Everything old is new again
They were the ugly ducklings hopeful renovators once sought to revamp. But design-driven buyers now dream of preserving Sydney’s dated and original homes.
Some of the most popular properties of the past year have been city-fringe artifacts, preserved in an increasingly rare time capsule of Australiana. In suburbs with a prominent 1960s or Art-Deco/red-brick presence, the old is always more popular than the new.
Consider our most urban beach: $850,000 will get you a near-new studio apartment in Bondi’s beachfront Pacific building. But the same cash also gets you a humble boxy one-bedder in the back streets. And more people will turnout to see the preserved classic.
One Sydney design devotee recently sold a Lane Cove house with a clause in the contract – in 5 years the new buyer would get a $25,000 kickback if he kept the pink and blue Mid-Century bathroom intact. It made headlines with the cinematographer/owner saying he hoped someone would fall in love with the bathroom, like finding something at a yard sale, beautiful and perfectly kept.
That ask would suit this new wave of young buyers and their growing affinity with the suburban architecture styles synonymous with the ‘60s and ‘70s. They’ll preserve pastel coloured bathrooms, solid timber kitchens in odd colours, hard-to-find original materials, patterns, flooring, vermiculite ceilings and more.
One buyer told us of nights spent on Google Maps, seeking out roof styles that suited their taste.
“You can spot the flat roofs via satellite and that usually means you’ll find ‘60s homes and Mid-Century architecture in those streets,” he said.
“You find them grouped together in pockets of suburbs that saw development during that era. This is how we narrowed to certain parts of Ashfield, Dulwich Hill, Randwick, Marrickville and Petersham.”
“Because we’ve always lived in pokey terraces, we wanted a home that had more attention to natural light and some forward-thinking Mid-Century design ideas.”
They’re not alone. The community came together this year to save Sydney’s endangered Brutalist icon, the Sirius building. There was as much support to preserve the unique design, as there was to save the public housing it provided.
Comedian Tim Ross led the charge at plenty of Sirius events. Known as @modernister on Instagram, more than 40,000 devotees follow along with his passion for Mid-Century and modernist architecture. He travels the globe speaking about his love for Australian modernism through visiting famous houses, festivals and museums.
While not definitively modernist, one of this month’s most-inspected properties has glimpses into this era. With its 1970s parquet floors and original tiles in the kitchen/bathroom, this apartment at 1/19 David St Marrickville attracted 40 groups through its first two inspections.
Armed with first-homebuyer budgets, the prospect of letting those finishes survive into the coming decades excited hearts and wallets. Almost everyone who registered interest is buying for the first time.
The recent sale of 35 Melba Drive East Ryde has seen some renovations since, but that sunken lounge room has been celebrated and conserved. We’ve even seen a 1960s house in Hunters Hill be rescued when modernism fans outbid hordes of developers.
In the 1960s, the clean box-like design taking over our suburbs was a movement away from the decorative style of earlier decades. Today, the popularity seems more like a protest against the McMansions of the 1990s and 2000s.
A ‘changing of the guard’ is stirring as the next generation of homeowners look to enter the property market. They’re educated on good design, crave sunlight, and adore simplicity. And they want a touch of the nostalgia they grew up with.