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

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
sculpture.

 

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.

Vaucluse House, Vaucluse

My favourite part of the house: its facade. Interestingly, it doesn't have a proper front door.

 

Vaucluse House is one of The Historic Houses Trust‘s ‘living museums’; you can be toured through it, and have afternoon tea in the teahouse afterwards, if that kind of thing takes your fancy (it does take mine). So that’s exactly what I did. I won’t regale you with the house’s extensive history as the HHT’s website does a pretty nifty job of that, and, besides, I wouldn’t want to ruin the whole point of the tour in case you’re keen to go. But I will show you some photos and mention some details I found interesting. So here we go.

Nursery.

 

The house was bought and remodelled by William Charles Wentworth in the early nineteenth century, “a gifted but restless lawyer and politician”, according to the HHT. He had a fair number of achievements under his belt. His family was pretty rebellious for the time; his wife had two children before they were married and he was born to an unwed mother. Oh, the scandal. As a result, the family was left a little isolated from colonial society. But they had a pretty opulent drawing room, which might have made things easier to cope with.

 

I found this small bed in the nursery terrifically amusing.

The house isn’t especially expansive, but its facade is something else – the Gothic look to it is the home’s most confronting feature, and is my favourite part. The inner courtyard is also pretty special; it feels like a walled city when you’re standing inside it, and it serves as the connecting point between the main house and the servants’ areas, including the kitchen.

 

The dining room, typically a male-dominated space, according to our tourguide, had a portrait of Wentworth’s favourite daughter hanging in it – a fairly controversial move for the time, apparently. The tiles used in the room were handcrafted in Italy. The drawing room boasts wall-to-wall carpet when rugs were typically used, and blue pigment at a time when blue was not synthetically produced, making it a rarity. An interesting point noted by the tourguide was the need for symmetry in keeping with the time’s conventions; one door in the drawing room leads nowhere, its only purpose being to mirror the door on the other side of the room. I’m a little strange myself, so can see how that would be appealing (especially with my OCD), but tend to prefer the design school that favours thoughtful functionality.

 

 

The famed dining room. Breaking with convention.

 

Master bedroom. Mattresses were piled high to stave off infestation by bed bugs.

 

The house was bought by the NSW government in the early twentieth century and has been on show since then. The layouts have been recreated by curators – some of the pieces are original, others have been sourced. It’s reminiscent of Como House, a Melbourne mansion I blogged about early last year, except Vaucluse House is smaller in scale. They both have their intrigue – Como House’s riches-to-rags background, Vaucluse House’s eccentric owner – and the hallmarks of colonial wealth (including servant bells, one of my favourite oddities).

 

The all-important chandelier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Servant's bell. Does what it says on the tin.

 

Drawing room (the fanciest room – for entertainment).

 

 

 

Walls of the inner courtyard.

 

 

 

 

Kitchen. Atmospheric.