Design devotees trump developers
When a home is preserved in a time capsule the auction spoils usually land in one of three sets of hands – developers, renovators or admirers.
As the challenge boils, the developers reveal how deep their pockets really are. But maybe, just maybe, they become bogged down with constraints, calculations, applications and red tape.
If the hurdles are big enough, starry-eyed renovators might stand a chance. And if the competition includes a purist, perhaps a beautiful future is looming. These design devotees don’t often trump property progress, but when they do it can be worth revisiting the outcomes.
In Hunters Hill, most onlookers assumed this cool 1960s home from architect Ian Patrick would fall to developers. On a substantial piece of north-facing land, it had potential as a development site.
But a few admirers had hope for preservation, including John Papas.
“We went into this auction hopeful but thinking the worst that we wouldn’t get it,” says John.
“But this particular property had a few things working against it for developers. It’s on a steep block, is inundated with trees, and in a heritage conservation area.
“Those are big things that take money and time.”
John ended up with the winning bid and now lives in the Peninsula artifact with wife Lia and their daughters.
While not claiming to be a ‘true purist’, design aficionados can rest easy knowing the bones and design of this one now live on, unspoiled. At the time of sale, the marketing imagery turned up on Instagram and Mid Century design blogs with viewers gushing over the banks of windows, natural timbers and informal elegance.
It’s a fascination John shares and a passion that extends to the way the home is now furnished and (soon to be) landscaped.
“I think it’s the simplicity of the designs are what people love,” John says. “It’s architectural. It’s always different. They weren’t the cookie-cutter houses we see today.
“They’re usually designed for the environment they sit within. You instantly get a feel of the house and the outside environment from the moment you step inside.
“If you were to pick up any other cookie-cutter home and drop it on it this site, it wouldn’t fit, it wouldn’t feel the same, and it wouldn’t suit.”
Today the home is a mix of Mid Century ideals with some tasteful modern edges relevant to today’s lifestyle. It looks identical at first, but the kitchen and family spaces have been merged.
It didn’t come cheap. When the renovation was in its cost/estimation phase, even John and Lia considered starting over.
The floorboards were restored, the plumbing and electricity overhauled, and the weatherboards were replaced all round. It was a back-to-frame job both inside and out.
They muse in hindsight about building a house three times its size. But it’s not about that.
“I studied to be an architect at one stage, but never went down that route,” John says. “I’m passionate about Mid Century design.
“I was handed a copy of a magazine once and on the cover was a picture of the Arne Jacobsen ‘Egg’ chair. I remember thinking it was just a beautiful object. I got interested in it from that.”
This relic isn’t the only home of this era rescued from developers for its design smarts. Around six years ago, John and Lia fell in love with another property being sold in Ellesmere Avenue, Hunters Hill. Not yet in a position to buy, they missed out.
That home, now known as Ellesmere Avenue House, has also been preserved for the better.