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

20 Wunulla Road, Point Piper

 

There is no suburb in Sydney as synonymous with wealth as Point Piper. It’s a small suburb – eleven streets in total – wedged next to Rose Bay in the east with views over it and the harbour. It’s home to the country’s richest residents, including Malcolm Turnbull (Australia’s best politician, surely, with a background that spans over entrepreneurship, law and investment banking…but I’m sure you already know that).

 

Before I delve in to the suburb and the house, I need to make note of the fact that this place’s kitchen has the most amazing tiles I’ve ever seen. I am still tempted to go back there, crowbar them off and run away with them. I hope no one actually does that now, because that would be super awkward now that I’ve written this. They feature different types of liquor bottles. It makes for a great point of interest. It’s also probably popular with guests keen on a drink.

 

What makes this house so fascinating is that it offers everything a buyer looking in the suburb would want – a vast Federation with gorgeous character features in place (the fireplaces are particularly special, and seem to be in immaculate condition), bay views, a sizeable block and double street frontage - but goes beyond that by being quirky. It’s reminiscent of the mansion featured in my favourite Mulberry ad campaign; whimsical, grand, ageing, fantastical. That’s mostly due to the taste of the owners, who appear to have made the mansion into the ultimate party house. I can’t think of a better approach.

 

So what makes me want to have my birthday party here? (And yes, I did ask the owner if I could, but since it’s in February and this one’s on the market, that’s unlikely to get the go ahead.) There’s a lap pool with giant inflatable swans on it, for starters, along with a cabana, a bar and a Heineken umbrella and matching drinks table.

 

Love.

 

The house is not heritage listed, but I’m hopeful that someone who would pay over $7 million for such an exquisite house would retain it and choose to renovate rather than bulldozing the thing. Although the house hasn’t been updated (part of its charm from my perspective, as always), it has a number of defining features in superb condition that would make the refurbishment easier. There are five marble fireplaces and one wooden one that are all looking perfect, a kauri pine staircase, leadlight windows, a butler’s bell (chances are if you can afford to purchase this place, you’ll need a butler’s bell), and a sauna.

 

The bathrooms are one of my favourite aspects of the house. The one featured in the post below in particular is perfect; a bright, consistent colour, speckled mirror, tiny tiles. It’s my idea of faded grandeur.

 

I’d be  very curious to find out what happens to this one once it’s been bought. I’m confident it’ll lose its status as a party house. There’s really only one question to answer: will it become a stunning family home, or a development site?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of life’s best elixirs.

 

49 Great Buckingham Street, Redfern

So this one is really half a house, which is what made me so interested in it. There’s a fantastic sense of eeriness about it – particularly in the contrast between the still semi-intact front rooms and the construction site behind. It’s a grand Victorian terrace frontage in one of Redfern’s best streets that’s had the back stripped off it in order to rebuild, but the owners changed their minds and decided to exit, leaving an unusual proposition for redevelopers and owner-occupiers looking to build a home they can customise.

 

There’s something a little overpowering about standing in a shell of a room – exposed brick walls, the works – looking out at the bare bones of the structure while standing underneath an ornate ceiling with its light setting still attached. It reminds you of what it once was.

 

A little context to the area. This gem is in Redfern’s most coveted pocket, right near the park and rubbing shoulders with Surry Hills (a spot that agents sometimes call ‘Redfern East’. NB: no such suburb exists. Maybe it should, to be fair, because the suburb is pretty diverse). The street is leafy and wide. It’s very clean-safe-inner-city-living. As someone who spent three years in Alexandria, I can say with confidence that Redfern is a suburb with many faces. This is its wealthiest. It’s not an up-and-coming part; it’s well and truly there already. We’re talking low-mid seven figures for an entry level terrace.

 

David Servi, the listing agent, noted that it’s difficult to ascertain value here given the nature of the offering. “You’ve got to work back from what you think the finished product will be worth,” he said. It’s being auctioned on 2 November – I just realised I can’t make it, which is unfortunate as I’d love to see how the bidding progresses and what this one ends up being priced at.

 

I thought you might be interested in seeing what it once was, and luckily the sold listing is still up.

 

Redfern has (unsurprisingly to anyone who’s been interested in the inner-city market over the past decade or so) been increasingly positioned as a sub-set of the Surry lifestyle; it contains my favourite diner (Milk Bar by Cafe Ish – they have malteser pie and rosewater milkshakes. Unbeatable) hole-in-the-wall cafes (Nookie) and small bars (The Dock, amongst others). If you’re priced out of the east side and are looking at how to enter the market here as affordably as possible, you’ll probably have to start looking a bit further south, because even The Block has started to exceed the $800k mark. Darlington’s seen its median jump over that point, too. Waterloo still has a median in the low $700k zone, and has one of the inner-south’s best eating and design strips (Danks Street, everyone’s perennial favourite). It also offers easy access to the eastern suburbs and a pretty simple commute to the city. The only thing to be wary of is the tract of high-density apartment blocks that have sprouted up there over the past decade, and the suicide towers, which can be a little spooky.

 

 

17/74-80 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills

Couldn’t help but lead with the photo to the right because I adore it. So, if you’re a regular reader (and hopefully you are, because that would make you a very cool person. And aren’t we all striving to be cool?), you’ve probably noticed that many of my recent posts have featured places in the inner-east. Yes indeed. This is because I am now based in Sydney’s special inner part…the part that’s a little bit scary and amazing all at once. It also has to do with the fact that my car is less accessible at the moment (which is to say, unregistered).

 

But enough about me. This apartment is a warehouse conversion. People who live in this building are lucky, because it happens to house one of the city’s best little cafes/sandwich joints – City Edge Cafe. I spent many a lunchtime there while at uni. It was totally worth the hike. Excellent sandwiches and Vietnamese rice paper rolls. It’s also on the same street as The Sandwich Shop, Wild Life Hair, Single Origin, numerous other cafes and homewares stores that I cannot afford to purchase anything in. There’s a cool art book store on the adjoining street. Anyway, point is: good spot.

 

What attracted me to this two bedroom apartment was how it’s ‘dressed’; someone with an eye for interior design has cast a look over the place. The use of stark white with gold accents is always pretty, particularly teamed with the whitewashed floorboards. The high ceilings are indicative of the building’s warehouse history, while the soaring windows a) are awesome in general and b) let in plenty of natural light. The apartment has been renovated to an excellent standard, with two slick bathrooms and a contemporary kitchen.

 

 

My favourite feature is the outdoor entertaining area, which is accessible via bifold doors that join it with the living area, making for an indoor/outdoor transition. It’s a functional and versatile space (it would be silly not to take advantage of it with frequent parties). The recycled blackbutt timber floorboards also provide it with some extra intrigue. It’s been manicured so intricately that it would be a shame not to get good use of it. It also provides a district view of the area, which, if nothing else, would assuredly provide some interest on occasion, given Surry’s colour.

 

The interior design elements have been focused on making the space appear roomier, and this has worked. The large, ornate mirrors are a nice touch, and I’ll never say no to a Louis Ghost Chair (in fact, I own one! Chuffed). The apartment is decently sized (85sqm – it feels bigger due to the above), although with two bedrooms it’s more likely to appeal to an investor or professional couple than a family (if the idea of families living in inner-city apartments isn’t a myth. I’m not entirely sure either way).

 

It’s currently up for auction. It last sold for $430,000 in 2005, according to the information I have. That figure, I imagine, would be significantly lower than the price sought now, given it appears that the apartment has been overhauled (and Surry’s prospects have continually risen). It’s a good opportunity – it would rent well (people like pretty apartments); it’s exceptionally well located (both culturally and in terms of proximity to the CBD – it’s an easy stroll. I photographed the apartment with a friend in my lunchbreak, so there is your anecdotal proof); and it doesn’t require work (purchasers seem to be a little wary of apartment renovations. Strata approvals etc…).

 

 

 

The Kartell Louis Ghost Chairs meet with my approval.

 

 

74 Sophia Street, Surry Hills

Surry Hills is one of my favourite suburbs, and this original terrace might have had the greatest emotional effect on me of all the houses I’ve featured on the blog (which isn’t to say they’re not all amazing. They are. You should totally go back and read about them when you’re done with this post). I’m not totally sure I can explain why – I’ve featured dilapidated terraces before – but something about this one is deeply evocative; hopefully the photos can express it better than I can verbally. It’s grungey and when you walk through it you’re transported to this untouched, decaying otherness. I completely adore it.

 

So, what are the points to note about the house? We’re looking at a three bedroom terrace with a courtyard (and vegetable patch. Win!), in addition to rear lane access. There is no parking, but hey, you’re in Surry Hills – you can get used to that.

 

The ‘terrace’ itself is a sunroom. I personally prefer when these are converted into terrace structures (ie open to the elements) as I think that looks prettier on houses like these; however, that would require really sensitive treatment in order to ensure it’s in keeping with the design of the house, if it were to be permitted. Plus, some people prefer sunrooms.

 

The plus side of the house being unrenovated, of course, is it retains every element of its heritage features, which the renovator will hopefully take full advantage of. High ceilings, French doors, wooden floorboards, ornate skirting boards and so on.

 

My favourite picture.

 

The current bathroom is an outhouse. It looks exquisite (to me, anyway); pink paint contrasted with square white tiles and a lopsided mirror. Fun fact; the house I grew up in only had an outhouse for a couple of years before my parents incorporated it into the house. So there you go.

 

The floorboards are original and have different shades and so forth. If possible I’d try polishing the floorboards as is to keep that ‘mismatched/contrast’ look. But keep two things in mind: I have no idea if this is possible, and I am a bit strange in general.

 

One of the rooms is quite interesting for its time; it has an interior window that looks into the kitchen in order to let light in. This is a common design element of modern-day one bedroom suite apartments. The obvious change here is to knock down that wall and create an open plan kitchen/dining/living area.

 

Two of the bedrooms are upstairs, one is downstairs. I’m not sure whether the floorplan will be significantly updated when the renovation is done, although a bathroom will obviously have to be included. There is fairly significant space in the back courtyard (it currently houses a bathroom and large laundry area), that could be utilised as a studio/teenager’s accommodation if you were that way inclined. I assume many people would prefer to keep the space for a back garden, but it doesn’t hurt to have room for more living space when you’re looking at a terrace home.

 

 

74 Sophia Street is on a cute street in Surry Hills close to the Holt Street end of the suburb (which is the part of the suburb I’m most familiar with. Hello, News Ltd building). That means it’s close to Holt Street dining, Central Station (can’t really get much more convenient than that, can it?) and everything else the area has on offer, which is quite a lot.

 

Laundry/outhouse.

 

It is going to auction. I would buy it if I could and leave it in its original condition as a kind of amazing doll house/squattersville. Ideas like that probably indicate that perhaps it’s for the best that I don’t have the money.

 

Does this not look like it could be in a '90s Marilyn Manson film clip?

The State Library of NSW has this neat picture of what Sophia Street looked like once upon a time. Most people (surely anyone who’s been there) know the suburb’s rags-to-riches story by now, although the people who know it most intimately are also aware that it still has its ‘characters’, its housing commission residences, its sad stories, and its dilapidated terraces. The original terraces afford those looking for inner-city living with an enviable opportunity, although their numbers are reducing all the time.

 

The reason this one stands out from the pack is, firstly, it looks plain interesting (look at the photo to the left – amazing!), and, secondly, its size; this is fairly large, as far as Surry Hills terraces go. Many of the houses in the area are worker’s cottages; this one has a wider, more ornate frontage (worker’s cottages also tend to just come straight up out of the footpath, with no front courtyard/dividing space) and more room to breathe.

 

The suburb has a median house price of around $960k, making it a bit cheaper than its neighbour, Darlinghurst. I can only imagine this is because Darlinghurst borders swanky Paddington. Surry Hills seems to offer a bit more space/parkland than its inner-city cousins Darlinghurst and Potts Point (okay, I’m not sure how Potts Point could be regarded as Surry’s ‘cousin’…but just go with me on this). It’s probably due to the way it was initially constructed; there was more of an emphasis on housing, whereas Potts Point was one of Sydney’s first centres of apartment living. In any case, the suburb is one of the most appealing inner-city post codes; it offers easy access to the city, a plethora of dining/bar options and oozes historic significance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

170 Riley Street, Darlinghurst

A terrace with a plunge pool … how could I say no?

 

This house was redesigned by architects Weir Phillips about five years ago. It’s a good thing, too, because this particular firm has a focus on heritage services, meaning they reconfigure historic residences with a consideration for their character. There is nothing sadder than a terrace that’s had all its personality stripped away.

 

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get out there for my inspection of this one, so I have stolen the agent’s photos and asked them some questions (this one is up on the market for $1.65m). So this is a miniature post. But that’s okay, because the photos are worth it alone.

 

The plunge pool area is particularly ingenious as it operates as a means of creating more natural light (yes, I do harp on about natural light in terraces. That’s because it’s super-important, and it’s one of the hardest aspects of a terrace renovation to pull off).

 

The terrace is well-located within Darlinghurst. Five minute walk to the city and pretty much anything else you should be interested in. Aside from a swim-able body of water, I guess, but hey, it has a plunge pool, so problem solved.

 

The front of the terrace is pretty, if not totally original. It’s also identical to its neighbour, which is interesting. It looks like a late 19th century/early 20th century Victorian.

 

One of the best aspects of the place is its size – three bedrooms and three bathrooms. It’s extremely rare to find three bathrooms in a terrace. The design has kept space and function in mind, incorporating open plan living areas, distinct sleeping zones and plentiful storage.

 

The staircase is another element of the home that enhances light, which is both clever and attractive. The narrow, steep staircase or spiral staircase typical of terraces is avoided, and the floating timber is an appealing contemporary touch.

 

 

The agent notes that an investor or professional are the most likely types of purchaser, but I think given the house’s space and facilities it wouldn’t be out of the question for an inner-city family to buy. They’re still a pretty rare breed, but they increasingly exist – the main impediment would be the lack of parking, but it wouldn’t be overly difficult to rent a nearby space (or park on the colourful back streets if they can find some that are untimed. I hear families love a bit of adventure).