The 1960s was the decade in which we saw modernist architecture really take off in Sydney.

It also resulted in a building boom in Darling Point that transformed our suburb from mansions to apartments as the city’s population rose.

We shine the spotlight on the 1960s in Darling Point.

The cultural background for an innovative era in design

From The Beatles to the moon landing and the introduction of Australia’s decimal currency, the 1960s was a decade of huge social and political change.

Architecturally, the 1960s left their mark in the form of “mid-century modern”. From red brick walk-up apartment blocks in the suburbs, to the mid-to-high-rise towers here in Darling Point, 1960s design was streamlined, symmetrical and simple.

Building design was characterised by the use of a lot of glass to capture light (think: sliding doors and picture windows) and a connection to the outdoors. This was the era of open-plan living layouts, cross ventilation and an emphasis on using a few select materials – often brick, timber, metal, glass and tiles or laminate.

Inside, natural textures like wood panelling were popular, as were built-in joinery, shag pile carpet, statement light fittings, and Scandinavian influences.

The 1960s saw a host of influential interior designers carve out reputations for themselves in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. Many new Darling Point apartments were decked out by big names like Marion Hall Best (who was married at St Mark’s and lived at Darling Point in later life) and Mary White, founders of SIDA (the Society of Interior Designers of Australia). Double Bay’s Leslie Walford and Paddington’s Barry Little were also in the mix.

And, of course, there was Florence Broadhurst, famous for her wallpapers. In fact, Florence was a local, calling Darling Point home until her shocking murder in 1977 at her Paddington studio (an unsolved crime that was being re-investigated by police in 2021).

The 1960s was a new era for Darling Point flats

Darling Point has been home to apartments for a very long time, with many Art Deco apartments remaining from the interwar era. However, it was during the post-war era of the 1950s when Darling Point’s old mansions caught the eye of developers as they scoured Sydney for places to accommodate a growing population.

One of the first in this new wave of modernist development was Glenhurst Gardens. Development then really gathered pace in the 1960s (and continued into the 1970s) as several iconic apartment buildings were built in Darling Point. These included:

Winslow Gardens

In 1961, Winslow Gardens was built in park-like grounds at 66 Darling Point Road. This brick building with a sandstone feature wall was constructed in the “Chicago School” style and named after one of the original Darling Point homes.

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Hopewood Gardens

Hopewood Gardens on Thornton Street was built in 1966. It remains one of Darling Point’s most coveted addresses, as homes inside this gated enclave enjoy some of Sydney’s most exclusive harbour views. A connection to the old Hopewood House remains in the form of the original brick, stone and ironwork fence and gates, which are still in situ.

The Penthouses

Furniture designer and property developer Harry Sebel is said to have commissioned Sydney’s pre-eminent modernist architect, Ken Woolley, to design The Penthouses on New Beach Road in 1967.

Woolley himself said the pioneering building evoked the principles of modernist housing and was designed to maximise light, views and privacy by using the roof space of each townhouse as a terrace for the townhouse above.

The Penthouses won the Wilkinson Award in 1968 (a first for a townhouse design) and, in 1969, the development was photographed by Max Dupain (of “Sunbaker” fame). Woolley was also responsible for the Bay Terraces at 21 Yarranabbe Road, a neighbouring building at 25 Yarranabbe Rd, and The Point Villas in Thornton Street.

Retford Hall

Retford Hall at 23 Thornton Street stands on the site of the mansion of the same name, which once belonged to the Hordern Family, famous for retailing in Sydney.
In 1959, the estate was approved for subdivision into four allotments, and the home and grounds were eventually sold in 1967. Retford Hall was built in 1968. Also dating from the mid to late 1960s are Longwood at 5-11 Thornton Street and Thornton Place at 21 Thornton Street. Mitchell Place on nearby Mitchell Road, was also built in 1968.

Ranelagh

Ranelagh is one of Darling Point’s iconic apartment blocks. The 30-storey building on Darling Point Road was built in 1969.

Like many other 1960s apartment blocks, it is named for the original house: Ranelagh was a three-storey mansion built in the early 1850s by Andrew Lenahan, a cabinetmaker, upholsterer and undertaker who also served as a local alderman from 1850 to 1852.

Over my career, I’ve sold many apartments in all of these buildings and have even seen many renovated and updated into stunning modern designer homes.

Looking to buy or sell in Darling Point? Call me today.