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

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).




138 Cathedral Street, Woolloomooloo

It’s been a while, but here I am. This terrace marks the first time I’ve featured a place in Woolloomooloo, so it’s a premiere, of sorts. I was drawn to it due to its sandstone; there are sandstone terraces scattered around Sydney, and since it’s a pretty special building material I’m happy to be delving into it here. You find sandstone terraces around Woolloomooloo and Darlinghurst as it was drawn from Woolloomooloo Bay.


This house is currently used as both a residence and as a slick office space, and it’s being sold as a mixed-zone proposition. It wouldn’t be particularly difficult to convert into a fully-fledged residence, if that was somebody’s bent, and the parking allotment (for two-three cars) gives it a point of difference compared to other terraces around. It’s currently on the market (as the first photo indicates!), with offers being sought just over the $1m range.


The bottom floor of the terrace, which contains the primary office/meeting zones, the kitchen and the bathroom, has been well-renovated as it, firstly, is spacious (transforming this area into living zones would give you a front room and a rear entertaining area leading on to the kitchen; not a bad set-up) and, secondly, is extremely well-lit, which (as I’m sure I’ve written numerous times!) is one of the central challenges when reconfiguring a terrace.


The rest of the floor plan is very vertical; there are three levels, the middle currently being used as a photography studio with another sitting area (which could become a master bedroom) and the attic being used as bedroom. If I were to convert the house, I would keep it to two bedrooms rather than three and use the area currently used as a photography studio as another living space; it’s fairly rare to have distinct living spaces across levels in terraces. This floorplan lends itself to the idea.


Convict stock bricks.


The office incorporates a feature wall made up of original convict stock bricks, which helps the house retain its links to its c1880s origins (plus, it looks plain good). The renovation has been done with a consideration of the place’s character and heritage, which means that its prettiest features mostly remain intact. In the office, what was once a fireplace is now being used as storage. Although it would be nice to see the original fireplace, it’s comforting to see the space being utilised with a nod to the past.


The terrace is located in an interesting spot. Woolloomooloo has been walking a fine line between the gentrified and urban decay for some time now. There are a host of clever little office spaces dotted around the area, and the terrace itself is within footsteps of Toby’s Estate, around the corner from Flour and Stone and skipping distance (if that’s your preferred mode of getting around) to Darlinghurst and the CBD. Then there is Finger Wharf. On the other hand, though, this suburb, moreso than most that have undergone the gentrification treatment, rubs shoulders with its past – there are still large portions of public housing, and unlike in, say, Newtown (don’t trust the sign – Newtown totally is about yuppie [and student...] life now. Not that there’s anything wrong with that), the suburb still has some, erm, spice. But that’s cool. There has to be something real left in Sydney, right?


Next time you’re in the area, take a walk through Darlinghurst and Potts Point before detouring your way into Woolloomooloo. The contrast is patent; even within Woolloomooloo, different streets offer completely disparate experiences. With the Wharf boasting the residence of some of Australia’s most famous celebrity-types, and its location smackbang to the east of the CBD on the bay, it’s an interesting wonder. That said, it’s probably only a few years off fully-fledged gentrification (how could it not be, with that location? The government doesn’t tend to hold on too tightly to these precincts – see Glebe as an example) and even higher prices (it’s currently the most affordable in the inner-east region, from my estimation), so its entry point will presumably start to exponentially rise in the mid-term future.


58/117 Macleay Street, Potts Point

This apartment doesn’t have just the one drawcard – it has a whole collection of them. If you look to your right, you’ll instantly notice one of them – the design. Which leads on to another one of its highlights; the apartment was designed by Darren Palmer, noted Australian designer who’s appeared in pretty much every design editorial, a host of television spots and more than a few newspaper clippings.


Before broaching the apartment’s story – which is one of my favourite parts of this post – I’ll take you through the most important aspects of the reconfiguration. The layout has been completely changed in order to incorporate storage. Functionality was the key element Palmer was seeking in the renovation, he notes. The bathroom and laundry are both hidden behind slick doors that reflect the city lights; opening them gives the magical impression that you’ve been invited into a secret room. “It’s just storage from nowhere,” Palmer says, which perfectly summarises the concept of the apartment. There are hidden nooks and crannies everywhere intended to eliminate the thing that can often destroy good design – clutter.


The wooden floorboards (a feature that I’ve regularly expressed my love for on the blog) are used across the entire apartment, including the bathroom, which has been converted into a ‘rain room’ of sorts. The apartment offers multiple aspects, providing a natural element that further enhances the apartment’s appeal – light.


The apartment is unique for another reason; it is Darren Palmer’s own. Unlike his other projects, he was physically involved with each aspect of the remodelling. “I put a lot of skin and blood into this, literally,” he says. “It turned out exactly the way I planned it.”


The apartment was configured as a bachelor’s pad for Palmer, but that plan was foiled when he got married partway through the renovation. “I never even slept here [after the renovation],” he admits. His article for GQ delves deeper into the story (my favourite quote is the lead: “Life’s a funny bitch sometimes”).


The apartment is on the market for offers over $525,000, so if you’re looking for the quintessential Potts Point home – incredibly well-maintained Art Deco building (seriously, I’ve been in my fair share of old dames and this one leaves most of them in the dust – the elevator alone is worth checking out), stunning new look with plentiful natural light, views of the city skyline and a spot that provides instant access to Macleay Street’s dining/shopping hub and the infamous strip – check it out. Plus Croissant D’Or is virtually its neighbour, and that bakery is amazing.


Sleek new kitchen.


182 Denison Street, Newtown

I have been in my share of derelict places, and this is by far the most derelict. Which is what makes it so cool.


It’s a Victorian terrace in a quiet street of Newtown that has never been renovated, and has not been kept in the best condition.


It is creepy.


The photos explain it better than words can, but walking through the place you identify a few things – the inside has had years and years of indifferent living piled on it, with wallpaper peeling to show more wallpaper and an old kid’s rug covering the kitchen floor. It’s been bashed about. Then there’s what looks to be squatter’s writing on the wall of the living area. And there’s the odour upstairs, which was mildly scarring.


It’s exciting and scary to walk through, and it’ll be exciting and scary to renovate. It’s got a good location, a facade that will scrub up nicely and some original features worth saving – the fireplace downstairs is bricked up but has a very pretty frame.






It harkens back to old school Newtown grit, which is another plus point. On the other hand, it will soon be a sparkling refashioned respectable home. It’s currently on the market, so someone will assuredly pick it up and have fun with it. The day I saw it I was late (no surprise there), but the inspection had been busy and there was an overflow of investors exploring it with me. It’s also been listed in SMH‘s ‘Smart Buys’ section (billed as a ‘haunted house’), so I’m not the only person paying attention. Nor should I be.








West Perth, Perth

An apartment in Perth – not my usual focus, but maybe that’s what’s good about it. This place had its interior redesigned by Jean Hattingh, with the aim to create a loud statement look for her bachelor client.


I didn’t actually get to see the apartment myself as I’m in the east, but it’s an interesting city to look at since its property prices are so high. West Perth, where this apartment is located, borders the CBD. Below is my Q&A with Jean, who took me through her design choices.


As an aside – back to four posts this month! Look at that work ethic… Admirable.


How important is the use of colour and contrast in the design?
Strong colours were used [throughout] the living area. The starting point for the design was the magnificent painting by Madeleine Casey, [with] colours … drawn from this artwork and also from the hand woven kelims which grace the floors of both areas of the space.  The graphic wallpaper with its black and silver helix was chosen for its boldness and this boldness was carried through to the massive “dear ingo” light in the dining area and also to the bright red perspex cutout panels on the opposite wall.  These panels were positioned to partly disguise a very ordinary laundry door and also to bring colour weight to the wall opposite the wallpaper.

Was the design formulated to fit in with the owner’s living arrangements?
The design was primarily to update the very dated apartment … [A]ll the old wrought iron balustrading on the staircase and between the living zones was replaced with modern glass.  A huge comfortable leather couch allowed for maximum relaxation while watching TV and a blue chair and yellow ottoman added seating for guests.


The dining table and consoles were custom made from marri wood, melamine and stainless steel and the dining chairs are perspex fun items to lighten the solemnity of the heavy dining suite.

The tiny entrance hall was dressed with see-through perspex console tables to give an impression of space and bright art and a bold


Floor to ceiling curtains add an enormous sense of space to the rooms.  The background was all neutral and the colour was added in layers on top.


The kitchen was revamped with new melamine stainless steel look doors and a new stone benchtop and new appliances.


Did you draw on any influences?
Mid-century modernism features heavily in [the living] room with the starburst mirror, blue chair, walnut and melamine coffe table and “dear ingo” light.  A lighthearted touch is added with the dining chairs and plastic dinosaurs marching across the dining console.