Richmond, as with many inner-city suburbs, has been an extremely desirable place to live since the 1970s, when Victorian terraces were rediscovered. Today, finding an un-renovated terrace on which to put one’s own stamp is increasingly more challenging. Bridge Road isn’t quite the same as it was in the 1980s. Then, it was a fashion mecca. Today, factory outlet stores can be found along the shopping strip.
The revival of the Bridge Road fashion scene in the ‘80s was largely driven by fashion designer Rae Ganim and her late husband Anthony (Ganim), whose own boutique, with its colorful windows, attracted those from near and far. Other fashion labels, such as Jill Clegg, moved into the strip. The Ganim’s former home, located at 43 Lyndhurst Street, Richmond, also showed the couple’s vision on the architectural front. Working with architect John Davey, the four-level concrete pile was awarded House of the Year by Belle magazine in 1993. Those fortunate to inspect the home recently (as it was on the market) would have appreciated the home’s unusual ‘drawbridge’ leading to the first floor. Equally impressive is the wonderful forecourt flanked by the Silo Apartments, one of Nonda Katsalidis Architects’ first apartment building carved into the side of the Richmond silos.
As for Church Street, between Alexandra Avenue and Swan Street, there have been highlights and low points in this furniture and designer precinct, currently experiencing a small revival. Space Furniture remains loyal to the precinct, while other furniture retailers such as DeDeCe have recently moved into the neighbourhood, located behind Poliform.
Although Church Street is a focal point for furniture, lighting and homewares, take the time to venture down its narrow streets and laneways that lead from this busy thoroughfare. At the end of Prince Patrick Street (the Prince Alfred pub is on the corner) is an unusual house with three pyramid-shaped steel roofs. Designed by the eminent architect Guilford Bell, this striking home, designed for the founder of Australian Galleries, Anne Purves in 1956, is thought to be one Bell’s last. Understated and elegant like the client it was designed for, the house is beautifully orientated to the north with timber-battened awnings diffusing the light. The work of award-winning architects Wood Marsh can also be discovered nearby at 13 Hill Street. Spread over three-levels, the relatively discrete façade reveals wonderful light-filled warehouse-style spaces.
Also at the end of a laneway-like street at 18 Willis Street is the showroom of Articola Lighting. The 1980s warehouse-style building, covered in vines, adds a certain mystique to the street. Sophie Gannon Gallery, specialising in contemporary art, can also be found off the beaten track at 2 Albert Street. Currently showing the work of artist Judith Wright, the exhibition Fragments from the Garden of Good and Evil runs until 3rd March.
While some of Richmond’s ‘gems’ are hidden in laneways and narrow streets, some announce their presence in a more brash style. Café Brass in Church Street (corner of Kingston Street) was originally the home of Dutton’s, selling prestigious cars. Since then it has been a number of cafes and restaurants. This recent fit-out, designed by Ilanel Design Studio, buffed up the 1930s art deco façade and added colour, in the form of vibrant orange canopies and outdoor furniture along the pavement. Those who prefer a more pub-like atmosphere than white linen tablecloths, will prefer heading to the Royal Saxon pub at 545 Church Street. Designed by award winning practice architects, Six Degrees, the watering hole sits discretely behind a 1930s façade. And to take advantage of the northern light, an outdoor courtyard, flanked by bluestone planters, keeps the beers cool.
Artedomus, one of Australia’s leading importers of Japanese tiles and Italian bath products, also makes its mark on Church Street. The 1930s façade is beautifully ‘wrapped’ in tiles, with those strolling past able to run their fingers along the walls. Where else could you find a black aluminium vanity shelf that not only provides a vessel for soap and toothbrushes, but also contains the taps? Designed by acclaimed French designer Gwenael Nicholas (who established CURIOSITY INC in Japan and who also designs for the Issey Miyake stores), and Japanese marketing guru Reiko Miyamoto, the ‘Sen’ system is an intriguing fusion of east meets west. As intriguing are the new baths designed by Patricia Urquiola. Extremely lightweight (a godsend for builders!), these baths are ingeniously wrapped in fine steel tubes.
“The Japanese instill a unique spirit into each product they design, while the Italians are masters of innovation,” says William Pearse, Sales Manager at Artedomus. If you have time, wander downstairs and discover the many other Japanese and Italian ranges. Over the road, at 427 Church Street, is Jimmy Grants. Unlike Artedomus, located in a 1930s building, Jimmy Grants, designed by March Studio, has a strong 1970s flavour. The cream brick façade, with its large porthole-style windows, includes street signs inside, some depicting locations where the television series Neighbours was filmed.
While some things are obvious along Church Street, some doorways are discrete. Take 386 Church Street, for example. This narrow entrance, featuring a single door crowned with an old-fashioned-style coach light, was once home to society designer, the late Stuart Rattle. This modest entrance is a long way, both in distance and style from the lavish country-style home he later established near Daylesford. Considerably grander and directly opposite, at 377 Church Street, is Villa Donati, a fine classic Italianate pile designed in 1886 by architect John Augustus Koch, also responsible for Labassa in Caulfield. As you are in the area, venture along Gipps Street. There you’ll find what was once the Christine Abrahams Gallery at number 27 and now converted into a home. This precinct features an impressive array of period homes, from Docker and Waverley streets, to Clifton Street and Richmond Terrace. Number 7 Clifton Street is a grand Victorian house that has been carefully restored. The verdant front garden is equally as measured. One of the ‘odd’ houses in this nook can be found at 123 Richmond Terrace. Designed by Edgard Pirrotta in the 1970s, this brutalist pile with its shiny red trims and front door is now highly coveted by a new and younger audience of architecture and design buffs, such as this writer. Well maybe not so young!
Richmond continues to draw people into its environs, with some of the most magical discoveries made after taking a wrong turn. While it may be tempting to drive, it’s best to put on a pair of sensible shoes and take to the pavement!