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

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.








Balmain, Sydney

As you can probably tell, since they demonstrate a level of photographic skill I haven’t quite yet attained (still waiting for someone to shout me a DSLR and a photography lesson…), these photos are not mine. But no matter. The house is pretty, and belongs to Ellie Bradley, who heads up Xavier & Me.


So today’s post takes the form of another Q&A-with-a-professional. Below is my interview with Ellie, who takes us through her design inspirations and provides some tips for anyone hoping to pretty up their own place. It’s a bit unique insofar as the family decided to move into an already-renovated home; a rarity for design professionals.


How much did your work influence the design of your own home?
We moved into our home in October 2012 and it was already renovated. Our decision to move into a home already renovated was motivated by a year long struggle to get a DA through on another home. It was a very stressful year, so we decided to keep our home, put it on the rental market and go in search of something we can move straight into.


Rugs are used in the home to create contrast in streamlined, modern rooms.


The home was renovated back in 2010, and mixes the traditional features of the home with modern features. The home has loads of storage which was a must and we now also have that crucial extra room which I have turned into my studio. In terms of the style of home, it really was a blank canvas which enable me to fill up the home with my treasures – from porcelain tea pots, to aboriginal artworks, to loads of my cushions and rugs.


Who lives in the house?
I live here with my husband, Richard and my little boy Xavier, who is nearly 5.


How did you decide on the home itself? What was its background?
We needed more space and storage. As I work from home, I really needed (and so did my family) a separate room that I could make into my studio. It’s one of the bedrooms at the front of the house and looks out onto the street with some city glimpses through a beautiful Frangipani tree. We are slightly elevated from the street level, so it’s lovely being able to take in the day without feeling like I am in a fish bowl.


Can you take us through your approach to colour and pattern?
My approach to colour and pattern is constantly changing, as I think this is something I’m still discovering myself as I grow as a designer, but on the whole I am a big lover of bright colours and bold patterns. I love using contrasts in my designs between different materials and media or by fusing bold strong colours with complementary muted tones. I love the modernist art movement Bauhaus’ main objective to unify art, craft and technology. Their rational designs are based on simple geometric shapes and primary colours, which you see a lot of in my work.

 It’s lovely being able to take in the day without feeling like I am in a fish bowl.

How heavily styled is your home on a day-to-day basis?

Ellie's office.

On a day-to-day basis my home is pared back on the styling, however I do love showing my treasures and tend to mix it up. I don’t have everything out at once as I like to more curate the spaces in my home. I tend to pick up things here and there, and they don’t all work together, so I have tended towards creating a mini gallery where I change things around, move pieces from room to room. I like the fluidity of styling my home.


Do you have any favourite stores to pick up homewares from?
Planet on Commonwealth, in Surry Hills. I am good friends with the owner Ross Longmuir and he has a wonderful curated mix of artists and his own furniture and fabrics. Another favourite shop is actually one of my online retailers, Everything Beings. Amy searches far and wide for the most interesting new artwork and objects, made by independent and emerging artists, designers and makers all over the world, which she brings to us online. A recent addition to the site was a series of artworks by Australian illustrator Letitia Buchan.

Do you have any tips for others trying to improve the appearance of their home?
Here are my top ten tips for breathing new life into your home:


  1. De-clutter – Even if your have created a beautiful room, clutter can detract from the overall look. Make sure those usual suspects of kids’ toys, stationery, magazines, pile of different electronic plugs for different devices (I have one of these on my kitchen bench) have their own place so they are easy to find but not scattered or piled up.
  2. Lighting – A great way to update your room is to add lighting. Draping some string lights over a bookshelf or updating your boring ceiling light to something a bit more stylish could change the whole look of a room.
  3. Rugs – rugs add texture and warmth to a room. It can also add character to a neutral décor, soften a busy scheme or tie together key colours in a room. It’s also a great way to aid in room planning and acoustics if you live with a large open plan space.
  4. Cushions – another great way to add colour and pattern, breathing new life into your room. Mix pattern, colour and textures to create a statement.
  5. Wallpaper – There are some beautiful wallpapers out there – whether you want something busy, loud, muted or kitsch. Be brave and completely cover the walls of a small room or make a statement in a larger room by papering just one wall.
  6. Reupholster – Old dining chairs, headboards and sofas can be reinvented to refresh a room’s look. Find a contemporary patterned fabric and get your old furniture reupholstered for a brand new sense of style and comfort.
  7. Colour scheme – You don’t need to go overboard when finding a colour scheme for a room – unless, of course, you really want to make a statement. Pick out the pre-existing key colours of your room or choose a specific object which you wish to use as the colour inspiration and add complementary coloured ornaments or soft furnishings. If your room has a neutral décor, inject a few really bright shades.
  8. Make a statement – If you’ve got a bit of cash set aside, consider splashing it on a statement item which will give your room the ‘wow factor’. Depending on budget, room type and your personal taste, this can range from a designer ornament to a framed canvas or flash contemporary fireplace.
  9. Flowers – Okay, so it’s not quite going to restyle the room, but displaying flowers is a wonderful way of breathing life into a room, adding colour and making a style statement. Commit to a regular change of bouquets and vases to keep your room alive and create a feast for the eyes.
  10. Mirrors – If you don’t have a feature mirror in at least one room of your house – why not? As well as creating the feeling of space and reflecting light, a mirror says you are proud of your home, it is vanity for your interior and a wonderful way to add perspective.

1/4 Richmond Avenue, Cremorne


This one’s exciting. Seriously exciting. Take a nip of brandy and get comfortable, because this is one you’re going to savour. It’s a duplex in Cremorne – and oh, wow, what a duplex. This is the kind of place that prompted me to start this blog in the first place – it’s stare-worthy, mesmerising, in its way.


Let’s get some initial facts out of the way: a two bedroom, one bathroom, one carspace lower duplex at Cremorne, with a sizeable terrace and around 100 square metres of interior space. It was built in the 1940s, and it’s fairly clear it’s had no renovation work done since. The property is located on the north side of Cremorne, perched on a high-up street that offers nice district views.


Now to the good stuff: photographs.



As an aside, this home was extremely difficult to photograph as it was packed full of potential renovators. It’s on the market and there is serious competition. Disappointing for me, as in my pipe dream fantasy land in which I have enough money to make another property purchase, I was very keen on this one. In any case, it’s popular. I’m impressed that people see the magic of the place, although I also hope that its character is retained.


Speaking of character, it has 1940s charm in spades. The curved wall in the above photo is a prime example, as is the fireplace in the living area you’ll see below.



The bathroom is a particular treasure, but also is the room that probably requires the most work. It’s in a parlous state, and is a tad spooky to stand in, but is somehow, at the same time, utterly gorgeous. The Art Deco-ish yellow tile/sea green combination is actually so catching that I’d consider reviving it in the restoration – even if that means gutting the bathroom and ‘re-doing’ it in its former style. It was once a very handsome mid-century bathroom, and now it has a totally different type of appeal.




The floors are timber, and are in better condition in some rooms than others. The living room is the best example of this, and is also probably the room that’s in the best condition. It occupies prime position at the front of the duplex, and leads out onto an expansive terrace.



The living area is also a good example of how the home would feel as a ‘lived in’ property, as it’s the only space with a notable amount of furniture – all of which, pretty and charming, suits the property perfectly. The fireplace appears to be in outstanding condition.


One door leads to a sunroom, the other to the terrace.




Eerily beautiful.


The kitchen is a retro fan’s fantasy, right down to the seriously awesome oven, which epitomises the mid-century appliance design ethos. Kitchens have always been important, but it seemed like it was mid-century in Australia that they really took off as the ‘heart’ of the home, forming the nucleus of a family’s social activity.



Can whoever renovates this house please donate this oven to me?


The bedrooms follow the same trend as the rest of the home – timber floors with peeling paint. The rooms are generously proportioned, and have high ceilings (always a massive plus on this blog).


One bedroom.


The other bedroom.


This home is a renovator, and it’s a thrilling prospect because it gives the lucky owner the opportunity to restore it and frame it with their own character. However, I’m happy I’ve had the chance to preserve it in its current form, which presents a type of exquisiteness that’s impossible to replicate.