Luxury Outlook 2023
An ambitious exploration into high-end residential markets across the globe.
There are more than 100 beaches in and around Sydney, Australia’s second most populous city. A few are rated among the best in the world. You won’t find any of them in the eastern suburb of Paddington, but this has not stopped it from becoming one of the most desirable areas in town.
On a Sunday afternoon, the cafes and restaurants at the Five Ways roundabout heave with al fresco diners. Schooners of beer are sipped. Bouquets of flowers frame the open entryway of a neighborhood grocery store. This is the heart of “Paddo,” as the locals call it. It is a 10-minute drive from the central business district and runs alongside the lively main thoroughfare, Oxford Street. Aside from eateries, boutiques, and art galleries, Paddington is best known for its pretty terraced housing. Its roughly 3,800 homes mostly built between 1860–90 make it a rare, largely intact enclave of early Victorian residential architecture. The community’s historical Paddington Society, run by volunteers, has been successfully working to preserve it since 1964.
Australian terraces date from its time as a British colony and match designs found in Britain. With their compact footprint, they fulfilled fast-growing demand for housing during urban expansion in the 19th century. The decorative wrought-iron-clad balconies that give Paddington much of its charm were often added later as a concession to the much warmer climate.
The properties line winding, narrow streets and today many doors and entire houses are painted in bright colors. Sidewalks are framed with towering jacaranda trees, whose trumpet-like flowers bloom every spring. “It’s a feast of purple,” says Australian designer Lee Mathews, who lives in the area and opened a Paddington outpost for her eponymous brand on Glenmore Road in 2015.
Mathews is one of Australia’s best-known womenswear designers, creating feminine clothing made from high-quality fabrics, like silk, wool, and cashmere, as well as accessories and homeware. She says that Paddington is “the charming, Knightsbridge equivalent in Sydney,” referring to the affluent west London neighborhood.
“We’re not a city brand. The customer who resonates with us lives and shops in their own area. And Paddington was always a very strong customer base for us, apart from the fact that it’s a lovely suburb with a strong retail footprint.”
At The Intersection, a 10-minute walk from Five Ways, Lee Mathews is among a cluster of boutiques that emphasize great Australian design, such as men’s and women’s leisurewear label Venroy, and Rachel Gilbert and Scanlan Theodore, both known for well-crafted, elegant womenswear. Nearby Lucy Folk is a contemporary lifestyle gem designed by the antique dealer and designer Tamsin Johnson. The store helps to demonstrate the area’s pull to sought-after names in interiors and architecture.
With the rise in wealthier residents has come a raft of sensitive residential upgrades to Victorian properties—often including added lightwells and windows, but also harnessing the beauty of homes’ original features. Paddo Pool Terrace is a recent conversion of a property from the late 1800s into a modern home “with a feminine sensibility,” says Jane McNeill, associate director at Luigi Rosselli Architects. This was partly achieved with interiors by Tania Handelsmann (another Paddington terrace resident, and one half of award-winning firm Handelsmann + Khaw). Norwegian rose marble, Popham tiles in petal, and hand-painted silk wallpaper complement the “Himalayan salt” color chosen for the external render. A double-height, glass-roofed atrium was used to infill a courtyard, while original features such as the fireplaces and cornices were retained and restored. “We sought to create a reclusive and calm oasis that turns away from busy Paddington and looks to the harbor beyond,” says McNeill.
For those not looking to buy, the boutique hotel Oxford House is a recent addition to Paddington and entirely in line with its laidback creative energy. Its mid-century building on Oxford Street, between an art deco Mexican cocktail bar and a bookshop, has been renovated in cool Californian style with work by contemporary local artists on the walls. The central terrace has a heated pool, bar, and all-day dining; the cutlery is by Marc Newson and bathrobes are by Double Rainbouu, a local designer from across the road.