The Block All Stars’ Dani and Dan show off their completed room. 35 St Vincent Place, Albert Park.
Nanjing Night Net

35 St Vincent Place, Albert Park.

35 St Vincent Place, Albert Park.

Rumour places chef Jacques Reymond in Elwood.

Madeleine West

As every Melburnian knows, anything Sydney can do Melbourne does better.

But it’s a lesson that seems to have escaped Channel Nine, with the ratings of The Block taking a big hit since filming was moved to Sydney. The spinoff series All Stars – set in Bondi – has been getting trounced by Channel Seven’s My Kitchen Rules, which is pulling more than 2 million viewers a night compared with a little more than 900,000 for the reality reno show.

It’s a dramatic reversal for what was once a ratings juggernaut for Nine, at least back when the setting was Richmond and South Melbourne. In fact, Melburnians continue to tune in to the show at levels that well outstrip Sydneysiders, which just goes to show where the key demographic is.

And that’s certainly going to up the stakes when the regular season of The Block screens in a few months.

Producer Watercress is set to shake up the ageing formula in a big way this season, buying an entire six-storey apartment tower in South Melbourne to renovate. The contestants are already on-site and, judging by who Private Property has seen coming and going from the building, the ”couples” are well on their way to selecting the estate agents who will represent them.

Wisdom begets prestige

If a location on Albert Park’s prized St Vincent Place doesn’t make it notable enough, the exterior of this terrace might seem familiar because it featured as a setting in period film The Getting of Wisdom.

Numerous scenes in the 1978 classic were shot around the iconic ”Rochester Terrace”, of which this two-storey Victorian is one.

It’s now being put under the hammer with an asking price in excess of $3 million. Home hunters should note that the horseshoe-shaped precinct encircling St Vincent Gardens is the most expensive and tightly held real estate in the city, with prices hitting as much as $13,590 a square metre.

No.35, which sits on about 300 square metres, offers four bedrooms, and formal sitting and dining rooms. Out the back is a two-storey self-contained apartment.

Marshall White’s Oliver Bruce is putting 35 St Vincent Place to auction on February 23.

House that Jacques bought

Legendary French chef Jacques Reymond is believed to be the buyer of a $2 million contemporary house in Elwood.

In a deal that’s shrouded in secrecy, Reymond is tipped to be the ”and/or nominee” who is set to occupy the two-storey, three-bedroom house at the leafy end of Ormond Road. The property features a library, study, pool and roof terrace.

Listing agent Kay & Burton denied Mr Reymond was the buyer and declined to comment on the sale.

Beasley books a sale

Who says the top end of the market is a ghost town?

The luxurious South Yarra pad of ex-bookie Simon Beasley has sold for at least $8 million, with the full-floor apartment at 155 Domain Road getting snapped up last weekend.

Kay & Burton agent Andrew Baines had been quietly shopping the place around off-market for a couple of weeks and three buyers put in offers before any kind of public sales campaign had to be launched.

Mr Beasley’s punt on the market has certainly paid off considering he paid $3.98 million for it in 2007. That works out to be about $20,000 a square metre.

West leaving east

Actor Madeleine West is set to auction the Richmond apartment she bought as she finished her run as Dione Bliss on Neighbours.

It’s the second pending property transaction in the past month for West, who is also selling the Kensington family home she shares with chef Shannon Bennett.

The two-bedroom, art deco-style apartment was bought for $297,000 in 2003. Thanks to Bennett’s role as an ambassador for Miele, the kitchen and laundry have top-flight appliances. The ground-floor unit also offers access to a large communal backyard.

Hocking Stuart’s Daniel Atsis is quoting $450,000 to $490,000 for 6/200 Lennox Street. The auction is February 23.

Since Neighbours, West has appeared in TV shows Underbelly and Satisfaction.

Bell tolls for elder digs

Annie and Andrew Bell are selling their grand classic house at 202 Kooyong Road, Toorak. It is known as ”Elder House” because it was owned for 40 years by Elder Smith Goldsbrough Mort for its chief executive. It has been a tightly held property with just four owners. The second was a member of the Baillieu family. He sold to an interior designer, the late John Coote. The Bells bought the house in 1986, raised a family there and are downsizing. Mr Bell is executive director of stockbroking firm Bell Potter, and one of the Bell brothers behind Bell Financial and Agricultural Group Holdings.

The design is perfect for entertaining, and the Bells have apparently had some marvellous parties at the property, including one for which a piano was strung from the historic oak tree in the garden.

The light and airy house has a flowing floor plan of casual and formal living areas on the ground floor opening to a terrace and Paul Bangay-designed gardens with a luxurious pool. On the first floor are five bedrooms, bathrooms and a rumpus room. There is a study on each floor.

The property is for sale through Kay & Burton. Michael Armstrong and Gerald Delany are handling the expressions-of-interest campaign, which closes on March 8. They are quoting $5 million-plus.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

On the up… Adam and Joanne Woods, with daughters Hayley and Emma, at their Balmain home. Photo: Steve Lunam. The living area, post renovation.
Nanjing Night Net

Outside before the renovation.

Adam and Joanne Woods have the kind of house-renovating tale that will raise the envy of the average punter. Their project at 86 Beattie Street, Balmain, enjoyed a dream run with the council, their architect and their builder and came in right on schedule. The budget, however, is a different story.

From the get-go, first-time renovator Adam had a clear idea of what the finished house would look like and the quality of the fixtures and fittings he wanted. As his ideas were costed, his initial budget of $650,000 spiralled quickly to $880,000.

Not prepared to compromise on his dreams, Adam dug deep to finance the property, which was bought for $810,000 in 2007.

”I had too many plans in my head and I was already committed to the design and finishes and wanted to go ahead,” he says. ”I was not doing the renovation to sell, so I did the house exactly how I wanted it.”

The result is a home with plenty of high-end inclusions that would never have made it into a renovate-for-profit project: a feature wall of impeccably restored sandstone, recycled from the old house’s foundations; bespoke cabinets throughout the house; a designer kitchen; engineered European oak floors and bathrooms with underfloor heating.

Adam has thoroughly enjoyed living with the luxuries. But with the family now including two children, Hayley and Emma, the Woods are moving to be closer to relatives and friends. Whether Adam and Joanne recoup their costs will depend on the outcome of their March 2 auction through Belle Property Balmain.

The house has a price guide of $1.7 million-plus.

Out with most of the old

Adam says the decision to retain and restore the facade so it remained in keeping with the streetscape and knocking the rest of the existing house was not a difficult one to make.

”It was old and it didn’t have any period features worth salvaging,” he says. ”It had a couple of extensions that had been done on the cheap over the years that didn’t add value.”

The sandstone foundations were one of the few exceptions and have been reused to great effect in the casual living room, alongside a wall of sandstock bricks and some floorboards recycled to make a feature door for the laundry.

”We tried to recycle old materials where appropriate without encroaching on the modern design,” Adam says.

One of the key benefits to ripping down the old house was being able to create a new third level with minimal excavation work.

Going local

Adam says one of his best decisions was choosing a local architect who knew what to expect from Leichhardt Council.

”We did a pre-development application meeting and the architect was able to anticipate any issues,” Adam says. ”He knew what we could and couldn’t do, so we didn’t push the boundaries too far.”

It still took six months for the Woods’ applications to be approved, but Adam says there was no stress involved. As building began, the only obstacle in an otherwise painless process was Adam’s determination to get the floor plan just right.

Changes to the positions of the two upstairs bathrooms and to the open-plan living areas at entry level caused a few hiccups and added a few extra dollars to the final bill.

Family favourite

The finished house is quite the crowd-pleaser. With fabulous city skyline and Anzac Bridge views from the upper level, it has played host to several New Year’s Eve parties and many a birthday bash. But the house is not just for show: it’s also a practical home.

”I wanted a modern house with plenty of entertaining spaces but also very functional and with a design that’s not going to date easily,” Adam says. ”One of the things we wanted was lots of storage. Every place we’ve ever rented hasn’t had enough.”

There are custom-built cabinets in the lounge and dining rooms and in the main bedroom. A large cellar provides additional storage on the ground floor and there is also a shed in the back garden.

In a nutshell:

Time 18 months.

Land size 183 sq m.

Internal size 163 sq m.

Architect Brookes Associates.

Builder RW & P Brown Builders.

Interior designer Mackenzie Design Studio.

Green points

–  Recycled materials.

–  Top-quality insulation.

–  Solar-powered retractable blinds.

Favourite feature

It’s a brilliant house for people who like entertaining.

Insider’s tip

Woods says: ”Choose an architect who knows the ins and outs of the local council and choose a builder who is realistic about costs.”

What went right?

The building phase was virtually trouble-free.

What went wrong?

They overcapitalised because they planned to live in the house, not sell.


Architect $27,500

Designer $27,500

Concrete $52,250

Stonemason $14,300

Custom bar $7700

Tiling $7150

Timber flooring $14,300

Stairwells $14,850

Kitchen cabinets $27,500

Kitchen appliances $12,100

Lighting $17,600

Windows $23,100

Bathroom fittings $12,650

Custom screening $3850

Custom cabinets $33,000

Multiroom audio system $27,500

Skylights $4400

Under-tile heating $2200

Plumbing $42,900

Electrical $29,700

Engineer $5500

Waste removal $16,500

Airconditioning $11,000

Landscaping $16,500

Timber/building materials $55,000

Carpet $3850

Labour $319,000

Rendering $8800

Painting $33,000

Insulation $3850

Glass balustrade $8250

Total: $883,300

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Ballarat and Penrith: A comparison. Lonsdale Street, Ballarat.
Nanjing Night Net

Nineteenth Street, Warragamba.

When Domain went searching for high-yielding, freestanding properties under $300,000, it quickly became apparent the Sydney and Melbourne markets were two different beasts. While in Sydney it is possible to go to outer-ring suburbs such as Penrith and Campbelltown and find a 6 per cent yield, Melbourne’s outer suburbs are overloaded with new houses and new land releases.

”In Melbourne there is an oversupply of newly built homes in our outer suburbs,” says a director of Metropole Property Strategists, Michael Yardney. ”This will restrict not only capital growth but rental yields for the next few years.”

While this glut of properties is being absorbed, Yardney says beginner investors could evaluate Victoria’s regional locations if they’re looking for cash-flow positive prospects. Yardney says investors should be forewarned that while properties in these cities – and in the outer suburbs of capital cities – can have higher rental returns, they tend to have poorer capital growth.

In a regional centre such as Ballarat, population 93,000, you’ll find a strong local economy and a proactive council. You can buy a house for as little as $200,000, with a median rent yield of 5 per cent. Ballarat has recorded median price growth of about 6 per cent a year in recent times, with the median now $310,000.

The Penrith local government area is home to more than 200,000 people and house prices start about $300,000 with a median rent yield of 5.5 per cent and median price growth of 2.6 per cent a year. The current median house price in greater Penrith is $370,000.

Renters make up about 30 per cent of the population in both locations, providing investors with a large market of potential tenants.

In Victoria

210 Lonsdale Street, Ballarat $245,000

Snapshot:  A three-bedroom, vinyl-clad house built in the 1960s on a 600 sq m block. Last renovated in 2000, the property has adjoining living and dining rooms at the front, a separate timber and gas kitchen with a dishwasher and breakfast bar seating, and a modern bathroom. A covered deck overlooks a largely paved, north-facing backyard with double garage and additional carport.Rent $280 a week. Yield 6 per cent. Agent Ballarat Property Group, (03) 5330 0500.

Officially in the Ballarat suburb of Redan, this house is only a few minutes’ drive from the centre of Ballarat, a busy regional city 112 kilometres north-west of Melbourne. Ballarat’s traditional economic activities were based on goldmining and agriculture, but today the economy is quite diversified with manufacturing, health and community services, and retail trade sectors major employers in the city.

Express trains will have commuters to Melbourne’s city centre in the office in slightly more than an hour, with service reliability to improve with the delivery of the $5 billion Regional Rail Link (under construction). Other major cash injections include a $46.4 million redevelopment of the hospital and the $110 million expansion of the Stockland shopping centre.

Agent Andrew Ferguson says his agency has a vacancy rate of just 0.43 per cent. ”We are finding the rental market to be strong with high demand for quality homes,” he says. Ferguson says this Lonsdale Street property, which is a five-minute walk from shops and 400 metres from the nearest bus stop, has a good, long-term tenant in place.Penrith area

56 Nineteenth Street Warragamba $259,000

Snapshot: A two-bedroom, weatherboard cottage about 60 years old on a 436 sq m block. It has a full-width bullnose verandah, an airconditioned living room, a modern eat-in kitchen with gas cooktop and dishwasher, an updated bathroom and a semi-enclosed back patio. There are polished timber floorboards throughout and back-lane access to a garage. Rent: Estimate $300 a week.Yield: 6 per cent. Agent: Glenmore Park First National, 0419 650 947.

Most famous for being home to the Warragamba Dam, this small suburb is a 20-minute commute from Penrith city centre and 56 kilometres from Sydney’s city centre.

About 10 per cent of the population rent and there are only 400 homes in total, which limits opportunities for investors. That said, tenants who come to know the area are reluctant to return to the hustle and bustle of Penrith, preferring to reside within a close-knit, smaller community.

The median dwelling price for Warragamba is $295,000, with growth averaging 4.45 per cent a year.

Nineteenth Street is a leafy laneway within walking distance of bushland, schools, shops and recreational facilities.

The agency says that if the living areas and outdoor spaces were given a makeover, the cottage might attract a rent of up to $380 a week with a target market of young families.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Not even two competing bids for Billabong International are enough to convince traders the surfwear maker will be able to seal a deal.
Nanjing Night Net

The retailer has opened its books to two groups of suitors with preliminary offers of $527 million. Two other buyers abandoned higher proposals last year, and traders are doubtful either $1.10-a-share bid will be consummated.

Billabong was trading slightly higher at 97 cents this morning, more than 11 per cent below the latest offers, the third-widest gap among similar-sized deals in developed Asia-Pacific nations, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“After all the failed attempts and the lack of confidence in management, there’s no confidence in the due diligence process,” Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG Markets, said.

“The discount is pricing in the potential for the due diligence process to reveal some cobwebs. A lot of investors aren’t willing to take that risk.”

While the bids rank as the cheapest versus sales among apparel deals since 2007, Commonwealth Bank says the two groups – one featuring Altamont Capital Partners and VF Corp, and the other including director Paul Naude and Sycamore Partners – may pull their offers after evaluating Billabong.

Elevation LLC said there was also a risk Billabong’s largest shareholder, founder Gordon Merchant, would not sell, after he shunned a sweeter proposal last year.Reversal of fortune

Billabong spokesman Chris Fogarty declined to comment on the prospects for a takeover or the plans of Mr Merchant, who is also a Billabong director.

Michael Freitag, a spokesman for Sycamore in New York, declined to comment.

VF was pursuing Billabong as part of its expansion of brands affiliated with sports and outdoor activities, chief executive Eric Wiseman said last week.

“When you look at the surf space and think about iconic brands in the space, Billabong has to hit your radar,” Mr Wiseman said.

He declined to elaborate on the due diligence VF had carried out on Billabong.

Formed in 1973, when Merchant started making surf shorts on Australia’s east coast, Billabong’s market value reached $3.84 billion in May 2007, while its sales reached a peak of $1.7 billion in the year ending June 2009, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The fortunes reversed as big clothing store chains introduced new surfwear brands and consumer spending slumped during the world’s debt crisis.Store closures

In 2012, Billabong said it would close as many as 150 of its 677 stores worldwide, cut jobs and sell control of accessory maker Nixon, considered at the time to be its most lucrative unit.

Meanwhile, sales are expected by analysts to fall to $1.3 billion this year, the lowest since 2007 and down 8 per cent from a year earlier.

Billabong, whose biggest market is the US, last year reported its first annual loss since a 2000 initial public offering. The company has cut its profit forecasts at least 10 times since the year ended June 2008, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

On December 19, Billabong reduced earnings estimates for the year ending June 30 by as much as 49 per cent. Chief financial officer Craig White left the next day.

“The earnings have been so poor, and trending worse, that it’s hard to justify a price much higher than what has been proposed,” John Maysles, a senior analyst at Elevation in Los Angeles, said. Investors are concerned about “any buyer’s willingness to make a higher offer, if any offer at all, after combing through the data”.

The two $527 million bids, excluding Billabong’s debt, represent a 63 per cent discount to the company’s sales through last June. That’s a lower revenue multiple than any purchase of an apparel manufacturer worth more than $100 million since the September 2007 takeover of Kellwood by Sun Capital Partners, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.Investors reluctant

Even as the list of suitors interested in Billabong grows, investors are reluctant to bet on a deal because Australia’s stock market has offered more certain profits in recent weeks, said Peter Esho, chief market analyst in Sydney at City Index, a London-based provider of trading services in bonds, stocks and commodities.

“When the market’s going up, nobody wants to be caught with another loser, another possible takeover which didn’t occur from a serial offender,” he said. “There are probably easier places in the market to make money.”

Other suitors The S&P/ASX 200 index has risen 16 per cent in the past six months, compared with a 2.5 per cent gain in the previous half year. The Standard and Poor’s 500 index, by comparison, is up 7.2 per cent in the past six months.

Billabong ended trading yesterday at 96.5¢, or 12 per cent blow the $1.10-a-share bids. Only Perth-based iron ore miner Sundance Resources and Brisbane-based coal-seam gas explorer Westside are trading further below their pending takeover offers, among deals worth more than $100 million in the developed Asia-Pacific region, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

Another potential barrier to a deal was Billabong’s founder Merchant, said Mr Maysles at Elevation. Mr Merchant owns more than 14 per cent of the company, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

TPG Capital, the Texas-based buyout firm owned by David Bonderman, pitched four different offers to Billabong last year, ranging from $3.30 for each share down to $1.45.

After Mr Merchant’s lawyers said in February last year he wouldn’t sell for less than $4 a share, TPG’s lowest bid five months later included an offer to Mr Merchant to ring-fence his own stake.

TPG walked away in October without giving any reasons.Stake builders

An unnamed bidder, which people familiar with the matter identified as Bain Capital LLC, dropped an offer in September after carrying out due diligence.

“What are investors supposed to think?” said Mr Shamu at IG Markets. “Is there something preventing all these bids from going through? No one really knows what’s in these books. There’s definitely a lot of scepticism.”

Not everyone is dismissing Billabong. TIAA-CREF, owner of the fourth-largest US life and health insurer, holds a 6.2 per cent stake after buying shares between October and February. The group’s TIAA-CREF Investment Management unit and Teachers Advisors acquired shares for between 84¢ and $1.05 each, below the latest takeover bids, a February 6 filing shows.

VF’s Motives VF, the largest US clothing company and owner of The North Face, Wrangler and Reef labels, is mainly interested in the Billabong brand for its actions sports business.

Mr Naude, a former professional surfer in the 1970s, is bidding with Sycamore Partners, a New York-based private equity firm that focuses on retail investments.

Mr Naude, who leads Billabong’s US business, was granted access to Billabong’s books on December 24, and VF and Altamont followed on January 14.

Altamont says it prefers complicated targets that are falling short of their potential, even if they soak up time and resources.Crunch time

Billabong said on January 14 it might take six weeks to determine whether an acceptable proposal could be agreed to with either suitor.

“Both groups bidding for Billabong, and in particular the VF Corp group, stand a good chance to turn Billabong around,” Albert Saporta, an analyst at Makor Capital, a securities business with offices in London, Geneva and Tel Aviv, said.

He expects an agreement at $1.10 a share or higher.

Still, investors hadn’t forgotten the collapse last year of proposals from TPG and Bain, said Jordan Rogers, an analyst at Commonwealth Bank. If due diligence failed to yield a bid, Billabong would face pressure to raise cash by selling stock, probably for less than 70¢ each, he said.

“The issues at Billabong are significant,” Mr Rogers said. “There is a risk that after you do due diligence, you decide you’re not even going to try.”


This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

LUNCH TIME: Staff at brownsugar boast superior pastry skills – try their chocolate or lychee tart. PICTURE: JONATHAN CARROLLYou have to wonder whether this place is keeping up with the demographic trends of the district or just following food fashions. There aren’t many restaurants where lunch offers the full dinner menu and a light lunch option.
Nanjing Night Net

So it is surprising there aren’t more here today until you remember it is 45 degrees outside and the airconditioning is struggling.

However, the window seats are filled this lunchtime and the double glazing not only keeps some of the heat at bay but also deadens the traffic sounds from the main road and roundabout outside.

The light lunch offers the house salad (won bok, Spanish onion, bean shoots, herbs, cucumber and cherry tomatoes) with char-grilled chicken, Thai beef, or pan-seared salmon, various toasted Turkish bread sandwiches, an avocado panna cotta with prawns, beer battered perch and a semolina gnocchi with goat cheese salad.

For $25 you can order one of these plus a cake from the refrigerated display cabinet, an Aladdin’s cave of house-made and brought-in dessert cakes.

My companion chooses the entree, main and dessert route. If I share his dessert, I can always take my cake home.

In the entrees, a mini wok holds a tangle of salad leaves sauced with a mellow lemon, garlic and oregano dressing; just enough acidity to partner the generous quantity of octopus, which has been first slow cooked then grilled to reheat and give a smoky edge to the supple flesh. A great dish to share.

The avocado panna cotta comes with a nice wobble and holds up well enough to make a perfect spread for the toasted Turkish bread.

If you are bread-challenged, or holding out for that cake, you will like the accompanying fresh king prawn salad with lemon aioli in a Chinese spoon.

There are two fish of the day options, Atlantic salmon or hapuka. The hapuka fillet’s firm, moist flesh is topped with a crisp skin and two char-grilled plump scallops, and perches on a corn and bacon salsa.

Three salt-crusted potatoes and drizzles of salsa verde complete the picture. More fresh corn cobs come with the broccoli florets and pistachio butter in the seasonal green vegetable side.

Memories of the standout “cheesecake” on the last visit makes the peanut butter version with sesame crumble and plum jelly a possibility for dessert.

But I have that slice of cake to choose so we go for the lychee tart to share.

Someone in this kitchen has decidedly superior pastry skills. The crust on both the densely dark chocolate tart and the lychee tart is fine, crisp and buttery but with enough texture to support both fillings.

Fresh lychees, halved and seeded, completely cover a passionfruit creme patisserie. Strawberry slices and shredded mint provide the garnish and a small smooth ball of raspberry basil sorbet threatens to melt before we can demolish this dessert. The chocolate tart’s richness is cut by a side of tangy berries.

While this place holds its own as a function venue, don’t discount it for a special midday lunch or a celebratory dinner.

Right now we are in the middle of the Australian garlic season. Australian garlic is seasonal and available for only a few months of the year, from around November through to the end of May.
Nanjing Night Net

Outside of those months most shops will only stock imported garlic.

FRESH: Australian garlic is in season now.

Food miles aside, imported garlic is fumigated with the highly toxic chemical methyl bromide on arrival in Australia and is also often bleached. I’d rather go without than resort to buying imported.

I treasure foods more when I only eat them in season. That first sweet orange or crunchy apple is even more delicious after having gone without for a few months.

However, I like to enjoy garlic all year round. Dahl, hummus, lentil loaf – many of my favourite staple frugal meals just wouldn’t work without garlic.

If you store garlic properly it will last until around six months after harvest. After that, it will probably sprout. I store whole bulbs in a bamboo steamer in the pantry. As long as they are in a dry, dark place at room temperature and have good air circulation they will stay fresh for months.

To ensure an all-year-round supply I freeze garlic. To freeze, I separate the cloves and place them in a container in the freezer. I don’t bother peeling the cloves and then use them without thawing when I need.

Other ways of preserving garlic include drying or storing with salt or in vinegar. I like the idea of storing in vinegar.

Chopped garlic is submerged in a bottle of white or red wine vinegar and stored in the refrigerator. The vinegar and garlic is ready to use in salad dressings for up to four months.

The best place to find Australian garlic is at your greengrocer, farmers market, or direct from the farmer. Several Australian garlic growers now sell online, including Hunter Valley grower Patrice Newell (patricenewell南京夜网.au).

So if you don’t want to be tempted to buy imported garlic in a few months’ time, now is the time to buy garlic.

Tricia writes at littleecofootprints南京夜网 about learning to live better with less.

Twitter: @Triciaeco

SECRET: Retirees renovated their home to brighten up the interior take advantage of the wonderful views of the lake. PICTURES: PHIL HEARNE SECRET: Retirees renovated their home to brighten up the interior take advantage of the wonderful views of the lake. PICTURES: PHIL HEARNE
Nanjing Night Net

SECRET: Retirees renovated their home to brighten up the interior take advantage of the wonderful views of the lake. PICTURES: PHIL HEARNE

SECRET: Retirees renovated their home to brighten up the interior take advantage of the wonderful views of the lake. PICTURES: PHIL HEARNE

SECRET: Retirees renovated their home to brighten up the interior take advantage of the wonderful views of the lake. PICTURES: PHIL HEARNE

Retiring types have fairly simple criteria – for example a water view and a nice place to walk. . .

Lakeside Belmont offers both in spades, but that’s one fact the owners of this house don’t want readily known – at least not “to those Sydney people!”

Belmont born and bred, well known for their sailing links and utterly relaxed into “their space”, these retirees bought their retirement house “down on the flat” early on – 20 years ago in fact, after living on a steep block at Belmont North.

The reference to the Sydney invasion into one of the Hunter’s best-kept secrets is a common one around these parts, while “on the flat” translates more precisely into a two-storey house on Brooks Parade, with shimmering panoramic water views.

Their connection is to the area as much as it is to their house.

“You can walk to the shops, the highway is just there and we have the most amazing sunsets. I’ve sailed all my life and it’s beautiful to see the yachts coming down with their spinnakers.”

“We talked about where we would go if we have a chance to move and we both said we don’t want to live anywhere else. We like it that it is easy to get to places around town, close to the beaches and it is developing.”

Their love for their home town was reason enough to undertake a full renovation of the upstairs last year in a surprisingly short space of time.

It started with the bathroom in August which was completely renovated in an elegant white colour palate and “like Topsy, it grew!” quipped the owners.

Then came the rest of the upstairs which has been transformed from a timber-dominated theme with polished floors, chandeliers, timber venetians into a light and bright space using cool neutral whites and soft carpet underfoot.

A timber balustrade on the stairs was changed to stainless steel, a new wardrobe was installed into the old wardrobe space in the second bedroom and new windows installed in the lounge and dining rooms overlooking the lake.

The lighter, brighter interior has opened up the house to the water, and the owners say, has added another dimension to their lives, simply because they so much more enjoy the space in which they live.

An abstract of a wave called Washed Beach from Earth Quirks in Nelson Bay fills the neutral space on a wall nicely, while beach-themed colours in table lamps and shells add to the decor.

It also fits beautifully with the new kitchen installed a few years ago and a private deck which wraps around the back of the house on the first floor.

Framed by a mature tree, it offers plenty of privacy from neighbouring properties and being deciduous, doesn’t block sunlight during the winter months.

Downstairs has benefitted from the installation of a new floor covering in a bamboo-look laminate – a nice feature against a handsome timber and cotton replica yacht, that was gleaned from a weekend sojourn to Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne a few years ago. It sits at water level in the downstairs front living room with the lake as its back drop, giving the impression it is floating on the lake rather than atop a table.

The front deck has also benefited from a more modern approach.

Wrought iron ballustrades and colonial pillars have made way for glass, which enhances the views over the water and is the perfect place to idle.

“We watch the goings-on on the lake, there is always something happening – weddings, people having picnics and also because we have lived in Belmont for a long time, lots of people know us and come past for a chat.”

Do you know of a home we could feature? Email [email protected]南京夜网.au.

I was wandering around the gardens the other week (as I get paid to do!) when I noticed the most stunning display of angel’s trumpets I have seen these plant produce.
Nanjing Night Net

They always look good through the summer months but for some reason this year they were amazing, just dripping with flowers.

BEAUTIFUL: The stunning brugmansia, more commonly known as the angel’s trumpets.

Angel’s trumpets are known botanically as brugmansia and some people still refer to their older name of datura and they hail from the sub-tropics of South America.

They are a very fast grower and once established need very little care, although the more you feed them the better they will do.

In colder areas they will suffer from frost damage and look considerably messy but as the weather warms up they erupt into a most stunning display.

Few plants can claim to be more impressive at this time of the year with the trees dripping with trumpet-shaped flowers over 20 centimetres long and most as sweetly perfumed, particularly in the late afternoon.

It is not uncommon for a mature tree to have more that 500 flowers on it at any one time. Originally they were available in just a few shades of cream, white and soft yellow, but there are now many colours available.

The plants in general can get a few leaf-eating bugs and grubs which can cause the plant to look scrappy, but you won’t even notice it once they are in flower.

They are extremely easy to grow, with no pruning needed and it is best if you don’t as it will ruin their shape.

They are best grown in the garden as they will struggle if put into a pot. When planting make sure you give them a little protection from hot summer winds as they will get a little bit of burning on the flower.

It should be noted that you do need to have a bit of respect for this plant as it is toxic. It should not be ingested or burnt, so if you can live with that then it is a must-have plant.

The only problem you will have is that they are hard to find. They do not present well in pots in the nursery so many places will not stock them so you may need to ask your local nursery to order them in for you.

Sean O’Brien is the horticulture manager of Hunter Valley Gardens.

Readers can email questions to [email protected]南京夜网.au.

SUBJECT: Adams is a keen photographer himself.If Canadian singer songwriter Bryan Adams ever needs to be reminded of how far he has come in more than 30 years as a performer, he needs only to look at a framed cheque for one dollar that hangs on his wall.
Nanjing Night Net

A&M Records presented the cheque to an 18-year-old Bryan in 1978 as payment for signing him to the label.

TROUBADOUR: Bryan Adams loves to tour,

“They were stingy, obviously didn’t have any faith and in order to make a contract legal you had to have exchanged some money, so they had to – they had to – put a dollar on there,” the strangely familiar, raspy voice tells Weekender on the phone from Raleigh, North Carolinam where he was playing on tour.

“Everybody needs a break and so even though it wasn’t for anything in particular and there was no way I was going to pay my rent on this deal, it was a foot in the door and I was able to prove myself.

“Sometimes that’s all you need in life is someone to give you the chance, so even though they were stingy as hell in the beginning, they coughed up later, don’t worry.”

An astonishing 65 million record sales later, Adams has proven he was worth the gamble.

His career has been a lesson in endurance, earning him 20 Juno awards, two Ivor Novello awards for song composition, nominations for 15 Grammy awards that included winning the 1992 Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television category, five nominations for Golden Globe Awards, and three nominations for Academy Awards for his songwriting for films.

In 2009 his face was on an estimated 1.5 million stamps issued by Canada Post.

For his contributions to popular music and philanthropic work through The Bryan Adams Foundation – which helps to improve education for young people around the world – he has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada and made a Member of the Order of British Columbia.

He supplements the foundation through his celebrated photographic work, which has appeared in British Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, Interview magazine and included an invitation in 2002 to photograph Queen Elizabeth II during her Golden Jubilee.

On top of this Adams – often lauded the hardest working musician in the industry – still finds time to tour regularly and widely, often clocking up more than 120 shows a year.

He became the first ever international artist to perform in Nepal when he and his band played in Kathmandu in February 2011.

“I don’t know many other people who work as much as I do, but that’s not to say that there aren’t people,” he admits, having just completed his second concert in a week’s worth of acoustic shows.

Now 53, Adams has for the past few years been alternatively touring his intimate Bare Bones acoustic show – which came to Australia in 2011- with his full band arena concert, which he will bring down under in April.

“I know Dylan works a lot, I know Elton works a lot, I know Sting works a lot,” he says casually.

“Making music, I can’t think of a better job, I’d like you to tell me if there is one.

“So I’m pretty grateful and very thankful that I’ve been able to make a tour of shitty clubs into better ones [venues].”

While the world has watched his ascent to arenas and hungrily awaited his steady procession of modern-day classics, which have included Cuts Like A Knife, Summer of ’69, Kids Wanna Rock, Can’t Stop This Thing We’ve Started, (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, Heaven and Please Forgive Me, little is known about his personal life.

Rumoured to have been romantically linked with Diana, Princess of Wales, and Elle MacPherson, Adams is notoriously private.

He rarely grants interviews and prefers to keep his brief and often curt answers focused solely on his music.

“I’ve always been like that, it wasn’t even a conscious decision,” he says of his guarded nature.

“My manager always berates me for not doing more press and being more out there and his line to me is, ‘Adams, you’ll never know how big you could have been,’ ” he muses.

“You keep things private but it’s hard these days, the way everyone’s got a phone and it’s got a camera on it, it’s everywhere.

“When I go to gigs, you can see people reach for phones before they even say hello to you.”

Adams does, however, have a Twitter account (“I’m just trying to pick up where everyone else is, but it seems like everytime you turn around there’s another website you’ve got to belong to”) and used it to confirm in November 2012 his girlfriend and co-founder of his foundation Alicia Grimaldi was pregnant with their second child.

The pair had already surprised many fans when they confirmed they were a couple at the same time they made public their pregnancy with Mirabella Bunny Grimaldi-Adams, born April 2011.

“I spend lots of time with her,” he says of his 20-month-old daughter.

Adams himself had a globetrotting childhood, with his diplomat father Conrad taking his family on postings to England, Middle East, Portugal and Austria.

After his parents divorce, a young Bryan returned with his mother to Canada, where they settled in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1973.

A fan of “anything with a lot of guitar and long hair” including Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Who and Alice Cooper, Adams learned guitar and started auditioning for bands, gaining greater success when he tried out for a singer rather than as a guitarist.

He soon left school to provide lead vocals and help co-write Sweeney Todd’s 1977 album If Wishes Were Horses.

At the age of 18 he met former Prism principal songwriter Jim Vallance in a music store.

The pair formed a songwriting partnership that has continued to this day, albeit with a long break between 1989 and 2003.

Adams soon released his self-titled debut album in 1980, followed by his second album You Want It You Got It in 1981.

But his first taste of international success came with his breakout third album, the 1983 release Cuts Like a Knife, which featured the lead single Straight From The Heart.

Adams is surprised when told January 18 this year marked 30 years since the record was released.

“I don’t even remember that, that seems like a different person,” he says, nevertheless defining it as a career turning point.

“There were a number of times when I felt that something was moving forward and when you’re young and impetuous and full of beans you just want to go – sometimes you miss the memory because you’re just onto the next thing.

“But there were times when suddenly we weren’t playing in these shitty clubs anymore, we went from being the support act to the headliner and you’re actually hearing your song on the radio.”

Adams’ 1984 Reckless would be his best-selling album to date, including the singles Run to You, Summer of ’69 and Heaven.

Adams admits he is a “big romantic” and has always drawn inspiration for his often lovelorn lyrics from his relationships, friends, film and literature.

“All of that and more, as a songwriter I’ve always had that work ethic of give me a project and a deadline and I’ll come up with something,” he says.

“So even if I wasn’t digging in and it wasn’t coming from a relationship I’ve ever had, who knew, it could have come from somewhere else, just making it up as you go.”

His sixth album, the 1991 release Waking Up the Neighbours, featured (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, which spent 16 consecutive weeks at number 1 on the UK singles chart and earned Adams a Grammy award.

His contract was sold in 1998 to Interscope Records and in 2008, he released his eleventh and latest studio album, aptly titled 11. It was his first album to debut at number one in Canada since 1991.

Adams has started on his twelfth album – “right now it sounds like crap but I’m hoping it will sound better soon”- but is unsure about how it will perform.

“People don’t really buy records anymore, they go to YouTube and listen to songs on YouTube,” he says.

“I don’t think people are even going to bother with subscription music anymore either, why pay for it?

“They don’t need it, you go to YouTube, listen to what you want to, on to the next thing.”

Aside from music, Adams’s photographic career has included shooting advertising campaigns for Guess Jeans, Converse, Montblanc and Escada; twice picking up Lead Awards in Germany for his fashion work; and establishing Berlin-based art fashion Zoo Magazine.

“I’ve always been really interested in photography, I was documenting my own work on tour and also I was interested in doing self portraits for albums covers, just to see if it was possible,” he says.

“It led from that to taking pictures with friends, that’s how it sort of kicked off.”

His book Exposed was published last year, filled with intimate photographs Adams had taken of celebrities over the past decade including Morrissey, Michael Jackson, Lana Del Ray, Mick Jagger and Judi Dench.

His portrait of Amy Winehouse was chosen as the cover art for her posthumous release Lioness: Hidden Treasures.

His next photography book will concentrate on wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bryan Adams plays the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on April 26.

(SIMON WALKER: Bathroom brooding (16/2/13)here)
Nanjing Night Net

Haggling and market forces go hand in hand.

But until you find yourself at the cutting edge, standing eye to eye with your commercial adversary making an offer, you often forget how hardcore it can get.

Some people enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

Cold-hearted bastards mainly.

Many cultures promote haggling as an artform. Particularly those awash with cashed up western tourists. But once back from our Lonely Planet adventures, we often revert back to getting ripped off without question.

Not sure why, but it could have something to do with understanding what the vendor is calling you.

This all came flooding back to me recently as I attempted to close the deal on buying a second-hand car.

Truth is, I hadn’t been thinking about buying a car at all that morning.

I’d been on the landline when my other half rang on the mobile to breathlessly inform me she’d spotted a bargain.

The timing could have been better, me being predisposed and all.

But timing is everything when it comes to picking up bargains.

It’s also the difference between comedy and tragedy, which is what we’d have, she suggested, if we missed out on this deal.

Since when had my partner become a used car salesman, I wondered. And why did it fall to me to follow up.

Low kilometres, young vehicle, old owner, price negotiable – go fetch, Fido.

Funny, really, because most dogs know more about cars than me. And so it came to pass during my lunch break I found myself “kicking a few tyres”. I think they were tyres.

First and defining impression of the car was that it was . . . yellow.

I would have been happy to leave it there.

Yellow cars, in my experience, are good.

But after a bit of prodding from my adversary, I mean the lovely lady showing me the car, we went for a drive.

During the drive we chatted about this and that.

Anything but the car suited me, because once we moved off colour, I was out of my depth mechanically.

At the end of the drive, the kind and accommodating lady agreed without hesitation to let me take it to my friend, a qualified mechanic, to run his eye over it.

My mate confirmed what I knew to be true – yellow cars are good. Particularly this one, but for a bit of rust.

And so we came to the hard-nosed part, the haggling.

Haggling lore demands you haggle, even if you’d prefer to write out a cheque, exchange addresses and become lifelong buddies.

So I put my offer. Here came the twist.

Turns out my adversary was actually an intermediary who ushered me upstairs to the real dealmaker, her husband, a proud gentleman obviously not in the habit of taking any shit.

Which was what my offer must have sounded like once I repeated it, because he started advancing like he was going to hit me.

The ad had said “price negotiable” but the price of this negotiation was clearly going to be a souring of our brief relationship, unless I met his price.

Which I couldn’t because, I don’t know, I had my pride.

And so market forces determined the only deal going down that morning was me, in an elevator, with my tail between my legs.

That’s market forces for you. No big deal, literally.

I’m sure they sold their car.

QUESTION: Ever driven a hard bargain?