Holiday homes by Australia’s most controversial architect
Airbnb and other short-term rental websites have made it easier to buy, manage and profit from short-term rentals of luxury real estate. Photo: Joe Buglewicz for The Wall Street Journal
FROM a ghastly block of flats overlooking Tamarama Gully in Sydney’s eastern beaches to an 25-storey brick tower that sticks out on the banks of Sydney Harbour like a sore thumb, Harry Seidler designed some of Sydney’s most disliked buildings.
But when Seidler applied the cold calculus of his Bauhaus design to freestanding homes, he created a series of modernist masterpieces cut straight out of the set of Mad Men that are now rated among Australia’s sought-after trophy homes.
“Any house designed by Harry Seidler has serious wow factor,” says Contemporary Houses CEO Terry Kaljo who shared a long friendship with the architect before he died in 2006.
“The curves that are signatures of his later style are gorgeous. I love the way he made cement sexy.”
Until recently, there were only two ways to step inside a Seidler home: cough-up millions to buy one or visiting the Rose Seidler house in the Sydney suburb of Wahroonga — one of 12 historical properties managed by Sydney Living Museums in NSW. But now, thanks to the sharing economy, a number of Seidler-designed homes are available for holiday rentals.
HOLLYWOOD MANSION IN THE BUSH
Balanced on the edge of a sandstone escarpment overlooking Wingecarribee Gorge in the Southern Highlands of NSW, the Seidler House invokes the glitz and glamour of the mansions of the Hollywood Hills. This gravity-defying sculpture has four voluminous bedrooms, ridiculously oversized living areas and 180-degree valley, bushland and river views.
“It has all the lifestyle elements you could think to put in a luxury home — a large pool, open fireplace, huge decks, interesting gardens and total privacy. No other house can be seen from the estate,” says Ms Kaljo of Contemporary Hotels.
Where: Joadja, NSW
Hip Pocket: from $1600 per night
BLAST FROM THE PAST
It had to happen — a Harry Seidler home on Airbnb. The ‘Seidler Modernist Beachside Cottage’ is a one-bedroom set in dense bushland on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. The decor is a blast-from-the-past with a retro fridge and kitchen appliances, a pink bathroom and Eames’ lounge chair.
And an added bonus for architecture buffs: all funds raised from the rental are invested in the cottages’s restoration. “The purpose of this home being listed with Airbnb is to share a unique, artistic and calming place with those that are truly interested,” say owners Emma and Luke.
“If you appreciate this era and Harry’s early designs and want to experience the 1950s for a few days, you’re more than welcome.”
Where: Mona Vale, NSW
Hip Pocket: from $200 per night
SYDNEY STATEMENT HOUSE
With sweeping views of Sydney Harbour, this four-bedroom house nestled into a quiet cul-de-sac in the suburb of Castlecrag is the quintessential Sydney statement house. The facade is pure old-school Seidler — big slabs of polished concrete, expansive terraces, a waterfront pool and floor-to-ceiling windows with leafy water views.
But the cutting-edge interior suggests a recent and very expensive renovation. Stainless steel kitchen — tick. Private gym — tick. Bathroom layered with a quarry’s worth of marble — tick again.
Where: Castlecrag, NSW
Hip Pocket: $10,000 per week