Written by John Williams
As locations go, 10 Ireland Street, Freemans Bay doesn’t get much better for those looking for the ultimate in peaceful city fringe living. Ireland Street is a no-through thoroughfare, so it’s very quiet, yet it is one of the last true suburban streets before the city starts. There is no noise from the arterial routes of College Hill and Franklin Road, yet it’s less than a minute’s drive to both. And because you’re at the foot of the ridgeline, it’s a flat walk to Victoria Park, just 150m away, and New World, which is literally at the end of the street. It’s perfect.
A perfect location is one thing, but it amounts to very little if the house doesn’t match the quality of its site. When Elaine Fergusson bought this property a little more than 18 months ago, she saw the potential immediately and instantly had a vision.
“When I walk through a house, I always see it finished. And [with Ireland Street], I've done exactly what I thought the first day I came to see it, right down to the furniture placement and where all my art would go. It's like a huge jigsaw puzzle in my head,” says Elaine.
However, before Elaine was in a position to put her inimitable touches to the house, there were some serious matters to address.
“The house was incredibly wonky – about 12cm out from the back to the front – which is maybe why it was difficult to sell the last time it was on the market. I didn't realise that until I first walked around, and it rattled and moved around. So I had it re-piled it and put new French oak floors down throughout. I also completely double-glazed the house, apart from the two sets of French doors at the front, and put in ducted underfloor heating and cooling. I re-insulated floors and ceilings and re-wired the house entirely. Everything is done.”
Given the soaring building costs and time delays due to supply chain issues, that’s a major tick for any prospective homeowner.
The house is perfectly balanced from the street – the front door, the veranda, the roofline, and even the dormers. One of the first things that attracted Elaine to the house was its symmetry. "I love symmetry. However, you must throw it off to achieve a balance."
Although the two front rooms are identical in size and shape, and both have French doors that lead out to the sunny front veranda, Elaine deliberately renovated one to be more traditional, introducing a decorative chandelier and wainscotting around the walls. Conversely, its twin, on the other side of the hallway, has plain walls and a modern light fitting. This room is currently fitted out as a dedicated office, with a built-in desk, drawers and shelving – a perfect work-from-home set-up – but it could easily be reconfigured as a lovely double bedroom.
"I did lots of things that were just for me – subtle things that no one else would notice, like changing out the stained glass in the door into the kitchen, to a more neutral colour – because I thought I was going to stay here forever, but now I'm not."
In the kitchen, Elaine replaced all the cabinetry, the cooking range, rangehood, butler's sink and fridge. It’s not a large space, but every last centimetre of storage has been used, including built-in soft-close drawers and cabinets under the staircase. Also, a tall, glass-fronted display cabinet for crockery. "to be honest, I can't even fill it all up,” she says.
The laundry and downstairs bathroom is off the kitchen. Apart from a fresh coat of paint, this room hasn’t been touched. It was the next and final room that Elaine was going to tackle, but that can be a small job for the new owners, she says. Although, to be honest, it doesn’t need doing.
Walking through the kitchen, the house opens to its full width, revealing a large dining and informal living space, with full-height windows and doors opening onto a huge covered deck. Here, again, symmetry rules, with two sets of French doors sitting aside a perfectly portioned window seat.
This is clearly the home's entertainment hub, with endless options on how to configure the space. The adjacent covered deck has a full-width retractable awning that extends the usable space into an all-weather entertainment area. Effectively, the north-facing deck adds another 30sqm to the usable footprint of the house, which is significant.
A few steps down from the deck is a private garden lined with mature hedging. Here, Elaine ripped out the original grass, replacing it with a realistic, low-maintenance artificial turf, creating a cool suntrap with a ‘sunken lounge’ feel.
Back inside, the journey around this quirky home continues. In case you hadn’t noticed, Elaine likes quirkiness – it’s one of the characteristics she looks for in a house, along with separate rooms. “I don’t like open-plan, where everything is all in one big room. It doesn’t feel cosy to me.”
The cosiest room in this house is undoubtedly the snug. Elaine has again made her mark by reintroducing historical features, such as wainscotting, a chimney breast, and a hearth. Hidden amongst the wall-to-wall art is a Frame TV, which displays a chosen piece of art when not being used. Clever. There’s another upstairs in the master bedroom. Both can stay, says Elaine.
The ‘world’s smallest but perfectly formed staircase leads to the first-floor bedroom suite. It’s a short but interesting journey – like walking through one of Escher’s drawings. To be honest, it won’t be for everyone, admits Elaine. However, the destination is well worth it.
The room is a crucifix shape, with the queen bed occupying the top as you come up into the room, a good-sized secluded deck with city views at the bottom, a further small 'morning' deck out on one arm, and a small bathroom the other. It's a delightfully quirky space, unique and full of character. Someone is going to fall in love with this space; I do not doubt this.
Again, Elaine has made the very most of every centimetre of space to create more storage than most people could fill. And it’s now that you understand why Elaine put in the wall downstairs – to give the bedroom privacy.
So, who’s going to be interested in this unique little house? It’s a good question.
Elaine is very honest in her appraisal and expectations. "I don't think it's a huge family house, although I could see a couple living here. It will probably be someone arty, even if they don't like all my stuff. I think it will be people who like to entertain. Downsizers, professional people, or just plain cool people.”
“Someone has to come in and imagine my stuff not in here. When it’s empty, it still looks really cool – there are nice details and shadow lines in all the rooms, so it would suit a minimalist look, too. If you wanted it plain, there is still interest.”
No matter how you look at it, 10 Ireland Street is a very well-thought-out house that has had a quality, top-to-bottom renovation. Historical details have been reintroduced where needed, along with all the mod cons and upgrades to make it a warm and comfortable home.
Although auctions have lost their shine over the past few months, Elaine has opted to market her home by this proven method of sale because it is so different to what’s currently available.
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