You just can’t compete with LA spec developers/builders. I mean, they have those damned hills that offer uninterrupted, private views, and a population dripping in money, vanity and FOMO.
Enter the most whimsical property that I’ve seen for a while. The 18,000 square foot “Elementi” created by Michael Chen, in association with SAOTA Architects, for the Luxford Group.
The price tag being flagged as $USD65m, seems pretty worth it to these old eyes, considering the invlusions such as the Olive tree imported from Tuscany and craned (they are reported to have needed a 110-ton crane and a crew of 15 ) into the heart of the home.
What a superb and quite brilliant idea to feature this gnarled and ragged specimen against a sharp, gleaming geometrically precise background.
It offers a depth in design that has yet to be equalled in the cut throat spec home world of LA.
There are seven bedrooms, fourteen bathrooms and a measly two kitchens, despite the unlikely event of anyone actually cooking here beside the catering company. Such a waste of a well hidden gaggle of Gaggenau appliances.
The pictures tell the story; from the floating marble footway over the hard edge moat that delivers vistiors to an architectural wonderland.
But for me, it’s about the tree. It’s about the living heart of this truly inspired design
With a strong Australian tie, this former Hollywood ‘hunting lodge’ is on the market for $USD 2.39m (wow that’s a bunch of dollars for a quirky three bedder, but still….star power and all that) through Coldwell Banker.
What’s the tie? You may well ask. Its currently owned by Australian Director Gregor Jordan . His movie credits go back a way including Buffalo Soldiers (2001) (missed it) , (1999) Two Hands , (strike two – even though it had Heath Ledger in it) and the 2010 film with Samuel L Jackson Unthinkable. You guessed it, strike three … what have I been watching all these years? Me, a gal who used to work in Hollywood too. The shame weighs heavy…
I look forward to deep diving on various streamers to catch up.
Anyhow, great quirky place; built back in 1921 it is private, sheltered, includes just three bedrooms and in a huge break with US tradition, a mere two and a half baths.
Quirky goes down well in the Hills, and the publicity on the place includes reference to maybe the house being occupied at certain times by Robert Downey Jnr, and Daniel Craig. Okay, yes, I absolutely know those names. (Be still my beating heart).
I think it is actually a very cool home, from an interesting architectural period of innocence and optimism.
According the the journos at Dwell, the giant Noguchi pendant lampshade was gifted and presented to the owners by close friend Heath Ledger – a man of very fine taste in all things.
Perhaps it’s frustration with my old favourite TV show, The Block, which this season is so bad, I don’t even record it anymore. There’s nothing innovative; no plans afoot that make me so curious I have to see how it turns out … just bullshit and drama, and no product information beyond endless sponsor plugs.
I know ‘out there’ ideas that need to be seen. Decorating, interior design, is an art form, it’s a gigantic palette waiting for daubs of character and passion. Some people are Kandinsky, or Warhol, or Banksy, or Monet or Manet or whatever. Not everyone likes everything, but art causes a reaction. Has an impact. Wakes you up. Makes you think.
Extreme developers, which are mostly found in Melbourne it seems to me, are not afraid to venture into into the wild lands of being non-bland.
Turtle Bay; for those of us who live far away from the USA, it sounds very Hampton-esque, Boston-esque … rich-est kind of place.
One out of three ain’t bad with Turtle Bay being in, of all places, Manhattan. Still a bit lost? – well the neighbourhood encompasses the Chrysler Building (a little thrill just went through me) and the United Nations building.
Turtle Bay has long been a cog in the mighty wheel of NYC – dating back to when the Dutch ran the place, and celebrities such as Edgar Allen Poe, were to be found on its streets.
However, it entered a very untidy period after the Civil War, taking on a rather industrial shabbiness and the beautiful historic homes were all but deserted. A fall from grace, until….
In 1919 Mrs Charlotte Martin, a visionary with money (and aren’t they always the best visionaries to have?) decided it would be super fun to buy 20 properties, renovate them and create a Medici inspired common garden. She must have spent a bomb renovating all the homes, and in the end, she remained holding only 226-228 East 49th St., selling off the rest to ‘arty types’ as they were called.
Kathryn Hepburn, Bob Dylan, Stephen Sondheim, the brilliant screen play writer Garson Kanin (just love Kanin’s stories of life in early Hollywood) and earlier the writer E.B White, have all been attracted to living here over the years, with the glorious hidden courtyard gardens, an almost secret escape from the cheek by jowl life in Manhattan.
In the post war period, around 1949 E.B. White wrote what some have called a ‘love letter’ to New York in his book Here Is New York, in which he uses a willow tree in Turtle Bay garden as a metaphor for his beloved city.
“A block or two west of the new City of Man in Turtle Bay is an old willow tree that presides over an interior garden. It is a battered tree, long suffering and much climbed, held together by strands of wire but beloved of those who know it. In a way, it symbolises the city: life under difficulties, growth against odds, sap-rise in the midst of concrete and the steady reaching for the sun” *
Ah, the inspiring history of this town is too often overshadowed by its boisterous and boastful reputation of bright lights and booze.
This week a part of that marvellous Mrs Martin dream has come back to the market, in a state of, well, undress.
Olivier Sarkozy (yes, of those Sarkozys) bought the property (is 8,700 square feet, over five floors) seven or so years ago, just before he wed the diminutive Mary-Kate Olsen.
It was supposed to be a huge renovation, the house not the marriage – but in the end neither came to a happy ending and the now divorced millionaire has put the home on the market through Sotheby’s.
He is reported to have paid, via a limited liability company) $USD13.5m, but due to the ‘mid reno’ condition of the mansion, is now asking a mere $USD11.5m
My elder son has been living in the states for years now, the last couple in NYC – not far from this address. It has energised me to find out more about this rather mythic metropolis.
*The famous willow tree came to a natural end in 2009, but not before professionals took cuttings which have been successfully grown. The trees are planned to be planted, appropriately, across the parks New York City .
Prue Miller is a property journalist who loves spending a freezing Christmas in New York ..and hopes to again one day soon.
You may crave a country kitchen, with dented wood and a soothing Aga.
You may enjoy a kitchen where all the accoutrement are hidden, just as a magician makes their assistant disappear.
You may fear lemon juice for fear of staining your carefully crafted concrete island .
But your kitchen, is your home.
Here is an example of breathtaking design, beautiful and overtly open, filled with ocean breezes and sunlight. Sigh. At the time of writing it is on the books of Sydney Sotheby’s International Realty in Double Bay (now there’s a mouthful for a story about kitchens). It’s in Sydney’s coastal Bronte, and you can read all the nuts and bolts on the listing, and let me assure you, they are GORGEOUS nuts and bolts.
But this is an homage to the wonders of kitchens.
Here are the things I love about kitchens, and I have been lucky enough to inspect some of the most amazing kitchens in Australia, and lingered in more than a few of my family’s.
A kitchen is where somehow or other, you can turn love into a quiche, or a roast or a souffle.
In a kitchen a broken heart can be stuck back together – at least for a while.
In a kitchen a furry friend with a wet nose lingers with hope in his eyes, and a slowly wagging tail.
In a kitchen you can talk about difficult things without having to make eye contact, while plaiting pastry over a pie shell.
In a kitchen you can gather more than ingredients, you can bring together the people you love, and bask in the joy of sharing love, food, wine and time, while a plate of goodies is devoured, refilled, and devoured once again.
In a kitchen a stolen kiss tastes even more delicious.
In a kitchen, for some reason, it is easier to laugh about disaster – whether it be wimpy red wine jus, or a lost job.
And finally, kids in the kitchen. I don’t care about mess, I never really have, and there is no greater mess than a kitchen full of kids; your kids, the next door neighbours’ kids, kids from school mooching about for a piece of cake, kids with breathless news and whispered secrets. It happened in my kitchen. The heart of my home.
Okay so maybe lockdown lunacy is getting to me but homes with space, room, fresh air, nature well, they are really appealing right now.
And this one, this fab home near Newcastle in NSW has managed to deliver up the ideal mix of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, with the out being just GORGEOUS.
Sure decks and patios and terraces are nothing new – but so often those outside spaces have ceilings that are appallingly low – they make you feel like a cheese and ham croissant squashed into a sandwich toaster.
However the very clever folks at Anthrocite Architects in NSW have created the most spacious, open outside zone, that there is an almost cathedral-esque feel, worshipping the two and a half acres of grassy, sunny, leafy land upon which is resides.
That sentence ran on a bit – but I’m all gushy about this place; from the perfect brick choice, to the heated floors, the exciting shapes and levels. It’s a great property from every perceivable angle.
Near the coast, not far from Newcastle city and a couple of hours to Sydneyh, it is a great spot to enjoy life. At the time of writing the property if for sale through Walkom Real Estate with a guide price on it of between $AUD 3.9-$4.2m
There is no nice way of saying this without coming off as a complete snob, BUT nothing makes the old ticker skip a beat as much as a luxury, acreage property.
I guess I can be a little flexible on what constitutes luxury – it is as I see it though the lens of a woman in need of comfort and beauty, with the odd bell and whistle on the side.
This week two Australian beauties caught my beady eye – one has sold this weekend, one is still in the offing. If I could just scrounge around the sofa cushions and find a lazy five or ten million I’d be in the running. Though the first one, in Yass, was FAR less than that.
First 16 Walgrove Road, Yass – not all that far from the country’s capital, but far enough away from anywhere to be considered urban. And dare I say it? Covid war appropriate.
Twenty three acres (I hate hectare conversios …sorry), a 1905 residence draped in elegance and white trim, with five bedrooms and loft.
Have a look at it – that lounge room shot? I felt my shoulders drop at least 2 inches as the anxiety of Sydney life took a temporary back seat.
It sold this weekend for $1.8m through Ray White, with the underbidder trying their hardest via phone from Tokyo.
On a different plane entirely is this all whipped cream and caviar; 652 London Road, Chandler in Queensland.
A tad Georgian, and very grand. Seven beds, six baths it is called Motifex Mansion and sits up on a mowable one hectare or so … mowable because an awful lot of the grounds is actually water or topiary. Control freaks would just adore this place…
Go into the listing/s and note the wallpaper. Please. You won’t regret it.
I have no idea how long or how often it’s been on the market – or which agent has what agreement and with whom – I really don’t care and it has a complicated history.
Confused much? It’s never been this cra cra in the real estate world, and I’ve been playing in the field for more years than I care to mention (okay, a decade or two … I don’t even want to add it all up because I haven’t had a botox top-up since Covid hit and I look my age).
There is still strong vendor discounting to be found (i.e. Unsure sellers and taking lower than advertised offers seriously) in the mid market, while the pointy end of the game is actually looking very healthy indeed. Luxury developer Crown Group is reported to have sold a staggering $63 million worth of top drawer properties between Feb and March.
I thought perhaps I might do some digging in the rich garden of the weekly listings to see what would interest me, or horrify me if I were in the market.
With any luck, although you will come out just as confused as when you started, you may have discovered some interesting bits and pieces.
Let’s start with a little gentrified luxury in the form of shady verandas and a gate house (!) at Kin Kin, Queensland. For those without an encyclopaedic knowledge of regional Queensland, let’s just say Noosa adjacent.
Eight bedrooms, lots of bathrooms, tastefully renovated plus a self contained, ever so pretty, studio.
They’re looking for $2.3million – through Ray White
I have long dreamt of having a place in Leura, the prettiest village in the Blue Mountains. It’s always worth a look there as the prices have this huge arc, yet you get the same picturesque village atmosphere no mater where you plonk your bags.
The lovely property in designer grey (I’m am becoming very sick of grey let me tell you) is a beauty which is looking for more than $1.28m. In a semi-main street at 170 Megalong it has four bedrooms and rather unusually for the area three bathrooms – but why you ask? Because there is studio/loft space above the back garden garage. The listing is with Belle Property.
Literally just up the road five minutes and there is this diamond in the rough for over $595-$650k. Whaaaat? Four beds three baths and and some pretty ordinary decor, complimented by dated layout BUT all that can be fixed. The block is huge – and there’s even a (sort of) undercover swimming pool. Wentworth Falls has some fabulous properties, and some not so fabulous properties with great potential. This is one of those. Have a squizz at 11 Page Avenue, it’s listed with Purcell.
In Melbourne and I just stopped dead in my tracks when I came across this over the top number, at 6 Boston Road. Lordy. When enough just isn’t enough – and why stop there? Architect designed – and with very cool Jack Merlot designed gardens, this 2005 built property is the current Wow! factor in a suburb that frequently has hot properties. William Chen at Marshall White has the listing.
There are still too many faux chateaus for my liking around Melbourne, but at the same time, so much really great eye candy as well. Kay & Burton have this one – very sleek. Found at 11 Reid Street, it’s all about the space … and the calm. Understated. Too chilled for me – but I am becoming more eclectic in my doteage.
And a little Hollywood one caught my attention – because I have been there! Well, loitered on the lawn actually during my time as an LA resident a few years back.
This was the original Ozzie & Harriet house from the 50s TV show (what they would have thought of as a reality show, but was of course scripted’ish) – and since then (though it is reported to be haunted by Ozzie who died in the house) it has had several high profile owners, including the current vendor Chris Meloni of LAW & ORDER (though I loved him in VEEP too) fame.
It’s looking for $USD6.5m, and sadly is not being rushed with offers. It IS a little pedestrian but, BUT it is Hollywood history, with a nice lawn.
One more before I go – I delved into my file (yes, I actually do have a file) of alarming real estate shots – it’s just my opinion, so don’t sue me. Some people may find this bathroom wonderful. I dare you to find them.
“Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”
The wonder dog and I hit the road this week, for a property inspection in NSW Southern Highlands. The pics on line had grabbed my attention, and while my column in the Saturday Telegraph is more often than not about Dream Homes of a certain style, 542 Moss Vale Road pretty much crossed those boundaries. But I cared not one tit. It looked delicious, rich, lavish and more to the point, interesting.
The floorplan is single level, but the decor is another level all together. Murals, amazing murals, which the agent estimates would cost a million dollars to replicate, illuminate spaces – the dining room?
The design of this room could only encourage the most retiring guest to add full throated opinion to discussion, adding to the enjoyment of lucky guests seated around a large and inviting table.
The living areas are more salons than rooms – the furnishings (much of which may be negotiated as part of the sale) are silk and brocade and guilt and perfect for these most wonderful spaces.
What I wouldn’t give to have been lucky enough to have attended a big ‘do’ here as a guest of the former owner who I am reliably told just loved to have folks over.
The pictures tell so much of the story – I mean look at that Teppenayaki kitchen/dining bar, it opens onto the INDOOR POOL!
The master bedroom, a study in pink, includes a sunlit sitting area, and measures a staggering 50sqm. The word ‘palatial’ came to mind again, but I may have been influenced by all the guilt furniture. The ensuite does not exceed expectations despite columns around the sunken bath, a flawless marble statue, and a shower encased in etched glass.
And the gardens – oh my giddy aunt! Three acres of towering conifers, swathes of rose beds and winding paths that tke you past waterfall endowed ponds surrounded by gnarled and bountiful weeping cherry trees.
Amazing, I could have wandered the halls and pathways for another hour or more, but the wonder dog was giving me that look from the front seat and it was time to go.
Di Jones Southern Highlands has the listing, and its looking for around $AUD3.9m
Prue Miller is a freelance property and architecture journalist in Sydney Australia.
The signature of Kings Cross, the El Alamein fountain was water sculptor Robert Woodward’s first commission; his last can be found here, in the courtyard garden of Peter and Angela Keel’s home in peaceful McMahons Point.
“It’s called Piper’s Rill,” Peter told me as we stood on the threshold shared by both the calming courtyard and the generous dining room, separated by giant pivot, glass doors.
The Keels lived at No. 33 Bank Street, and were looking for a larger home in 1997 when they approached their neighbour about buying No.31. Problem solved.
Sandstone, glorious sandstone is the heartbeat of what has become an exciting, almost sprawling home designed by acclaimed Architect Jon Johannsen. And the delight of winding one’s way through the rooms, the levels and the era’s is one of it’s greatest charms.
As Peter leads me through the home he brings me to the central stair way, lined by walls of sandstone, perfectly lit by the afternoon sun pouring through the skylights.
“This is how Jon resolved the two properties, these were the outside walls of 31 and 33,” said Peter just as we reached the top step, and I turned to see the perfect walls had formed an exquisite two story void and view into the home’s core.
Did I mention the pool and towering Morton bay figs? At times the light reflects off the pool and into the deep green foliage of the towering trees. Divine.
The Keels are well read, articulate art lovers and included space for both passions here. A rare occurrence, and an aspect that will be enjoyed by buyers who have trouble finding wall space on which to place beloved pieces.
One absolutely charming aspect is how the original rooflines, an almost whimsical A-line peak of sandstone, has been retained and revealed in the bedrooms. The combination of that, and wide openings to the street-side verandas, lined in blue petals, well, who wouldn’t want to lie back and relax?
“When you sand back here,” says Peter in one of the rooms, “you feel like you are floating in Jacarandas.” And he’s spot on.
What’s the showstopper? It’s very hard to decide, there is so much to be experienced here. For me it was the dining room; sandstone, (perfectly lit), timber, glass and plenty of room to enjoy an atmosphere of bonhomie, where fine wine and finer conversation would fill this fabulous home.
This story was published in part by NewsCorp’s Mosman Daily.