Cool in the tube: the terrace house stands the test of time
by Elizabeth Farrelly
The terrace house gives a whole new meaning to the idea of the London tube. London’s standout characteristic, as you trek in by taxi or train, is neither its veiled beauty nor its vile weather, though both are in play, but its countless rows of conjoined houses; mute, serried, identical.
I like London in winter. Also in recession – a city should be seen doing what it does best. But London’s loveliness, partly in defiance of these threats, is subtle and fugitive, set deep within a tough crusted carapace that is, in its way, as disciplined as a Bach cantata. The atomic particle of both the discipline and the beauty is that tube of space we call the terrace house.
It’s no accident that Sydney, too, is a terrace-house town, especially in its lovely inner reaches. But the Sydney terrace, which many consider dour and restrictive, is positively flamboyant, positively expressionistic, compared with London’s.
London is made of terraces as bread pudding is made of bread. There are raisins and custard, to entice the eating, but the basic tissue is row housing. From Bedford Square to Tufnell Park, London is the terrace house.
This wasn’t always true. Had Sydney spun off London at some other moment in history, Glebe, Surry Hills and Paddington might have comprised jut-jawed half-timbered Norman townies or semi-detached brick bungalows. As it is, Sydney’s entire centre, and increasingly its aspirational new-burbs, are also terrace-based.
It shouldn’t work. The theory of thermal building specifies lightweight, thermally responsive construction for warm, humid climates. But, having lived 20 years in Sydney terraces, I can report that they suit Sydney, if anything, better than London.
The brick terrace’s two-month thermal lag makes my terrace warm for most of the winter and cool for most of the summer. (I just have to spend February in Europe!)
This saves heating and cooling energy, makes walkable neighbourhoods (also saving fuel) and establishes a comfortable balance in the tug-of-war between the individual and the collective.
But how did this inspired device, this tube for urban living, come about? Tubes are everywhere. Guts, veins, rivers, worms, trees, tracheae, people; trains, halls, sewers, roads, tunnels and houses. The tube is one of nature’s favoured morphemes, and where nature goes, culture follows.
But history does not record the first-ever terrace house. English scholars make it Vicars’ Close in Wells, dated 1363.
But the huge preponderance of the London terrace starts, like so many things, with Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell’s trashing of the monasteries in the 1530s freed roughly a quarter of all England and Wales – including vast tracts of the City and Westminster – for handing out to the mates. In Sydney terms, this is the Obeids being gifted Macquarie and Bridge streets.
There were no planning statutes to speak of. London’s first building assize (or regulation), issued in 1189 by its first mayor, required neighbours to contribute equally to metre-thick stone party-walls between properties but there was little enforcement and, half a century on, most buildings were still timber.
As the Elizabethan stability allowed noble families to decamp to the countryside, London flooded with the new merchant classes from all over Europe. This influx, reinforced by Elizabeth’s opening of the new Royal Exchange in 1570, produced the cultural explosion of the English renaissance.
It also produced rampant inflation, with the parvenus jostling for Royal proximity and in turn generated the city-building force we now take as given: speculative development.
By 1580 development pressure was so extreme that the Queen banned all new dwellings within three miles of the city gates. The prohibition was well meant, but actually effected the endless rebuilding of existing wooden buildings, and their endless subdivision into ever-smaller apartments. London in 1665 – much like Bankstown, 2012 – was a disaster waiting to happen. Development, meanwhile, became the privilege of those who could afford the Royal licence – namely, nobles.
The Bedford Estate was amongst the first. In 1630, almost a century after the initial land-grant of 1551, Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford, paid the Crown a massive £2000 before commissioning Inigo Jones to design Covent Garden on the old convent garden.
Jones copied his design from Paris’s lovely Place des Vosges. A church fronted a grand central square that was otherwise formed by four-storeyed terraces. But where the Vosges was a Royal palace (modelled in turn on Palladio’s 1542 Palazzo Thiene in Vicenza), Covent Garden was divided vertically into terrace houses for the nouveaux riches.
This brought benefits. It increased density and profit while giving relatively modest houses, shaped to English individualism (each having its own ground and sky) the collective look of a palace.
This set the model. When the worst-ever plague of 1665 was followed by the worst-ever fire, the first terrace house Act made that model universal.
An Act for the rebuilding of the City of London 1667 required all buildings to be stone or brick. It established four sizes, or rates, of terrace house, specified all party-wall thicknesses in relation to their height, and all building heights – up to six storeys – in relation to street width.
It also banned facade projections and load-bearing timber. Non-complying properties could be demolished and resumed and their owners whipped ”… till his body be bloody.” Et viola! The plain Georgian terrace.
Hence, also, the Sydney terrace, since our own first Building Act of 1837 closely replicated that two-century-old original.
The elegance of this new device was two-fold. Linking building height to both wall-thickness and street-width made the terrace easily scalable according to means. It also gave even the most modest street a collective dignity and drama that could never accrue from individual dwellings.
Of course, Sydney’s patience with Georgian stricture was never going to last. We were soon decorating our own with balconies and wrought-iron lacework that owed more to a 19th century sensibility and probably came via the terraces of New York.
Since then, we’ve also become adept – through adaptations by Alec Tzannes, Glenn Murcutt, Richard Huxley, Clinton Murray, Tone Wheeler and others – at flooding the terrace with light and space while maintaining the original street-making discipline.
The Sydney terrace, at once expressionist and cohesive, is our very own: one of the few housing forms that is unmistakably Sydney. We should treasure and refine it, as a sustainable city-making device of genius.
Part Of This Brick Stable House Still Stands Today
by Jessica Dailey
This arched brick building was built more than a century ago as a stable and carriage house for a wealthy New Yorker. It was praised for its design when it was built, as it had carved woodwork, burnished wrought iron details, and the stalls were kept “clean and trim.”
The carriage house could fit “every style of pleasure vehicle that a gentleman’s fancy can picture,” and the building’s second use was solely for cars. Today, only a portion of the building remains. Do you know where it is or who it was originally built for?
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by Scott Bridges
Beginning in 1876 as a two-story adobe guesthouse, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa in historic downtown Riverside, approximately 55 miles east of Los Angeles, now occupies an entire city block that encompasses 320,000 square-feet.
I made the short trek out the 60 Freeway to the 91 interchange recently to get my first glimpse of the hotel as it celebrated its 110th anniversary. I had not expected such grandeur. The mission-style structure is the crowning jewel of a charming downtown. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a State of California Historic Landmark, and is a member of Historic Hotels of America.
Tours of the property are available through the Mission Inn Foundation, which operates the on-property museum. Docents are available to give 75-minute presentations of the history behind the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa. While touring the property, I careened back and forth between being educated and awed.
More than $7 million of antiques and artifacts adorn the hotel. The museum displays an extensive collection of artifacts from around the world, including Craftsman period furniture, 16th and early 20th century paintings and Far Eastern historical pieces.
In 1903, original owner Frank Miller began to expand the original facilities, a process that took more than three decades to complete, and which incorporates design elements from across the southwestern U.S. and the Mediterranean, with a particular influence from the California missions. It incorporated the work of notable California architects like Arthur Benton, Myron Hunt and G. Stanley Wilson, whose work blended several architectural elements, such as flying buttresses, domes, a bell tower, clock towers, interior courtyards and patios, a five-story open-air rotunda and a circular wrought-iron staircase.
In December 1992, the hotel reopened after a seven-year, $55 million renovation. Today, under the guidance of owner Duane R. Roberts, the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa includes 238 guest rooms, including 27 suites. The property also contains 20,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space, 5,000 square-feet of outdoor courtyard space, an outdoor swimming pool and two wedding chapels.
Over the years, the Inn has hosted numerous dignitaries, including five acting presidents. It was the site of Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s honeymoon, and has been the site of countless weddings, including both Bette Davis’ and Richard and Pat Nixon’s. On-property staff coordinates weddings large and small at the ornate St. Cecilia Chapel and the breathtaking St. Francis of Assisi Chapel.
With some $17 million in renovations over the last five years, every room has been revamped, and all feature distinct architectural details like domed ceilings, wrought-iron balconies, tile floors, stained glass windows or carved pillars.
The hotel features pampering, restorative and wellness treatments at Kelly’s Spa, a luxurious, serene European-style spa. The 7,000 square foot spa has a dozen treatment rooms, a pair of spa villas and a nail salon. It offers a variety of variety of therapeutic massage and revitalizing treatments, as well as soaking tubs, outdoor patio.
There is also an outdoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi, as well as a fitness center. In addition, there are recreational activities nearby including tennis, golf, shopping and wine tasting.
The Inn featuers several dining options, none more impressive than Duane’s Prime Steaks and Seafood, the Inland Empire’s only AAA Four-Diamond restaurant. It recently earned the Golden Bacus Award for outstanding wine selections. Duane’s embraces a farm-to-table philosophy and features a menu that includes many small plates and shareable dishes.
Duane’s steaks are a reminder of why human beings took up meat-eating in the first place. The Porterhouse and the Filet Mignon Oscar are worthy of song. And the scallops are the size of hockey pucks and practically melt on the fork. Furthermore, the lobster bisque is so rich and creamy with chunks of lobster meat strewn throughout, it is like liquid love.
And for dessert, nothing beats the chocolate soufflé with Grand Marnier and whipped cream. It’s proof of a devil. But for something heavenly, there’s Kelly’s apple pie — a small, full pie made with Guinness-soaked Granny Smiths.
54 Degrees at Duane’s: This interactive wine bar accompanies Duane’s, and offers an eclectic menu of wines and small bites in an upbeat, sophisticated setting. Impressively, there are more than 450 wines on the list and upwards of 7,000 bottles from around the world located in and under the restaurant (the catacombs beneath the Inn are the stuff of legend). There are an incredible 32 wines by the glass, and even by the 1.5-ounce and 3.2-ounce pour.
A handful of other restaurants offer something for every appetite. And for your sweet tooth, there’s Casey’s Cupcakes, winner of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. Casey Reinhardt’s confection boutique is reminiscent of a Parisian café, and features glass cases full of colorfully decorated cupcakes, each topped with Casey’s signature chocolate medallion.
Having lived in Southern California most of my life, I now consider it a travesty that I had never taken the opportunity to visit Riverside until now. I found its downtown to be an oasis of culture in the midst of a suburb-spotted desert. And the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is the city’s finest attraction.
This rustic-chic Galveston house has haunted beginnings
In a historic Victorian that was once reportedly inhabited by ghosts, a Houston boutique owner finds a bright, rustic-chic Galveston getaway
By Melanie Warner
The breeze blowing in from the Gulf on this day in Galveston is cool, and sun floods the gray painted wood plank flooring of the outdoor space, which is just large enough for the charming swing, an Adirondack chair and a small wicker table with a container of seashells on the bottom shelf.
The owner of the Rice Village linen and home store Olivine, Stroud, who also has a home in The Woodlands, bought this circa-1899 Victorian home in 2008 after Hurricane Ike using an inheritance from her aunt. In the ensuing months, she transformed the dark – and reportedly haunted, but more on that later – house into a bright, casual weekend retreat that combines rustic French country coziness and just a hint of coastal flair with elements paying homage to Stroud’s Louisiana roots.
“The truth is, when I first walked into this house, I thought it was so creepy,” said Stroud.
This diminutive balcony is accessed via what Stroud believes is a “trunk room,” which in homes of this era and style is where the well-heeled, well-traveled Victorian families would store their traveling trunks. It’s possible also that this small, single window room is a “bedroom” what we now call bedrooms were at the time referred to as “chambers.”
Whereas the chamber was a room for sleeping and dressing, the bedroom typically contained a daybed and would be used for naps, so that beds in the proper chambers weren’t messed up.
“It was not my taste at all,” said Stroud. “There was stenciling. The kitchen had big, huge ceramic tile [that] was a dark wine color.”
So Stroud ripped the dark tile and drab brown cabinets out of the kitchen, opting instead for painted gray wood floors and white Ikea shelves and cabinets. The countertops are butcher-block style, and the pièce de résistance is a deep, white porcelain farmhouse sink paired with a curvaceous Perrin & Rowe faucet.
Stroud made the executive decision to use the front living room as the dining room, and the dining room as the living room. She appointed each room with a combination of both rustic and soft, feminine elements, which along with the natural pine floors, creates an inviting atmosphere.
The living room, awash in white and gray, is appointed with four chairs and a sofa all slip-covered by Houston-based upholsterers and furniture purveyors Hein Lam. The coffee table has a wrought iron base and oval marble top, and a distressed wood table is nestled under the flat screen TV. A handful of decorative items – such as a shell-covered trunk and baskets – and art are placed on tabletops and the walls, but the overall look is sparse.
In the dining room, Stroud departed from the white and gray color palette, opting for blue walls. Stroud’s daughter, Catherine Stroud, created the farmhouse-style table using salvaged wood acquired locally at Antiques Warehouse, with the help of its owner and family friend, Scott Hanson.
Off the dining room is a generous foyer, with a long, blue wooden bench and grand wicker chair, which during Stroud’s popular Mardi Gras and Halloween parties doubles as a seating area for partygoers. It also is home to Stroud’s grandfather’s plantation desk.
Upstairs, the three bedrooms – or chambers, as they were – are a showcase for bedding from Stroud’s store Olivine. Layers and layers of linen drape and decorate each space.
Despite the bright, comfortable décor, Stroud said many a family member or friend has encountered a foreboding presence, especially in the middle of the night. “I have ghosts following me everywhere,” said Stroud. “They love me.”
Stroud said ghosts and Galveston go hand-in-hand. While it’s not a typical topic of conversation in Houston or The Woodlands, where she resides with her husband, surgeon Daniel Stroud, in Galveston, ghost stories are as common as seaweed on the beach.
Reports of dark figures chanting and pushing on Catherine Stroud, choking a family friend and clamoring up and down the stairs disturbing Stroud’s sister’s sleep led to a visit from an MTV psychic and TV crew to rid the home of its ghosts – by luring them into the trunk room to cross them over into the light through the window. Stroud, however, credits her long-time friend Sonya Fitzpatrick, the Animal Planet host of “The Pet Psychic” and “Pet Psychic Encounters,” with ridding the house of its harrowing hauntings after the show’s taping.
Not all of the ghosts were malevolent though, said Stroud, who often sensed the presence of two female spirits when she was picking out paint colors for the house, which has a barely gray exterior with white trim and blue and purple accents on a decorative wood border between the porch and balcony. “It’s kind of sad,” said Stroud. “I miss the women. They guided me.”
These days, sans benevolent, design-savvy Victorian ghosts, Stroud finds herself more in Galveston than in The Woodlands. Four years ago, Stroud said this idea wouldn’t even have occurred to her, were it not for having seen a post about historic Galveston houses on Joni Webb’s design blog, Cote de Texas.
Now, the shop owner looks forward to a day in the not-too-distant future when she and her husband can call Galveston and the storied Victorian their permanent home.
Dior opens its doors
A little piece of Paris has come to Sydney with the opening of Christian Dior’s first Australian flagship boutique.
BY GENEVRA LEEK
Guests could be forgiven for thinking they had wandered onto Avenue Montaigne yesterday as Christian Dior revealed a flagship boutique inspired by that very luxury strip in Paris, also known as the birthplace of the brand.
The highly anticipated launch occurred on the corner of Castlereagh and King Streets in the Sydney CBD, where the multi-level store draws on the codes of the house of Dior in an impressive design by architect Peter Marino.
Creative director Raf Simons’s latest designs are showcased against Monsieur Dior’s favourite shades of grey, with silk carpeting, mirrored French windows and Louis XVI medallion chairs creating an atmosphere more Parisian apartment than retail space.
Wrought-iron balustrades wind up from ground-floor leather goods and La Collection Privée fragrances to first floor ready-to-wear and a dedicated shoe salon, while metallic fabrics pressed behind glass line the walls of the fine jewellery and timepiece salon, borrowing from Dior’s couture legacy.
For those who prefer to shop by appointment, a lift illuminated with orchids transports valued customers up to an intimate private suite in the heavens, while a sleek subterranean space houses a dedicated Dior Homme boutique offering the complete men’s collection.
Dior officially opens today with two limited-edition pieces designed exclusively for the store: the iconic Lady Dior in a decidedly Dior shade of pink, and a duchesse satin dress strewn with roses. A little trip to Paris might be in order this weekend. J’adore.