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‘I bought a $6.4m unit off-the-plan’

No regrets for this couple and their penthouse pets

Ask Mary-Jane Salier — known simply as ‘MJ’ — why she and her husband, Kris Gale, have bought a $6.4m penthouse off-the-plan in the Surry Hills Village development during a pandemic and she’s matter of fact.

“Yes, it’s a tricky time, but I’m an optimist at heart,” she said.

“TOGA does have an excellent reputation for delivering a quality product and I feel as though we know what we’re getting.”

And MJ, who leads the international regulatory team for US-based communications company Verizon, and Kris, who presents Fire Up! on FBi Radio, aren’t the only “optimists”.

Just three of the eight penthouses remain for sale, priced from $5.15m to $6.25m, offering luxurious 200 sqm internal spaces with city skyline views and terraces as big as 274 sqm.

As MJ says, there’s nothing else like it in their chosen inner-city patch: “The already built houses there are kind of small with lots of levels.”

And Surry Hills Village is no ordinary project. With construction expected to start late this year or early next, the grungy shopping centre often unkindly referred to as ‘Murder Mall’ on the 1.2 hectare site is set to be replaced in a residential, retail, hotel and commercial redevelopment valued at $450m.

Located on the corner of Cleveland and Baptist Streets, the SJB and BKH-designed apartments start at $875k for a 55 sqm one-bedder; $1.55m for an 81 sqm two-bedder and $2.65m for a 122 sqm three-bedder.

The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2023 or early 2024.

Artist’s impression of a Surry Hills Village penthouse

While the cheaper apartments don’t have off-street parking, perhaps importantly in the wake of COVID-19, they all come with a balcony or terrace.

The CEO of TOGA, Fabrizio Perilli, said he was happy with the current rate of sales, which were averaging one or two a week.

“With COVID, I think everyone’s had time to reflect and they’re looking at their home in a different light,” Perilli said.

“Most of us have had to adapt to working from home, and people are thinking more about accessibility of amenities, commercial and retail, being close to the CBD, Moore Park and open spaces.

“People want good-sized apartments with true studies and an extra bedroom, and they want good-sized terraces and balconies.”

He said that more than 30 of the 80 apartments released to the market so far had sold.

“We’re pretty happy with that — we’re ticking them off,” Perilli said.

Most of the buyers were from a 5km radius — Surry Hills itself; the CBD; Darlinghurst; Camperdown; Potts Point; Elizabeth Bay and Paddington.

But also further afield — Mosman; Seaforth; St Ives; Dural and also parts of Asia.

MJ and Kris currently live in Willoughby, but the plan was always to pack up the two-storey house in their leafy neighbourhood and move somewhere more central.

“We’ve got a lot of friends on that side of the Bridge and it’s really close to our gym — Hiscoes [in Crown Street],” MJ said.

One of the deciding factors was that their cavoodles — Luma and Pixie — would be welcome. “If it was no pets, it would be no us, basically,” she said.

The outside area, plus the dog-friendly park on the edge of the development helped win them over.

TOGA’S street cred was important. It’s famous for mixed-use developments such as Boheme in Bondi Beach, which has among its retail offerings Messina, China Doll, A Tavolla and Ciccia Bella Italian Osteria owned by Icebergs restaurateur, Maurice Terzini.

And there’s also a Harris Farm.

Perilli said it was too early to finalise retailers at Surry Hills Village, but safe to assume some well-known names will be in there.

“We’ve got quality operators at Boheme and that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing at Surry Hills,” he said.

“I’m very passionate about that retail precinct.

“We’ve obviously got Coles, and they’re really starting to evolve now.”

“And we‘re going to have lots of restaurants and cafes.”

“It’s going to be a fantastic precinct, with everything you need in one spot … we want people to treat it as a meeting spot.”

“It’s going to be quite an amazing development.”

And construction data out this week showed that there’s little prospect of a surge of new apartment development in such areas because of falling building activity during COVID-19.

Charter Hall Group’s Chris Freeman said a housing shortage was looming, particularly in Sydney’s east and on the northern beaches.

Development approvals for new housing this year sank to their lowest level in close to a decade, analysis of ABS data showed.

 

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How display suites build a case for property

We live in an era where the real and the virtual often merge, especially when it comes to selling property. Sophisticated CGI is used to market projects that are mere holes in the ground, seducing us with depictions of how they might eventually look.

A step between CGI and the end product is the traditional display suite, which can be a good means of showing the decorative and lifestyle potential of a space, while also providing touch, feel and atmosphere.

One of the most successful display suites I’ve seen was created by interior design practice Richards Stanisich for Wicks Place, a development by TOGA Group in Sydney’s Marrickville. “We were interested in creating an apartment interior which felt relaxed, earthy and accessible,” says director Kirsten Stanisich.

Using terracotta as a base, they worked with a tight colour palette to create the sense of refinement their property developer client was after. While fairly uniform tonally, a number of different materials have been used, each with a distinctive texture.

“We sourced materials made with minimal processing, like the linen on the sofa, the wool and sisal rugs, and the terracotta side table and vessels,” she says.

The pièce de résistance is a framed photograph by Terence W. “Because the materials represented within the image and the real-life materials around it are the same, it works a little like a giant mirror or portal, which could magically transport you to another place.”

 

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Wicks Place: The new residential community hub celebrating Marrickville’s industrial heritage

A new community in Marrickville blends the inner-west’s famed industrial heritage with a fresh new laneway culture to create a vibrant place for residents to live, work and socialise.

Wicks Place from developers TOGA and Danias Group will include more than 250 new homes, as well as shops, creative spaces and direct access to Wicks Park as part of the wider revitalisation of the Victoria Road precinct.

Raw materials such as brick, metal cladding and concrete will be incorporated into the design of the new buildings, as architect Stephen Cox, a director at Turner Studio, explains.

Wick’s Place will contain more than 250 new homes. Photo: TOGA

“Our vision for Wicks Place draws upon Marrickville’s longstanding community spirit and its dual residential and industrial past,” Cox says. “We’ve sought to create a place that brings delight to those who live and visit and leave a lasting legacy for the evolving suburb.”

The design connects a podium courtyard and ground-level retail stores to Wicks Park. More than 2300 square metres of retail and commercial spaces are planned. New laneways and footpaths create links to nearby streets and the surrounding neighbourhood.

“Just as Marrickville gains strength in diversity, there’s real diversity in the design layouts here too. There are triple and dual aspect apartments in one, two and three-bedroom homes. Even better, everyone gets an outlook,” Cox says.

TGR1720_WicksPark_S170_INT_2BLivingParkview_Final2000_uaeauc
Buyers have the choice of two interior colour palettes. Photo: TOGA

The five buildings are up to 12 storeys high. Homes on the upper floors offer sweeping city, district and park views. Closer to ground level, residents will have a vivid green backdrop from the communal gardens and Wicks Park. Many of the residences have oversized terraces and studies.

Kirsten Stanisich, director at Sydney interior architecture studio Richards Stanisich, outlines the vision behind the interior design.

“We’ve taken cues from the building’s architecture, the people who’ll live there and the natural environment,” Stanisich says. “Nature shapes the interior palette – a great counterpoint to our increasingly urban lives.”

TGR1720_WicksPark_S115_INT_1BKitchenLiving_Final2000_nfsxh4
Nature shapes the interior palette. Photo: TOGA

Buyers have a choice of two palettes, both of which embrace natural stone and soft colours to create a feeling of calm. “We’ve steered away from fads and trends and really sought to capture the unaffected spirit of the neighbourhood.”

The developer’s vision for the precinct includes craft breweries, gin distillers, coffee shops, artisan food outlets, boutique music venues, local pubs and a new creative arts centre.

 

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Market insights post-COVID-19

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the global economy, with the property market facing similar challenges. Historically, during similar tough economic periods, property has always proved to be a stable and successful investment for the astute investor, writes Fabrizio Perilli.

It is important to remember that Australia’s fundamentals in a post-COVID-19 period remain strong, in comparison with the rest of the world, and an investment today will prove successful over the medium to long term.

In NSW over the last five years, the property industry has experienced significant planning delays and a residential downturn, which has dampened the commencement of new projects in the last two years.

Together with the unpredictable impact of the global pandemic, these factors will have a significant negative impact to housing supply and completions over the next three to five years.

However, as our interstate and national borders start to reopen, green shoots will start to emerge quickly and investors and owner-occupiers alike will do well if they enter the property market.

Before investors get back into the market, however, here are a few key things to consider:

The current landscape

Since the start of the pandemic, the Australian government has been working hard with various industry bodies, such as the Property Council of Australia, to keep the property and construction industry buoyant. For example, there have been a number of cost-focused decisions made to assist and incentivise the development industry in starting new projects, such as the deferral of contribution payments.

On the stimulus front, the government is also implementing new short-term policies to help offset the negative economic and job impacts of COVID-19. For example, the NSW government recently announced the temporary abolishment of stamp duty for first home buyers on new homes under $800,000, with a stamp duty discount offered on homes valued up to $1 million.

These grants have several criteria to meet and timelines to adhere to, which means research is essential to not missing opportunities.

By understanding these announcements, investors can take advantage of new initiatives and, where applicable, reduce the initial outlay for their property purchase. They can also monitor what these changes will mean for the market and their existing property portfolio.

Due diligence

Research prior to purchase has always been a critical component to property investment.

The property development and construction sector has been under scrutiny in recent times due to several high-profile cases of defective buildings. This has brought about the appointment of the NSW Building Commissioner, who is focused on identifying risk-prone developers, builders and certifiers and stamping out unscrupulous behaviour. From TOGA’s perspective, this is a welcomed appointment as it will help to overhaul the industry and restore confidence in the market.

As a result, top-tier developers are working harder than ever to deliver design, construction and community excellence in all their projects.

It is important, however, for an investor to always carry out their research into the developer and builder’s track record, longevity and reputation for delivering quality projects.

It is also worthwhile checking the developer’s post-customer sales service performance, as this forms an important part of the experience and journey for a buyer of a new dwelling.

Strategic location

Many old mantras ring true, and “location, location, location” is one that remains vital in the property market. When looking for a property, it is important to consider the fundamentals that will stand the test of time.

Properties that are close to public transport infrastructure such as train stations, light rail and major roads, will provide rental demand as well as long-term growth potential. Development precincts that have access to retail and convenience amenities, an easy commute to the CBD, close proximity to schools or universities, and a lifestyle offering, such as great restaurants, parks or beaches, will always be in demand.

Investing in these suburbs early can produce a higher return when the planned projects are complete.

Take Marrickville, for example, it has exceptional transport connections, such as the newly opened WestConnex M8 tunnel, and future infrastructure projects, including the new Metro line and the WestConnex M4 tunnel due for completion in 2023.

Marrickville is also in close proximity to the Sydney CBD, the airport and universities and offers a vibrant cultural and retail scene. The area is undergoing a revitalisation of the Victoria Road Precinct, with new residential communities such as Wicks Place, set to start construction early next year. All these factors create a highly sought-after neighbourhood, which makes it a strong property investment prospect.

Understand the trends

We have noticed new drivers emerge in buyer behaviour and market interest since the COVID-19 pandemic. These trends will see an increase in demand for specific design, communal facilities and lifestyle elements in communities, making some projects more desirable than others.

Some of these trends include:

Apartments that optimise space and storage while also providing well-designed layouts that allow the occupants to easily live, work and socialise in their home environment. Key features that define this trend include a proper study space, useable balconies, appropriately sized entertaining spaces, and a butler’s pantry.

Provision of dedicated multipurpose spaces within a development that can be transformed into an office, gym, community facility or a wellness area that cater to buyer’s changing needs throughout the years.

Buyers have been starved of dining, retail and entertainment for the past few months, which has seen an increased focus on these features at communities.

Developments that are easily able to take advantage of different modes of transport, including train, bus and car, as well as education, health and public infrastructure, will always be desirable.

After being stuck inside during the COVID-19 lockdown, people have now placed a higher value on genuine outdoor space and close access to nature from their home. We are seeing buyers actively searching for a property that is close to parks and walking tracks to promote a healthy lifestyle.

Investment properties that deliver on the customer’s demands outlined above will be in high demand over the coming years.

By Fabrizio Perilli, CEO of TOGA

 

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TOGA unveils Turner’s rejuvenating design for iconic Marrickville precinct

Developers TPGA and the Danias Group have engaged Turner to design Wicks Place, with 272 apartments and over 2,300 square metres of boutique retail and commercial spaces.

The new community is part of the wider revitalisation of Marrickville’s Victoria Road Precinct which will create a thriving neighbourhood for residents to live, work and socialise. The new precinct creates connection between the established village centres of King Street, Newtown, Enmore, and Marrickville Road.

“At Wicks Place, we have drawn on Marrickville’s iconic industrial heritage and its strong culture to create a well-connected development for the community that enhances and celebrates the uniqueness of the area,” says Fabrizio Perilli, CEO at TOGA.

“Wicks Place will lead the rejuvenation of the wider Victoria Road Precinct and enhance the residential character of the area, creating a vibrant neighbourhood for a modern urban lifestyle. The precinct will include the introduction of activated laneways, significant planned infrastructure, new retailers, cycleways and community spaces, reinforcing Marrickville’s identity as a highly sought-after place to live.”

The renaissance of the Victoria Road precinct, led by TOGA and Danias, will reinforce Marrickville as a cultural hub of the Inner-West with a vast array of local craft breweries, gin distillers, coffee shops, artisan food outlets, boutique music venues, friendly local pubs and a new creative arts centre.

“Our family have lived, worked and breathed in the area for over 40 years. We have long held a vision to create a contemporary precinct for the local community that will bring a unique experience to Marrickville,” said Angelo Angelopoulos, CEO of the Danias Group.

“Marrickville is going through a revival. People are seeking out the area as a place that has culture, vibrancy, creative spaces and modern living opportunities. Marrickville continues to be one of Sydney’s most searched and sought-after suburbs for property buyers and we believe that this demand will continue to grow,” Angelopoulos adds.

The building design will form a horseshoe shape with a podium park in the centre to take best advantage of environmental conditions, expansive views and the local surroundings; featuring large green spaces, BBQ areas and communal spaces for residents to socialise and enjoy nature.

Director at Turner, Stephen Cox, says, “Wicks Place is about celebrating all the great things about Marrickville. It’s about creating a new place where residents and community want to be. The design connects to the adjoining Wicks Park with both the podium courtyard and the ground level retail stores opening out to embrace the open green spaces. New laneways and pedestrian pathways connect through to nearby streets and the local neighbourhood. Apartments are designed for entertaining, and with 2,300 square metres of convenient retail on the ground floor, Wicks Place is ideal to become a local meeting place.”

Construction will commence in the first half of 2021 and Wicks Place is set to be completed in 2023.

 

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Sydney’s most sought-after development projects

Foreign investors have kept a watchful eye on Australia’s property market during weeks of Covid-19 shutdown with a series of apartment projects in demand across Sydney.

According to REA Group, Australia’s residential property sector has remained high on the radar of foreign investors, with Asian buyers increasingly searching for stable markets and top-end development projects amid the fast-evolving Covid-19 pandemic.

The country’s largest real estate portal found that in the three months to end of June, newly-launched and recently completed development projects across a number Sydney’s most affluent suburbs topped its search results.

It also noted that international searches for property across its platform jumped 22 per cent year-on-year, bolstered by virtual and video inspections in the wake of the international border closure.

High-rise developments such as Crown Group’s recently-completed $575 million Infinity project, Cbus Property’s under construction Epping project The Langston and Meriton’s 553-apartment project in Parramatta, were amongst the most-viewed products online.

Boutique developments also scored the attention of REA’s international audience, with planned projects in revered locations such as Edgecliff and the waterfront suburb of Coogee in focus.

Australia over recent months has been widely recognised on the international stage as being successful in containing the coronavirus outbreak, despite recent clusters emerging in Sydney and Melbourne.

Although still low, Sydney’s residential market has also been buoyed by a recent uptick in home-buyer sentiment across the June quarter, after restrictions started to ease.

Here are the top 10 most-searched development projects by foreign investors in Sydney.

 

10. Ladera—Primus Property Group

Bellevue Hill

Ladhera Sydney
▲ Architect: Luigi Rosselli Architects

 

9. Infinity—Crown Group

Green Square

Infinity Crown Group

▲ Architect: Koichi Takada


 

8. 180 George—Meriton

Parramatta

180 George Street, Parramatta, NSW 2150
▲ Architect: Woods Bagot

 

7. Anden—Central Element

Coogee

anden coogee
▲ Architect: MHNDU

 

6. The Langston—Cbus Property

Epping

The Langston
▲ Architect: Architectus

 

5. Aristocrat—Luxcon

Rose Bay

Aristocrat Rose Bay Sydney
▲ Architect: PBD Architects

 

4. Surry Hills Village—TOGA

Redfern

surry hills village redfern Toga
▲ Architect: SJB, Architect Prineas

 

3. Pointe—Primo Developments

Edgecliff

Pointe Edgecliff
▲ Architect: Luigi Rosselli Architects

 

2. Dusk—Clutch Capital

Rose Bay

Dusk Rose Bay
▲ Architect: Bureau SRH

 

1. King & Philip—Galileo

Sydney CBD

King & Phillip Sydney
▲ Architect: fjmt

 

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Coronavirus real estate: Full steam ahead for Stella, Benson, 1788, Aristocrat, Surry Hills Village

It’s full steam ahead for luxury off-the-plan apartments in Sydney’s east, agents say, despite most not securing a sale for at least a month because of COVID-19.

Other signs of the difficult times are jobless hospitality workers turning up at building sites looking for work; hoarding of building materials and dramatically different work practices.

Yet Rose Bay’s Stella is ahead of schedule and will be complete by Christmas; Luxcon Group’s Aristocrat by June and Fortis Development Group’s The Benson by July.

The 1788 Residences in Double Bay will also be complete in “late 2020” and work is expected to start in October on Surry Hills Village, albeit three months later than anticipated.

And McGrath agents sold a just-complete townhouse in Elevate in Randwick for about $2.9 million over the Easter break.

At Stella, construction manager Toby Meads says he has jobless at his gate every day.

“Seeing so many people unemployed, all the tradies are up for the task and determined to make it work,” he said.

“We’re very grateful that the construction industry has not been shut down during the crisis.”

The builders at the Newcastle St site are taking advantage of Planning Minister Rob Stokes’s announcement on April 2 that they can now work seven days a week.

“We are fortunate, progress is ahead of schedule,” Meads said.

However, it’s taken careful planning, with windows and doors manufactured locally. Hoarding of building materials is also rife in the industry.

“Some sites have been significantly delayed as the windows are imported from China and some trades are experiencing hoarding of building materials such as electrical cables etc,” Meads said.

Work practices have also changed, to accommodate the social distance rules.

There are fewer builders on the site at one time.

Specific walkways to maintain separation are created.

Meal times are staggered.

Spitting is forbidden.

Cigarette butts have to go in the bin.

Touch points are reduced: access doors are left open where possible.

Sales agent Peter Anderson, of Christies International, says of the 11 premium apartments by the Windesea Group, eight remain for sale, priced from $3.95 million for a two-bedder.

The apartments, designed for senior buyers aged between 55 and over 90, have lots of windows and are full of light. They also come with either two or three side-by-side car spots, which is rare.

Anderson said the market in the east had started strongly this year and “all indicators are pointing to a strong back end to 2020 once this pandemic has been overcome”.

He believes during this self-isolation period, property owners will assess their current living arrangement and will quicken their downsizing time frame, both from a financial and property maintenance viewpoint.

Stella has been designed for downsizers with its ideal location opposite the Royal Sydney Golf course and five minutes walk to the village and ferries.

“The development provides a safe and secure haven in Rose Bay,” he says.

Among the first to go at Stella were two top-floor units which will be combined to create one large penthouse. Sources told the Wentworth Courier the buyers were Vass Industries founder Nicholas Vass and his wife, Marion. Their $50 million Coolong Rd, Vaucluse, waterfront mansion remains for sale.

The penthouse at The Benson at 33 Newcastle St, has also sold along with two others, but Ray White Double Bay’s Michael Finger has offer and acceptance on three more.

“They’re selling well at an average of $29,000 per sq metre, which is strong … it’s such a hot spot.”

Another Rose Bay development is The Aristocrat, by Luxcon Group, at 483 Old South Head Rd, which is due for June completion, a month ahead of The Benson.

This consists of 24 apartments. Paul Biller of Biller Property reports that half have sold.

“Obviously there’s been less buyer interest due to the virus,” Biller said.

“But this development has the best finishes of those available in the area and these apartments will sell themselves when buyers can walk through and see the finished product.”

The prices of those remaining are two bedders priced between $1.9 million and $2.5 million, with three-bedders $2.8 million to $4 million.

Meanwhile, the $10.5 million penthouses were also among the first to go at the Double Bay development 1788 when they were first launched to the market in August, 2017.

CBRE agent Ben Stewart had sold $55 million worth of apartments within hours on launch day, from the buyers who’d registered interest. A month later he sold an amalgamation of two apartments for $13.75 million, smashing the suburb record.

With completion coming into view, Ray White Double Bay’s Craig Pontey was charged with selling what remained of the 31 units.

He has 11 left. His most recent sales were a one-bedder for $1.69 million; two-bedders for $3.4 million and two three-bedders $6.25 million and $6.4 million.

But his last sale there was back in February.

Sales have also been in hibernation for the past month at the Surry Hills Village — TOGA Group’s redevelopment of the rundown old ‘Murder Mall’ shopping centre on the corner of Cleveland and Baptist St.

TOGA CEO Fabrizio Perilli says: “We haven’t had a huge expectation of realising a sale … we’re getting strong inquiry on our website and this will convert to sales when people can access our display suite.”

An artist’s impression of TOGA’S Surry Hills Village on the corner of Baptist and Cleveland St.

The SJB and BKH-designed apartments cost about $1 million per bedroom. There have been 22 sales so far, including the three penthouses in the first stage which sold for between $4.5 million and $6 million depending on the size.

When asked if there was any prospect of prices being reduced because of the crisis, he said: “We think we’ve priced them well … by 2021, 2022 and 23 there will be significant supply issues in the NSW market and we’ll start to see some price increases.

“We’ve priced them for today … our apartments won’t be complete until 2022 or 23 at best.

“So buyers will look back and see they were good value.”

He’s optimistic that building will start in October.

The townhouses, developed by Bondi Construction and designed by Brenchley Architects with interiors by Coco Republic, were opened for private inspection for the first time during the Easter week.

The exchange was done over the Easter break, with the buyers eastern suburbs locals. They’d recently sold their home and had been renting in Potts Point.

Two townhouses remain in Elevate: one for $2.69 million and the other for $2.9 million.

The apartments are designed by SJB with interiors by BKH

“We’re very passionate about this project … it’s our best development yet,” Perilli said.

“It’s a 1.2 hectare site in the City of Sydney … you don’t get these projects every day of the week.”

Meanwhile, agents selling just-completed new developments are having better luck selling during the coronavirus crisis.

Over Easter, Imran Hamidi and Kevin Mendes of McGrath Coogee sold a three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse with double parking in the Elevate complex at 2 Llanfoyst St, Randwick, for about $2.9 million.

The townhouses, developed by Bondi Construction and designed by Brenchley Architects with interiors by Coco Republic, were opened for private inspection for the first time during the Easter week.

The exchange was done over the Easter break, with the buyers eastern suburbs locals. They’d recently sold their home and had been renting in Potts Point.

Two townhouses remain in Elevate: one for $2.69 million and the other for $2.9 million.

 

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How to turn your balcony into a green oasis

For the less-than-green-thumbed among us, the thought of creating a garden of our own can be daunting. Even a relatively small-scale balcony garden seems beyond reach. But getting your apartment terrace or balcony to look like an oasis of green isn’t necessarily as hard as you think. These 10 tips will have you well on the way to growing an urban patch of perfection.

1. Do your research

Before anything else, it’s essential to check the load-bearing capacity of your balcony with your body corporate or building supervisor. Once you know that, look at your balcony’s orientation – which direction does it face? How much sun does it get every day? Is it really windy? These factors will all determine plant choice.

2. Consider how you’ll use the space

Really think about what you want to use the area for. Is it primarily a quiet spot to enjoy a cup of coffee and take in the view? Or do you want to entertain lots of friends? If it’s the former, you might only need a small wrought-iron table and chairs; for the latter, consider an extendable table and folding chairs that you can stow when they’re not being used.

3. Think about continuity

The key to creating great indoor-outdoor spaces is continuity. ”An outdoor space should have some correlation to your interior, especially if it is very near or connected to the indoors,” says Terrace Outdoor Living’s Paul Joseph Hopper. If your interiors are minimal and neutral-toned, so your balcony garden should be, too.

4. Start small

If gardening is new to you, take baby steps. “Don’t undermine your intentions by starting too big as too many plants and the maintenance required can overwhelm a new gardener,” says garden writer Isabelle Palmer.

5. Keep it simple

Don’t be tempted to clutter your outdoor area. “Before you know it, your little courtyard or balcony is crowded and messy, too hard to maintain and not inviting,” says Hopper. Limiting your colour palette will help, too. Palmer recommends using no more than three shades for your plants, or different tones of one colour, to keep the space looking serene. (This doesn’t include green, of course.)

6. Add green drama

Hopper favours plants with lots of sculptural appeal. His current favourites? “I love the big, beautiful leaves of a Monstera deliciosa or Strelitzia nicolae, the sculptural branches of a frangipani and the super-trendy Ficus lyrata,” he says. If you want a garden to pop with colour all year round, you’ll need to add some annuals (plants that last for a year) or perennials (plants that live for two or more years) to your crop.

7. Go vertical

Vertical gardens have been trending for several years, and with good reason. Not only do they look striking, vertical gardens also take up very little floor space – making them ideal for balconies and terraces. Vertical garden hardware is readily available, and what you plant is only limited by your imagination.

8. Choose larger pots

Once you’ve checked your load-bearing capacity, remember that larger pots not only look more dramatic, they’re better for your plants, too. Research has found that doubling pot size makes plants grown 40 per cent larger. “Aesthetically, the proportions of bigger pots look better as well,” Palmer says. Make sure your pots have appropriately sized saucers too, to limit water damage to your balcony’s surface.

9. Light it up

Nothing adds atmosphere to an outdoor space more than lighting. Creating an inviting night-time ambience is also dead simple and inexpensive. “Candles and suspended lanterns are always pretty and we love ropes of LED lights which you can weave through branches or hang from beams,” says Hopper.

10. Dress your pots

You can add style to your potted plants with a layer of “top dressing” – anything from sculptural pebbles or pieces of slate to more rustic wood bark chips. It will unify the look of your pots, and also helps to stop water evaporating from the soil’s surface.

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How Surry Hills property prices have bucked a Sydney-wide trend

Image: Surry Hills Village by TOGA

Property owners in Sydney have been watching the market nervously in recent months as prices have begun to drop – and many experts, including the Reserve Bank, are worried that the market might deteriorate further in the year ahead.

In the vast majority of Sydney suburbs, both median house and median apartment prices have fallen noticeably since the start of 2018. But there are a few notable exceptions – one of which is the inner-city enclave and lifestyle hub of Surry Hills.

Property watchers say Surry Hills’s unbeatably central location, incredible density of dining and social venues, atmospheric character and cachet among affluent urbanites have helped it stand its ground while almost every other neighbourhood in the city has registered price falls.

According to data from Domain, the median house price in Surry Hills rose 2.6% in the 2018 calendar year, while the median apartment price rose 1%. Those figures might sound modest, but they are remarkable when you consider that the median house price Sydney-wide fell a hefty
-9.9% in 2018 and the median apartment price fell -5.8%.

In other words, Surry Hills not only managed to buck the trend of price declines, but actually delivered price growth during an enormously challenging period.

In the current housing climate, investment experts say it’s wise to think long term, and this data is just the latest in a run of above-average results for Surry Hills. Domain data shows that, in the past five years, house prices in the suburb have risen 54% and apartment prices have risen 51%, compared with 39% and 25% Sydney-wide. In the past decade, Surry Hills house prices have risen 106% and apartment prices have risen 102%, compared with 75% and 64% Sydney-wide.

The strength of the Surry Hills market is mirrored in sought-after suburbs of several major cities around the world. In both New York and London, cultural vibrancy and exceptional convenience have protected choice neighbourhoods from city-wide softening.

In London, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit contributed to a -1.64% drop in prices in the year to February 2019, according to data from Foxtons. But in the EC2 postcode, which sits just east of city centre and incorporates part of the trendy cultural neighbourhood of Shoreditch, prices rose a whopping 7.37%, reflecting the area’s winning combination of proximity to London’s commercial heart, hip reputation and abundance of lifestyle amenities – a trio of factors mirrored by Surry Hills.

Meanwhile, in New York, prices rose 4% in 2018, according to Bloomberg – relatively modest by the city’s standards. But in the historic neighbourhoods of Flatiron and Gramercy Park, which are directly south of the main business district and home to some of the city’s best restaurants, growth was much higher: 15.2% in Flatiron and 12% in Gramercy Park (excluding newly built stock). Given those similarities, perhaps it’s not surprising that Bourke Street Bakery, a Surry Hills institution, plans to open its first overseas branch in Flatiron in February.

As 2019 unfolds, property owners can have confidence that however the Sydney-wide market performs, Surry Hills will fare considerably better.

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Brilliant space-saving ideas for apartment living

Three experts offer their best space-saving advice and tips.

Let’s face it: an apartment is unlikely to have the same storage capacity as a house with a double garage and shed. That presents some challenges, particularly for those downsizing from a large family house in the suburbs to apartment living in the city. So, whether you’re a downsizer or simply someone with a lot of stuff, these five expert tips will give you plenty of room to breathe.

Edit, edit, edit

Moving into new digs presents the perfect opportunity to undertake a ruthless edit of your belongings. “Now is the time to let go of things that you have been holding on to for any number of reasons,” says stylist and professional organiser Sarah Shanahan. “Once the purging has been done, you can be happy in the knowledge that the things you are taking are really loved. Your possessions need to spark some sort of joy to make it to the next address.” Stylist Carmen Parker agrees: “Decluttering is the key to a smooth transition into a smaller space.”

Made to measure

It’s absolutely essential that you measure every room in your new apartment before you move in. “That way, you will have a much clearer idea of what you can take with you and what needs to be sold before you move,” says Parker. Bulky oversized furniture is unlikely to be a good fit for a smaller space. “Really choose your furniture items wisely,” Parker advises. “Whatever your style, bring only what fits and don’t crowd your new apartment with big items or too many pieces.”

Double duty

When moving into a smaller home, it’s important that you consider furniture items that serve more than one purpose. “For example,” says Parker, “a wall unit, built for storage, could also house a small desk space and the television. An ottoman with a removable top could be additional storage and could also serve as a coffee table.” Shanahan suggests bench seating with under-seat storage to stow bulky seasonal items such as blankets, quilts and beach towels.

Seek the light

Colour choice is paramount. Experts advise using a light, neutral base for small spaces, choosing larger pieces of furniture (rugs, couches) in similar colour tones, then adding pops of colour through smaller accessories. “This will create a cohesive look without it feeling overwhelming or claustrophobic,” says Parker. “Layers of texture in the same colour is a beautiful way to bring interest to a small space without making it busy.” Resene Paints Australia colour consultant Nikki Morris suggests using paint colours with a high light reflectance value (LRV), which can help reflect and bounce natural light around a room and give it the illusion of being brighter and more spacious.

Short and sweet

Finally, a few quick tips…

 

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