusted – barbecue, guitar strings, the cover of Public Image Ltd’s Metal Box album…


I appreciated his focus on synthesising nature and outdoor elements with architecture and the built environment, which is something he addressed a number of times, noting that “The idea of growing plants out of furniture is something we’re doing a lot now so that we’re integrating architecture and the plant.”


Durie showing the quality of the fake turf


The artificial grass was more natural than your average variety (particularly in colour and sheen). While you can still tell it’s faux grass, it’s a far, far superior alternative to traditional forms of fake turf. “This artificial turf … has actually got a lot of dead blades in it as well. That’s how grass grows naturally. … It works like carpet, so it keeps the pile upright. … Years ago, artificial turf had a really tacky bad name -”


“- Well, there was a reason for that!” Blaze interrupted to exclaim, to everyone’s agreement.
“Technology’s advanced to a point now we’re using this on their soccer courts in Milan,” Durie concluded, pulling the pile over to demonstrate its natural form of movement.


Durie, a rose and a bucket of Coronas at half past 8 in the morning


The pièce de résistance of Durie’s work was the dome, which we sat in for some further detail. “The dome is basically our lounge room,” he explained.
“When you get lower to the earth, it kind of knocks the arrogance out of the room and you relax. … It becomes much more casual, and much more free-spirited.


“It’s about learning from all those social interactions inside the house and bringing them outdoors. We never take inspiration from outdoors, always from indoors.


“We believe in democratic design.”


“We’ve been able to pull all the personal domestic design … into commercial design.”


The space was complemented by plantlife. “We’re using an industrial product to create a very feminine, soft, evocative space. … The trick to this is not to build it on site, but to pre-fab the beams.” To me, it felt like a space that suited both genders – but evocative, definitely.


Much to the excitement of any engineers out there, I’m sure, Durie mentioned that “Nothing we do these days isn’t on CAD.”



Also, prepare yourself for disappointment if you were planning for him to make-over your yard. “One hundred per cent of our work is commercial, we don’t do any domestic gardens any more … We got to a point where we simply couldn’t do everyone’s garden.”


He also pointed out that he has a long-running outdoor range that sells in Big W. “We believe in democratic design.”


When I asked about the price point, I was told that ”The price point you will not beat anywhere in the country. .. We started this nine years ago and our price points have not changed.” This may actually give me a reason to walk into Big W. Miracles happen!


Macadamia shells


There will be another post documenting some of the other displays at Grand Designs with plenty more images, so watch out for part two!


The breakfast. Brioche? Total win!

Sugarmill Development, Camperdown


I have some eye-candy for you – and it’s heritage eye-candy, which is usually preferable. This development at Camperdown has just about reached completion, and hopefully it’ll add to the cool-trendy-warehouse-conversion vibe that Camperdown has been cultivating over the past few years. This particular development is, as the name suggests, a re-working of an old sugar warehouse.


The original site.


Camperdown is a well-positioned area – very close to the city, Sydney Uni, UTS and Annandale, which is one of my favourite suburbs and as such deserves a mention. It still has a bit of a creepy vibe (in my opinion), but young professional hispters seem to enjoy a bit of ‘grittiness’ (but not too much!). It’s a suburb that’s ideal for developers due to its industrial heritage – there are plenty of character-filled warehouses to redesign.



It’s a good combination for the burgeoning population – which tends to be a combination of students and fairly well-off young professionals who want to be close to the action.



I particularly like the outdoor spaces here – you’ll find that I’m a sucker for indoor/outdoor spaces, and these seem particularly seamless (a bedroom with pretty sliding door access to a courtyard is my idea of heaven).



Another thing I’m crazy about – which you might know if you’re a regular reader – is floorboards. Most apartment complexes opt for carpets for noise reasons, so it’s nice to see this development breaking the mould (presumably with soundproof insulation). Floorboards add timeless appeal to a space, so they’re always an appealing design choice.