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: Upper North Shore

Various – Echo Point, Balmain, East Killara

 

Being busy has impeded (aren’t you happy you read a blog that uses the word ‘impeded’?) me from exploring houses of late. One plus is I did write this well-received Seinfeld article recently, which I’m plugging again.

 

New friend.

Because I haven’t had time to look at a particular house, I’m once again showing you the exterior of some interesting houses I’ve come across in my wanderings. But instead of concentrating on the one suburb, like I usually do with these things, I’m taking you around the places I’ve been recently. The above house, for instance, is in Echo Point in the Blue Mountains. I’ve also traipsed around Balmain and East Killara. I’ve written a post on Killara before, but East Killara is a different architectural story – the houses are all extremely unique and lots of them are incredibly large, without the Federation background, making for an assortment of styles and histories.

 

By the way, the little guy to the right is the new friend I made at Echo Point. So adorable.

 

Echo Point is a sight seeing spot in the Blue Mountains that we visited on a daytrip to Leura. Apparently, it actually falls within Katoomba. It has some cute Federation and mid-century houses, the former mostly weatherboard. The median price in the general area is apparently $345,000, which means it wouldn’t be a bad place to pick up a weekender if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

Balmain, another suburb I’ve looked at on the blog previously, is one of the inner west’s heroes. It’s home to terraces, good eats and views. It’s a ferry trip from the city. Pretty much everyone loves it there, except people who are trying to find parking.

 

East Killara is, unsurprisingly, the suburb east of Killara. It’s a small, quiet, walkable patch that, likes its neighbour, is affluent, but its housing seems to date primarily from the 1970s to now (while Killara is famed for its heritage). It’s also where Killara High is located, making it a hot spot for parents hoping to enrol their kids in the school. It’s family oriented and provides easy access to Chatswood, Gordon and St Ives. It borders the bush/national park, giving it some nice views and walking tracks, as well as a general peaceful setting. Its median is $1.365m.

 

Echo Point

 

 

Balmain

 
My love of dilapidation is a hard one to explain, but it’s always there. These sandstone cottages at Balmain are favourites of mine.

 

Balmain

 

If you walk through Balmain/Rozelle frequently, you’d know that the suburbs have a monopoly (or would it be oligopoly, then?) on cute houses. This one is a prime example.

 

East Killara

 

This is one of the houses in East Killara I was referring to earlier. Unfortunately, it had gotten too dark by the time I started snapping pictures so I’ll have to just leave you with this house for now. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in Australia. Enormous and just straight out intriguing.

 

East Killara

 

And since I mentioned another dog, I have to make mention of one of my own. She happens to be the prettiest dog on the planet.

 

Alice, supermodel canine and all-round great hound.

Various, Killara

 

This week’s blog post is a walk through Killara (a ‘mini-post’, as I’ve come to call them). There are two key reasons for this. The first is that I haven’t had much time and I live in the suburb. The second is that I am most likely moving soon and would like to celebrate the place, since its housing stock is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, some of my favourite houses in the area aren’t here as I only walked along a few streets (which took longer than you’d imagine), but the one above is a place I’m totally in love with. It’s light pink, which suits it well … but I’m into the black and white vibe of the photos today.

 

If you don’t know much about Killara, it’s an upper north shore (or mid north shore, if you divide the north shore into three segments … I don’t, but see the reasoning) suburb about 14 kilometres from the CBD. I seem to recall mentioning this before on the blog (maybe I didn’t? Who’s to say?), but it’s one of the two upper north shore suburbs without a village (the other being Warrawee). Both of those suburbs, incidentally, command higher prices than their neighbours. From my recollection, a recent edition of Title Deeds in Domain (SMH… I can now only stomach its Saturday paper, as an aside) recorded Killara as having the highest sale price of any upper north shore suburb in 2012 (I believe it was around $5.5m, but I’m not confident).

 

People like Killara because it’s leafy, has nice, wide streets, has grand heritage housing (and gargantuan modern housing…), is close to good schools and has a train station. It is actually pretty central, from my experience, and it’s been a relaxing break from living in suburbs that are dominated by concrete.

 

If you’re ever in the mood to ogle some houses, Killara is a good suburb to do it in – head to the side east of the Pacific Highway (or the part near the golf course on the west side) and you’re sure to see some places you’ll be impressed by. You could make a day of it, if you really wanted to – there are a couple of good places to eat at nearby-ish Wahroonga and St Ives (they even have a bar now, with decent drinks, plus there’s Pattison’s – always a win), a gelato bar at Lindfield and the trusty Greengate Hotel … schnitzels and cheap drinks, not bad for a Sunday afternoon.

 

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.

Rose Seidler House, 71 Clissold Road, Wahroonga

 

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.

 

 

Carinya, 37 Telegraph Road, Pymble

 

 

Of the many homes I have visited, many of which have been absolutely stunning, this is by far the grandest. Carinya epitomises Upper North Shore Federation gloriousness – it is enormous, retains all of its heritage-protected features, and is very exclusive. Amazingly, you would not necessarily realise the estate was there – its 102 metre frontage gives the impression that you’re walking past a well-heeled school, or several different houses (which, to some extent, you are, as Carinya offers two houses over three titles).

 

 

 

There are so many notable aspects of this house that I almost feel like I have to list them in dot point form. The fully-established English garden – boasting crabapple trees, magnolia trees, its own orchard (which produces mandarins, oranges and lemonade fruit. The latter is a sweet version of lemon that tastes like lemonade  – I didn’t realise before visiting the house that such a fruit exists, and now that I do, I am desperate for my own lemonade tree), and an impressive enclosed vegetable patch that offers protection from possums – is enchanting.

 

Vegetable patch

 

The interiors offer an impressive, granite-lined entry foyer; soaring ceilings; smartly painted rooms that highlight the ornate ceiling details and picture rails; bay windows; large, modernised bathrooms; functioning, gorgeous fireplaces; detailed archways; stunning chandeliers; and timber floorboards. My favourite room of the house is the formal living room, which has the most impressive ceiling I have ever viewed – its fine embellishment is accented by royal cream, red and blue, and its championship motif is continued throughout the room’s cedar cabinetry.

 

Formal living area

 

The billiards room is another sight to behold – the room is an authentic heritage cigar room, offering an original billiards table (which is marbled to the timber floor), as well as the original scoring board and an ornately detailed backgammon table. The new kitchen is located within the house’s east-facing sunroom, and offers every possible luxury – two ovens, a six burner stove top, a hand-crafted tile splashback with a butterfly motif, lime-coloured Corian benchtops (which complement the subtle cream cupboards) and a Tasmanian Oak benchtop on the kitchen island. In addition, the house has a fully equipped, professional-standard office, which has timber partitions for different workstations and a glass panelled enclosed office for private meetings. I have never seen such an elaborate office in a house before – in fact, it is more elaborate than some of the offices I’ve worked in as a law student.

 

Billiards room

 

There are two stairways leading down to the lower level, which offers some of the house’s best treasures, including a cellar with an external entry for deliveries, an expansive ballroom with a wet bar (which is also a fully equipped kitchen), a gym and an exquisite powder room.

 

Ballroom

 

The house’s grounds have been designed for serious entertaining – there is a championship-sized tennis court and an incredible cabana and pool area. The cabana, which possesses the same style of Federation tiling as the house’s veranda, includes a sauna, bathroom, wet bar and barbecue, and includes an exquisite headlight window that was originally in the ceiling of the main house’s entry foyer. The large saltwater tiled pool is surrounded by sandstone paving, completing the entertaining area’s high-end look.

 

 

There is also an additional, fully equipped house that mirrors the tiling, sandstone pillars and intricate air vents of the main house. The second home can be used as a live-in nanny’s quarters, to house in-laws or for a very lucky teenager or university student.

 

 

The essence of the house’s perfection is that it marries finely detailed Federation features with extensive contemporary inclusions, so that the house retains its historic value while offering an entirely modern standard of living. And what a standard it is – it is increasingly rare to see properties of this calibre and size on the market in Sydney.