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

3/29 Orwell Street, Potts Point

There are a few reasons I was keen to look at this studio in Potts Point. It’s a renovated studio, for starters, and I like seeing how a small space can be redesigned to be interesting and liveable. Then, there’s the fact that it’s just plain pretty. Lastly, though, I haven’t looked at a home in Potts Point on the blog yet, and I think that a renovated studio in a character building is a pretty perfect place to start.

 

Potts Point’s story is pretty well-known, but here’s a brief top-of-the-head rehash. It’s one of the suburbs that ‘binds’ Kings Cross, which is a locality that borrows off Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay and Darlinghurst. It’s probably the most ‘Kings Crossy’ of those three suburbs. This apartment is about 200 metres from the centre of the action, but it’s in the suburb’s more peaceful, leafy pocket – which is quite a sweet spot to be in. Pulsating nightlife, nice street, footsteps to the city and to the harbour … I’ll take it. You could call it a ‘gentrified’ suburb, I guess, but I don’t think that paints a full picture; it’s been expensive for decades, and part of its appeal is the schism between wealth and red light district.

 
 

The studio has been renovated well. What was left of the studio’s best character features has been preserved (ornate light fitting, bay window – is there anything in life better than a bay window, by the way?). The space is effectively broken up by stairs, which separates the studio into three distinct areas. This makes a studio feel far larger, and creates interest, which is all-important in a small space that can too easily give everything away at once.

 
 

I can fairly safely say this is one of the better studio renovations in the area, as I spent the rest of my weekend looking at studios and one bedders to rent. This is the first apartment I saw on the day, and I found myself pining for it as the rental inspections continued to disappoint. It may attract an investor, but could just as easily draw in young professionals looking to live in a stylish little place that’s walking distance to almost everything. When done well, a studio apartment can minimise wastage of space and demonstrate the versatility of home design. That’s what I like about this one – it incorporates a fantastic kitchen into an open plan living area, boasts a foyer of sorts and has a distinct living area/study by the window. It has everything you need – all in a tight package.

 

 

Tiny Houses, UK

 

As the (out-of-character) title indicates, this post is a bit of an aberration from my usual posts (you could call it a dalliance, if you really wanted to). But it’s totally necessary as it’s on tiny houses, and tiny houses are pretty awesome. Below is an interview with Mark from Tiny House UK

 

To use a turn of phrase my grandad employs regularly, a tiny house is ‘exactly what it says on the tin’. That is, it’s a small house. Depending on whether you’re claustrophobic, they’re both efficient and cute; they load up everything in a conventional house into a neat north-European inspired (…maybe. I don’t really have a clue, but it seems a bit IKEA design-ish, doesn’t it?) compartment. Like a studio, but usually portable.

 

When did you start building tiny houses?
I started building my first tiny house in August 2011. Unfortunately, the first one suffered a broken axle due to the weight of the structure when I was towing it down the highway. Not a great start! The second house was built on a caravan chassis, which again did not cope with the sheer weight and bowed at front and back, causing the roof to part in a few areas. Back to the drawing board!

 

The third house, after a lot of re-calcs and structural re-thinking, turned out very well and solid as a rock.

 

What was your inspiration?
I first saw tiny houses on the Internet –  Jay Shaffer’s blog (Tumbleweed Tiny House) – and loved what he had accomplished.

 

 

Are there any unique challenges associated with designing and constructing a tiny house?
The weight was the main problem to overcome. Tiny houses [originated] from the USA. Vehicles in the USA are a lot bigger and heavier, which means conventional trailers are designed to cope with … much more weight. It seems trailers in the UK are made [more cheaply] (save as to cost), which is why my first [two] tiny houses were not successful. The rainfall in the UK is far higher and, as we all know, timber can weigh two and a half times its dry weight once it has been exposed to the good old British weather.

 

Do you think tiny houses will become a viable alternative to traditional dwellings in the future?
Property [values have] risen over the last 10 years at an astonishing rate and [have] effectively priced the younger generation out of the market. … Living in a tiny house for a few years gives people the opportunity to live cheaply and save money.

 

What do your customers most commonly use the tiny houses for?
Most enquiries seem to come from guest houses, B&Bs and homeowners looking to use one as an extra room or to rent out. … Rather than living cheaply, extra income seems to be the area that attracts customers.

 

What are the costs associated with tiny houses?
Apart from the initial payment, the cost of living is very low. Our tiny houses can be installed with low voltage lighting [and] solar power is a viable option. We insulate our houses with Celotex, Kingspan or Super Quilt, which have very high insulation values. The bed area is elevated, and because heat rises, the sleeping area stays warm for longer. 

 

8 Braeside Street, Wahroonga

 

As you’ve probably noticed, I admire many different housing styles. When it comes to large character houses in particular, there are some suburbs in Sydney that inspire a particular kind of jealousy in me. They have the type of houses that make me wish I weren’t quite so poor. One of those suburbs is Mosman. And* one of them is Mosman’s northern cousin Wahroonga (is it weird that I look at those suburbs as cousins? Probably. I look at Waverton and Wollstonecraft as close relatives too, but that makes more sense), where the houses are big, and so are the land sizes.

 

 

 

This house is on Braeside Street, which in real estate circles is pretty prized as it has nice houses and follows the upper north shore prestige rules (east side, walk to rail). So that’s good. But the house itself is interesting. Wahroonga’s biggest and best are usually Federations, but this one is an Art Deco (it’s made very obvious by the curved walls).

 

 

 

It’s unrenovated (which is a yay from me, from an ogling point of view). It’s in very sturdy condition, though, so in contrast to the Cremorne duplex it’s an exercise in observing the original features of the house, rather than admiring it as a ruinous artefact. I am excited by these original features. You’re about to see why.

 

 

The bathrooms! Sweet Jesus, these bathrooms are amazing. Is there even anything for me to say about them? They are colour and pattern and Vogue Living from a bygone era. Yes, yes, yes.

 

 

The study is in such good condition that it doesn’t really require any work, and I could say the same about the downstairs sunroom. The fairly excellent bedroom wallpaper will be stripped, and I’d say the upper floor will be reconfigured to add an en suite. Interestingly, the main has a powder room with a shower, but not an en suite, as such.

 

Powder room.

 

The quirkiness in this place will most likely be eradicated by the inevitable renovation, but, that said, it will then (given the right renovator) be restored into a commanding character home with good-condition features, so there’s a lot to gain.

 

 

 

 

* I am aware of the rule against starting a sentence with ‘and’ (or ‘but’). To paraphrase Jackie Chiles, I’m flouting society’s conventions.