Art deco apartments in Sydney

art deco

We have purchased many art deco apartments for clients over the years, and always enjoy looking at the unique style of these buildings.

What is art deco style and when did it start ?

It first appeared in 1925 at the International Exhibition of the Decorative Arts held in Paris, but was not known as Art Deco until the 1960s. Even without a label it became the predominant style for the interwar generation and it’s influence was seen in the architecture of apartment buildings at that time.

The style’s distinctive features included strong linear elements, stepped facades and ornamentation that drew its inspiration from sources including Middle Eastern architecture, Ancient Greek and Roman themes and also Ancient Egyptian and Mayan elements. In addition, Art Deco incorporated motifs from the modern age – a time when trans-continental air travel became possible, motor cars became more prevalent and radio sales overtook the traditional family entertainment unit, the piano. These modern motifs included stylised machine patterns like gears and wheels as well as elegant interpretations of sunbursts and flowers.

Other architectural styles popular in Sydney at this time were Georgian revival and Spanish Mission buildings influenced from California, however these were far less prevalent than art deco.

The early grander buildings are in the Eastern suburbs, including Elizabeth Bay, Edgecliff, Woollahra, Potts Point, Kings Cross and Darlinghurst.

Some examples are the Birtley Towers in Elizabeth Bay, and Macleay Regis, Werrington & Wychbury buildings in Potts Point.

art deco

Another grand building is Eynesbury at 22 Albert St Edgecliff, which sold in 2017 for $33M in for all 11 apartments. This was way over expectations with very competitive bidding at the auction.

In the depression years 1930-1933, the buildings tended to be more simple and less ornate, and can be found in other parts of the Eastern suburbs, lower North Shore and to a lesser extent the Inner West.

What are some examples of commercial art deco buildings in Sydney ?

In the CBD are the AWA Building, Grace Building, Museum of contemporary art, and the State Theatre.  Through the suburbs of Sydney are cinemas and theatres, pubs, and also smaller office buildings.

What are the main style features ?

Common exterior Art Deco motifs are in the brickwork, balcony and chimney designs. Later Art Deco examples exhibited curved forms and nautical elements, including curved walls and porthole windows. The Great Depression of the 1930s impacted the design, encouraging a streamlined approach over embellishment, and aerodynamic shapes were used.

Exteriors tend to be red brick, but rendered, roughcast and weatherboard finishes can also be found. Enclosed balconies replace verandahs and front fences are made of brick. Art Deco motifs are common in brickwork and wrought-iron gates, while chimney and roof design, including spires, parapets and towers, feature geometric shapes.

Internally, Art Deco motifs can be found in ceiling moulds and cornices, and incorporated in stained glass. Wood panelling and glass brick walls are also popular design features of this style. Art Deco design moved away from organic shapes, instead referencing Cubism, Constructivism, Modernism and Futurism, and the movement was heavily influenced by the archaeological discoveries happening in Egypt and Greece at the time.

What are the pros to buying or living in an Art Deco building ?

  • Period’s romantic style
  • Large lobbies and wide staircases
  • High ceilings
  • Ornate features such as cornices, architraves, doors, windows, lights etc
  • Larger room sizes
  • Were usually solidly built with double brick construction
  • They are usually located in Inner City areas with good access to transport and shopping
  • Limited supply of this style of building makes them unique, as the city has an abundance of bland 1960/70’s and modern apartment buildings

What are the cons  to buying or living in an Art Deco building?

  • Noise penetration between levels with timber flooring
  • They usually don’t have parking or balconies
  • Can be dark inside because of few windows, which are often small
  • Many of the smaller buildings have stairs but no lift
  • Tend to have no off street car parking
  • Maintenance issues in some buildings – dated electricals, plumbing, and other building code compliance such as fire rated doors, safe windows etc
  • Some are still company title, which in some instances may restrict finance

What does it cost to buy an art deco unit in Sydney ?

Standard units in suburbs such as Randwick, Bondi & Maroubra usually start at around $1 Million for a 2 bedroom apartment with no parking.

Grander buildings in Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay and Woollahra will cost more than $2 Million for a 2 or 3 bedroom apartment.

At the top end of the market, the penthouse in the Macleay Regis at Potts Point sold to Gretel Packer in 2017 for $8.75 Million.

Sources : 
Jacqui Thomson – Domain Art Deco architecture style in Australia
The History of Art Deco by Fairfax and Roberts