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

Harris Park

 

 

This week doesn’t concentrate on one particular home – instead, I present to you a (dizzying, quite frankly) array (or smattering, if you like) of houses lining the streets of Sydney’s Harris Park. Yes, Harris Park. The wild, wild west. No, it isn’t lame to say that.

 

 

I adore this house. The garden and the splashes of pink and blue on its ornate terrace make it one of the suburb's prettiest cottages.

 

 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the west, Harris Park, as I have learnt, has two primary features of significance: it is towered over by Parramatta’s growing CBD (and is walking distance to all that it holds), and it has an amazing collection of heritage homes. It is a sexy colonial paradise. If such a thing exists.  It is kind of a colonial housing/subcontinent mash-up (in 2006, 23.4% of its population had been born in India – to put this in context, 25.9% of its population was Australian-born).

 

 

 

 

For every house kept in beautiful ornamental condition in the suburb, there are probably three that have been left to deteriorate. Notably, these tend to still be lived in – sad in some respects, but I’m intrigued imagining the stories, and I have an eternal appreciation for the character presented by an old house that’s been left untouched.

 

 

Yes, Harris Park has terraces (!).

 

 

Harris Park is different from other suburbs. It is not trendy (yet – it might get there). But if you’re genuinely keen on interesting houses and our architectural heritage, it pays to spread your wings and venture outside of Balmain, Neutral Bay and Surry Hills – Harris Park is an untapped goldmine of architectural goodness. There is also a historic walk that covers a number of preserved heritage properties – including the Historic Houses Trust’s Elizabeth Farm, which I have blogged about previously. So go there. Be surprised. Appreciate an untouched gem. And afterwards you can walk to Max Brenner and hit the yum cha at Parramatta’s Sky Phoenix. Wins all ’round.

 

 

Absolutely gorgeous home in immaculate condition near the railway station.

 

A spectacular homestead.

 

Dinosaurs!

 

I would love to know how the dinosaur motif came to bless this otherwise unassuming structure. I'm guessing it was done at the bidding of a '70s child with cool parents.

 

This house is haunting, particularly as it's lived in. It doesn't take much imagination to picture how perfect it would look spruced up. But it does a fine job of grabbing you now, just as it is.

Old Dairy Farm at Leura

 

 

I couldn’t resist posting about this property located in Leura, an exceptionally pretty town in the Blue Mountains that is much lauded by my favourite magazines. It’s an old dairy farm with a homestead – they appear to have been built around the turn of the century, although I unfortunately can’t find any evidence to support my claims.

 

 

 

 

The property is insanely attractive, in its way – the aged exteriors add an alluring, inescapable charm. Some sandstone appears to be used, and stained glass windows decorate the facade. The rusted roofs give colour and catch the eye, but is also evidence of some degeneration (which I, of course, find appealing). Although lived in, it’s also a bit spooky, particularly in the stark winter cold. In any case, it’s something special – it covers around an acre of land, and offers more than a house alone: the large outhouse is an engineering facility.

 

 

 

 

The force of the property’s character grants it appeal now – if it were tended to by the right hands, it would become a real splendour.

 

 

Design Marvels at the 2012 Victorian Architecture Awards: Urban Landscapes, Sustainability and Outdoor Synthesis

Some exciting houses have recently received accolades at the 2012 Victorian Architecture Awards. The residential buildings (which are my chief concern) celebrated by the ceremony highlight the fact that contemporary houses must do more than look pretty in order to gain recognition; they must be designed to complement modern lifestyle standards, with the the aim of synthesising the property with the urban landscape while still retaining a striking aesthetic quality.

 

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The most prestigious residential award, the Harold Desbrowe-Annear Award, went to the above Queensberry Street House by Robert Simeoni Architects. The Australian Institute of Architects described the home as “a comprehensively unique and exciting project that is ‘about privacy and shared spaces; seclusion and connectedness with the city and exploring how light and ventilation can be brought into an inner city courtyard house’.” The house’s facade is imposing, with the dark, patterned brick work capturing a historic edge. The reflective glass allows privacy, but is also used to mirror the streetscape, creating cohesiveness.

 

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The Awards acknowledged both the sustainability and impressive design features of Heller Street Park and Residences, pictured above, by architecture outfit Six Degrees. The medium-density development was built on the contaminated site of a former tip, making it’s environmental choos especially impressive, and is striking as it sits distinctly from the flat surrounding landscape. Angles and texture are used to create visual interest (as you can see!). The terraces and their communal areas were constructed to blur the private/public boundary, creating a sense of shared space. The project won Best Overend Award for Multiple Residential Architecture and the 2012 Sustainable Architecture Award.

 

Garage + Deck + Landscape project

 

The last award I’m going to mention is a particularly interesting one, as I’ve formed a bit of a love for outdoor spaces recently. The Small Project Architecture Award was given to Baracco + Wright Architecture for its Garage + Deck + Landscape project. The finished product is breathtaking – while ostensibly simple, it creates a perfect synthesis between the eye-catching landscaping and slanted garage, which is the first attractive garage I believe I’ve ever seen.

 

Each of the residential projects praised at the awards show imagination as well as fundamental design ethos, which is what renders them so significant. Homes like these will retain their appeal in the future due to both the lifestyle they offer the resident and their immense visual impact.

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.

 

 

11 Woodburn Street, Redfern

 

Redfern has seen its profile shift pretty significantly over the past decade; its median house price is now over $800,000 (which is made even more notable by the large amount of tiny worker’s cottages in the area), it has its own small bar scene, and it borders suburbs that have experienced a similar rise in fortunes, such as Waterloo and Alexandria. However, Redfern’s village is still far grungier than Danks Street or anything industrial Alexandria has to offer, and, like Waterloo, which retains its soaring public housing high rises, Redfern has a precinct that has generally avoided gentrification – The Block.

 

 

As Redfern’s popularity soars, though, inner-city professionals, hipsters and, somewhat surprisingly, young families, are seeking to buy into the area, and may find The Block a more affordable entry point than the streets in the suburb’s east. With that in mind, 11 Woodburn Street is currently on the market – and, while technically sitting outside of The Block, it is one street east of The Block’s epicentre, Eveleigh Street. Woodburn Street is a tiny cul-de-sac, leaving it shielded from the liveliness of the bordering streets, but is priced lower than equivalents near Redfern village are likely to be. It’s still not small change, though – the off-street parking and 1880s Victorian façade have kept the price guide over $700,000.

 

 

The house is unrenovated, leaving potential for the new buyer to convert it into a trendy urban hideaway within walking distance to the southern end of the CBD. The courtyard and upstairs deck are particularly promising in this regard. The house is very narrow, with steeper stairs than I’ve ever climbed before – as unappealing as they may be to some, a spiral staircase might make the trip between floors less daunting, if the next owner is inclined to put one in. The bathroom is currently basic and sits at the back of the house, while the kitchen is small and un-noteworthy. The courtyard, meanwhile, is currently marked by bright graffiti, which, on the gloomy day I visited, provided a striking contrast to the dark flooring and grey skies. The bones of the house, and its location in one of the city’s hottest locales, are what make the property an interesting proposition. Meanwhile, the frontage, which is currently highlighted by a weatherboard sunroom, and tight interiors are examples of the features that define the Victorian architectural era. While the prospects of renovation are appealing, the terrace currently offers an intriguing insight into early residential life in one of Sydney’s most colourful inner-city pockets.