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

Amsterdam, Netherlands

 

I am currently in Europe, and given half of what I do when travelling overseas is photograph architecture, I figured I should give you a sneak peek of the posts to come when I return. Among other exciting things, I’ve seen windmills. Windmills! In Holland! Bear in mind that I don’t have my laptop with me for uploading, so the photographs at the moment are iPhone based. I’ll upload my DSLR shots when I return, and hopefully interweave the pictures with some kind of commentary.

 

 

Playground.

 

 

110 Elizabeth Bay Road, Elizabeth Bay

 

Usually I prefer to write about places I hunt out myself, but sometimes one is sent to me that I really like. This is one of those times. It’s a block of apartments up for sale in one of my favourite suburbs (as I’ve noted before), Elizabeth Bay. It’s on the harbour, it’s curvy, it’s strata-titled…All wins.

 

It contains four two-storey apartments, which is pretty contemporary for a block built in the early ’70s, although it sounds like some remodelling may have occurred, and is listed on the Australian Institute of Architects’ register of Significant Architecture in NSW.

 

 

The piece I was sent said it’s being marketed at around the $30 million mark (which figures) by Stuart Cox of Savills, who said “I doubt that an entire block of apartments in this prime location will become available again in my lifetime” and described it as a “trophy asset”.

 

May I please have this view?

 

This little article provides some perspective on the construction. The tower-like build was precipitated by the narrowness of the block (unsurprising in the area). Every floor has harbour views, and there’s basement parking for up to 12 cars, a serious boon in an area in which I have personally driven around for an hour without finding anywhere legal to park my car. It’s been thoroughly updated (as the pictures demonstrate) - both in terms of the individual apartments and the common areas – so the primary question is what the purchaser will do with the block. It’s an intriguing proposition.

 

 

York & George, Sydney CBD

 

There’s a new residential/commercial development set to go up on York/George Streets in the mid-city part of the Sydney CBD, and since Sydney’s CBD doesn’t have a whole lot of residential space I went down to take a look (my interest was piqued, obviously). I think it’s time the city became a place to live in rather than just work and play; then it’ll start to have the kind of ‘up all night, something always on’ vibe that cities like Hong Kong have.  Not in a ‘messily lined up in front of the ivy’ sense, but in a real, vibrant way. Michael Wiseman from Fife, the developer, and Katie Pickford from the development’s PR team took me through the display suite, which is open to the public on York.

 

Unfortunately, with the loss of my old laptop came the loss of all my editing software, but I’ll be getting that back soonish. Thankfully, I have my awesome new DSLR – which I am in love with – so the shots should still be of a better standard than they were with my trusty old point and shoot.

 

Some quick facts. 39 levels, mixed use (commercial, retail and residential), and a combination of studios, one, two and three bedrooms (mostly two bedrooms). Aside from the cityscape, there’ll be some pretty snazzy views of Circular Quay and Darling Harbour, and its location is obviously a mecca for transport, work, dining, drinking and shopping convenience. Being in the city, parking is at a premium; there are 13 parking spaces. I think Sydney is becoming the kind of place where people are becoming willing to forgo a car provided they’re in a place that’s close enough to what’s important to them, and that has easy public transport options; like Michael said, the city’s not a “ghost town”, and its residents have direct access to all its amenities. “It’s got lots of restaurants and bars, and things have been changing in that part of town,” he says.

 

I, personally, am obsessed with my car and park up to three kilometres from my apartment in the inner-east just to have some kind of access to it, but, hey – no one ever said I was normal. Good luck getting a parking spot in my suburb, by the way. I get excited when I find an illegal spot on my street I can use while I sprint in to grab something I’ve forgotten.

 

The city is generally earmarked for office space. Unlike other large cities, Sydney city has generally been a ‘work’ place, not a ‘living’ place, as I indicated earlier, but it’s transparent that demand has been changing and buyers/renters are looking to kill the commute. “The commercial market’s a bit quiet in the city, whereas the residential’s strong, so that was a big motivation for us to go across to resi,” Michael said.

 

The residential tower will be on York Street, and the models of the exterior look pretty impressive – it’s kind of similar to Seidler’s Horizon Tower insofar as it has a ‘weave’ appearance, but it’s done in an ultra-contemporary, geometric way.

 

The design is what you’d expect of a new inner-city development; on point, modern, high end finishes that’ll appeal to a well-heeled buyer. And buyers have been buying; 80% of apartments have sold off-the-plan since hitting the market in November.

 

Developments like this one and Central Park (which is down near my uni, and thus not exactly ‘centre of the city’ like this one) excite me because they show that developers are sensing that demand for city space is changing. It’s transitioning from a commercial place to an all-rounder place. That is cool. Since the people renting and buying these spaces also tend to be pretty well-paid, a fair amount of emphasis is placed on the architectural aspects of these buildings, which affirms my interest. York & George is based on two character buildings that are being restored as part of the process, for instance. The living spaces use floorboards and an open plan layout to enhance the feel and functionality of the apartments, and sizeable in-built wardrobes are a rarity in the centre of town (as I can confirm…oh my god, I need more storage desperately). So I guess my point is, the city is developing a network of resi space, connecting up from the park to the Quay to mid-city down to Chinatown, and I think that the result of this is going to be a new social fabric in a place a lot of spend a lot of our lives in.

 

 

185 Military Road, Dover Heights

 

Aren’t the curves kind of exquisite? This is a very cool architect-designed duplex that’s just been completed in Dover Heights. The couple who built the duplex – they’re keeping the back one and have auctioned the front one – have taken a seriously bespoke approach, which Dov (one half of said couple) led me through in detail. And as anyone who knows me is aware, I love details. They are some of my favourite things.

 

Dover Heights is a seaside eastern suburb. It’s nice and wealthy, hob-knobbing with Rose Bay. All you have to do is follow the adjacent street from this house to its end and bam! Ocean.

 

The couple picked the suburb as Dov’s wife grew up there and the property was already in the family. “Her father bought the house in ’65. The original house was built in the late ’20s… it was a teardown.” But, and you know I always appreciate this, certain features from the original site have been maintained, including the sandstone used for the fence. There is probably no building material I find prettier than sandstone, as an aside.

 

It took a year to design and get council approval for, a year for the bank to approve the loan as Dov is originally from the US, a year to find the perfect builder and around two years to build. “We’ve never built anything before, we never want to do it again, so we wanted everything to be just right,” Dov said. It’s a good philosophy. Renovations are infamously painful, so ensuring every detail is as close to how it should be as possible is a good aim (budget allowing…the main thing that seems to trip people up, from my knowledge, is the budget. However, Dov and his wife did something clever by building a duplex in order to recoup some of the costs of building by selling off the front property. They also went to the trouble of building separate driveways so there’ll never be any inconvenient, messy garage spats – score! As someone who once had a guy try to pull her out of her car in a parking related argument, that is a massive plus).

 

The thing that’s most impressive about this place – aside from the visual effect of the curves, because they’re hard to beat. They give the home a Modernist vibe, and curved facades tend to age better – is how much thought went into sourcing everything. ”Everything’s been individually sourced. Just the windows [as an example], we spent forever shopping for windows, and windows are really expensive in Australia.” My very witty rejoinder was “Everything is really expensive in Australia.” But I guess that isn’t so much a rejoinder as a statement of fact.

 

Dov’s business imports goods from Bali, and the couple travelled over there six times in twelve months to source various products for the home, including fossilised wood, the solid wood floorboards and the super pretty marble basins and teak vanities in the bathrooms. Both the laundry and en suite are hidden, which I always consider a nice touch (nothing like an element of surprise!).

 

The design is intelligent, too, not just visually impressive. Aluminium was used for the gates instead of wood, for instance. ”In this neighbourhood, anything with wood is a disaster. It just rots,” due to the sea breeze. I can vouch for this as someone who grew up by the beach lamenting the fact that my guitar strings rusted almost instantly and my cover of Metal Box by Public Image Limited was ruined.

 

The living area expands out to the yard, creating an indoor-outdoor entertaining space. This layout reminded me of an article published in Domain recently about the value art can add in homes, which is something demonstrated in the house at the moment as it’s been dressed for sale and some eye-catching paintings and sculptures are acting as focal points in the communal zones, which is good to drive conversation. An open living area benefits from something striking (maybe I’m influenced by the Brett Whiteley print my parents had hanging in our upstairs living room, because I love that thing) – this website has a good mix of prints if you’re looking for something interesting (I find this one amazing but I am, let’s say, ‘quirky’).

 

So this property is an interesting one; unique down to the core due to the time the couple has dedicated to ensuring that the detailed work is done well, nicely located near the beach with city views in one of the east’s most covetable postcodes, and, most importantly, beset with some serious curb appeal.

 

One of the upstairs bathrooms has city skyline views, so the couple cleverly used frosted glass down the bottom so you can keep your modesty and clear glass up the top so you can ogle the view while you thank god that you have enough money to live in such a lovely spot.

 

 

The preserved sandstone.

 

It might seem weird to wax lyrical about a basin, but isn't this one incredibly pretty?

 

The en suite bath! Impossible not to want.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.