Why Art Deco?

Art Deco apartments dotted across Sydney’s eastern suburbs remain a popular residential and investment choice, especially for those buyers looking for a classic property packed with timeless appeal and character.

The term Art Deco wasn’t really coined until the 1960s but it is derived from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Arts) held in Paris in 1925, which highlighted the French focus on all that was modern and up-to-date.

From the mid-1920s, Art Deco became an increasingly worldwide phenomenon, influencing contemporary design and taste across the world including Australia.

It became particularly popular in our capital cities during the 1930s and interwar years, when many Art Deco homes and apartments were built.

Art Deco as a style is characterised by vivid decorative elements, straight lines, horizontal geometric patterns in ceiling decorations or brickwork, with flashes of wood, chrome and steel.

Later Art Deco examples exhibited curved forms and nautical elements, including curved walls and porthole windows. Hallmarks include the distinctive stepped summit, motifs such as the rising sun, lightning zigzags and bold geometric patterns.

While New York’s Chrysler Building epitomises the style, closer to home the Sydney Harbour Bridge, opened in 1932, is an Art Deco structure that was hailed as an icon of modernity and progress. In an article from The Age, it is described as: “Rising majestically between solid pylons, stepped back pyramid-style, its distinctive, cantilevered arch was primarily functional, but also had a symbolic purpose. Built in the shape of an enormous sunrise, the bridge picked up on one of Art Deco’s most familiar motifs, in itself a palpable symbol of rejuvenation, hope and optimism”.

If you drive through almost any Australian postcode, the influence of Art Deco is immediately apparent in significant buildings, such as war memorials, theatres, hotels and milk bars. The Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace in Cremorne, Sydney, and Melbourne’s Capitol Theatre are lasting testaments to the appeal and influence of this classic style.

There are very few stand-alone Art Deco homes today and they tend to be heritage listed. The best examples are apartments built during the 20s usually near densely populated areas and transport and catering to workers who wanted to be near the city. They were also popular with European immigrants who were accustomed to apartment living.

The style is especially dominant around Sydney harbour and the Lower North Shore, the inner suburbs of Melbourne and Adelaide, which has its own take on it.

Pros and Cons of Art Deco Apartments

Cohen Handler Buyer’s Agents Michael Connolly and Hugh Murray-Walker each have over 10 years experience purchasing Art Deco apartments in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

They say that the character of the Art Deco style remains extremely popular with owner occupiers and investors alike in suburbs close to the city, such as Potts Point and Elizabeth Bay, as well as those close to the harbour including Double Bay and Rose Bay.

“Art Deco units have a history and charm that many people are drawn to and they are easy to renovate with modern materials and finishes in a way that preserves the character and appeal. A good quality Art Deco renovation will add value and not date easily,” Michael said.

The benefits of buying or living in an Art Deco building, include the period’s romantic style and access to “cracking locations” with close proximity to transport and shopping.

On the downside, you have to be willing to put up with narrow hallways, timber floors, small windows and a lack of a car space or balcony. In addition, soundproofing in an Art Deco unit is typically not great and you may hear your neighbour’s floorboards upstairs.

You also need to ensure the electricals/wiring are safe and that the building itself has been well maintained and is not facing any major (and expensive) structural issues e.g. concrete cancer.

When buying into any old building it’s important to look into the maintenance history, and it’s a must to invest in a thorough building inspection. Try to choose buildings that display proof of ongoing preventative maintenance as well as evidence of responding to major issues as they arise.

For those interested in buying an Art Deco apartment, you may be facing a considerable refurbishment including upgrading kitchens and bathrooms and, to an extent, improving acoustic performance with improvements such as double glazing windows.

The biggest hurdle could well relate to any strata or owner corporation restrictions placed on refurbishments.

Recent Art Deco Purchase

Cohen Handler recently made a purchase at Potts Point for a busy young professional, living and working as an expat in Hong Kong. The client wanted to purchase an investment now that could be rented for a few years before she returned to Australia to live.

The 2-bedroom apartment (see photo below) had been renovated to resemble an Upper East Side Manhattan home and was set high in the refurbished 1930’s Art Deco “Werrington” building, designed by famed architect Emil Sodersten.

The client was very happy with the classic apartment, which offered “walk to everywhere” convenience and a spacious open plan layout.

This recently purchased Potts Point apartment featured classic Art Deco features including high ceilings and curved walls

If you are interested in buying a classic Art Deco apartment in Sydney’s inner eastern suburbs, contact Cohen Handler now to ensure you find the right property at a price that suits your budget.

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