The primal reason why we love fireplaces

The interior trends you’ll be loving in 2017How to style your home for winterHow to create warmth in a large, vast space
Nanjing Night Net

Growing up in a draughty farmhouse in a part of Australia with bone-chilling winters, the fireplace wasn’t just a charming addition to the living room – it was a necessary source of warmth and comfort.

In fact, some of my most vivid childhood memories are associated with it. The satisfaction of setting up a little pyramid of kindling and wood that took to the match relatively quickly; and the disappointment of the occasional log that smoked and hissed and refused to convert itself into a merry blaze despite the most liberal application of firelighters and crumpled-up newspaper.

On the weekends, I’d head out into the paddocks with my dad and watch as he chopped up fallen redgums with his chainsaw, often attracting a circle of curious Hereford cattle who observed our activities with limpid brown eyes.

And on especially cold days, we’d cook jaffles in the embers using cast-iron sandwich presses with long, thin handles.

Perhaps that’s why I’m unreasonably attached to the idea that a proper home must include a fireplace – and happily, I’m not alone.

Interior designer Miriam Fanning of Mim Design says that fireplaces (both traditional and gas) remain popular because our response to them is primal.

“A fireplace gives a sense of cosiness, even when it’s not on,” she says. “It evokes an emotion, which is really important.”

Aside from the obvious purpose of providing heat, a fireplace can serve a number of functions, Ms Fanning explains, providing an in-built statement that lends proportion to a space, helps zone areas in an open-plan design and acts as a natural focal point.

In living rooms with large TVs, a fireplace can be a welcome addition as it acts as an alternative locus of attention, she says.

For two recent projects, MAH Residence and DRF Residence (pictured), Ms Fanning surrounded the fireplaces in a soft, undulating curve finished with polished-wax plaster.

“[The fireplace] doesn’t have to be a hole in the wall,” she says. “You can really push the boundaries with it, because it is a statement piece.”

B.E??? Architecture is another firm that has channelled its creative energies into fireplace design in recent projects, with a whimsical reinterpretation of a traditional fireplace in the pre-existing Victorian section of its Winter Street project and a seriously minimalist granite version at its Walsh Street apartment development.

In terms of practical considerations, B.E Architecture principal Andrew Piva advises people dealing with one or more fireplaces in a renovation or new build to plan carefully.

Things to bear in mind include regulatory requirements (for example, regarding hearth size), the size of the room and simple things such as the proximity of curtains.

“It’s a lot better to plan it earlier on, rather than throwing it in at the last minute,” he says.

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Five of the best young-gun interior designers to watch

Local designers desperate for reforms to protect their workDesigners share the inspiration behind projectsThe interior trends dominating 2017
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They’re the rising stars of interior design creating exciting new spaces in which to live, work and shop. Their work has the design world talking and the awards flooding in.

Here they shine a light on the projects that have put them on centre stage, revealing how they marry the creative process with their client’s vision. David Flack of Flack Studio in Melbourne

After just two years in his own studio, the young Swinburne graduate has retail, residential and overseas clients lining up to be ”Flackified”.

They find him through Instagram (he has 52,000 followers) and through word of mouth. With 18 projects on the go and another 20 in the wings, the future is bright for this creative dynamo who describes himself as ”slightly bonkers”.

Explaining his ethos, aka to ”Flackify”, his goal is to inject playfulness into exquisitely executed, textural detail. To create warm spaces and refined, beautifully edited rooms that celebrate heritage as well as natural surroundings.

When it comes to Flacktastic homes, David nominates a kitchen in Armidale where he used layers of brass, oak and marble to create ”casual grandeur”.

A lounge room in a ’70s Elsternwick home was modernised while paying homage to its original post-war style, using custom joinery (with a caramel stain that took a month to perfect) and statement artwork.

In a ”monotone” country home in Bendigo, Flack gave the space a signature colour hit using a blue rug from his own bespoke range.

“We are always contemporary but there is always a nod to another era – there’s always a twist or a turn and punches of colour. We definitely have our own style, people either love it or hate it,” says Flack, who designed the new Caravan restaurant in Seoul, South Korea, and has begun a large retail project in Shanghai.

Flack credits mentors Kerry Phelan and Fiona Lynch as influential in his success, which has been acknowledged with three places on the short-list of this year’s Australian Interior Design Awards.

“Every project looks different because of architecture but ultimately I want people turning the page of a magazine and saying that’s a Flack Studio design – we have a very strong language and look.” Claire Stevens of CSID in Brisbane

It didn’t take long for Claire Stevens’ talent to start turning heads. She was named Head of School on graduating from the Queensland University of Technology’s Bachelor in Interior Design, and, a year later, nabbed the Design Institute of Australia’s Emerging Student Designer award.

She went out on her own five years ago and has a portfolio of elegant and dazzling transformations under her belt. She’s in demand to work on everything from detail-rich, family-sized “Queenslanders” to Brisbane’s explosion in apartment developments.

Bringing clever design concepts to the rituals of daily life is a philosophy that informs most of her residential work. The ‘Indooroopilly residence’ by Claire Stevens Interior Design.Photo: Daniel Maddock

“Certain drawers that fit certain things like phones or keys, bathrooms and wardrobes that reflect people’s rituals, cupboards that include a place to plug in a vacuum cleaner, somewhere specific to put your shoes when you walk in the house – it’s about incorporating mundane things you do every day into a design,” said Claire.

A West End apartment project aimed to transform a ”cookie cutter” look by injecting some personality.

“In one long room we created three separate spaces with cabinetry to define a living area, dining and a library nook,” said Stevens. “It also provided a platform for displaying objects and artwork.”

A dream kitchen in an Indooroopilly Queenslander kept original timber detail in a contemporary update, resulting in a relaxed, luxe tropical vibe. “One of the joys of working with Queenslanders is they have a lovely sense of nostalgia and you don’t have to lose that if you modernise.” Cushla McFadden, Chloe Matters and Jade Nottage of TomMarkHenry in Sydney

Until now, grabbing the paper, shopping for sausages or waiting for your fish and chips could hardly be described as high-end design “experiences”.

But that was before this talent powerhouse got hold of three shops in Sydney that are wowing customers from Barangaroo to Double Bay. Architects at TomMarkHenry: Chloe Matters, Jade Nottage and Cushla McFadden. Photo: Damian Bennett

Bondi’s Best, a seafood takeaway and restaurant, now has a custom see-through fridge doubling as a work of art; the 1888 Butcher in Double Bay has turned the traditionally hidden ”prep” room into something of a theatre through the use of large windows; while workers at Barangaroo have their daily visit to a convenience store elevated with stone, arched shapes and elegant lighting.

“Our response to the briefs really challenged the perception of what those spaces should look and feel like,” said Cushla McFadden, who met her partners while all students.

“We thrive on and value the human connection – so we want customers to walk into a space and feel something different. We like to figure out how we can get customers to engage in a site and have that moment to appreciate the design, rather than just walk in and out.”

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Houses expensive? Sure, but so is a $400,000 car space

Car park for sale in Melbourne: 2332/181 Exhibition Street Photo: Cocoon Real EstateSydney car space sells for $190kDriving the price of car parks upParking cash in a car space
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Think housing is expensive? What about this Sydney car space, on the market for a staggering $400,000?

For just over a third of the city’s median house price, you might want to sleep on this premium slab of concrete yourself. But instead it will be your car – or two – enjoying one of Sydney’s most sought-after locations.

The tandem spot, part of the Mantra 2 Bond Street complex, is just a short stroll from the ASX, The Rocks and the Sydney Opera House.

Seller Terence Chuh has had multiple inquiries, but says most potential buyers are searching for a single space, rather than a double.

“I think the last sale for a single car spot was $188,000 – that was about three-and-a-half years ago,” he says, noting that it’s rare for a car park to be sold on a separate title to an apartment.

Chuh says the building’s car parks generally fetch a monthly rent in “the high 900s” for a single car space, or about $1100 for tandems.

But he’s in no hurry to sell, believing his money is better off invested in car parking than earning low interest rates in the bank. If anything, he’s thinking about upping the price.

But at $400,000, surely he’s dreaming?

Actually, says Francis Armstrong, founder of website Findacarpark, the asking price is realistic. “The location is absolutely bang-on.”

Armstrong says when it comes to this type of investing, location is the number one factor.

“If you have a car park in the inner city it will always be rentable,” he says. “In fact the biggest challenge for us is actually stock.

“A car park is like gold – it’s a finite resource.”

A secondary consideration is access and security. Armstrong says a space with a roller door or secure door is valuable because it can double up as storage.

On his website, the most searched locations in NSW are Sydney, Woolloomooloo, North Sydney, Surry Hills and Darlinghurst. In Victoria it’s Melbourne, South Melbourne, East Melbourne, Docklands and Southbank.

According to Findacarpark’s statistics from the March quarter, the average price across New South Wales was $73,000 for a single car space, followed by Victoria on $51,000 and Queensland on $45,320.

Over the same timeframe, NSW car spaces – the most expensive on the site – recorded returns (or rental yield) of 6 per cent. In Victoria that figure was 9 per cent, eclipsed by Queensland and WA, both on 13 per cent.

Armstrong says several factors, including poor public transport options and new planning rules limiting the number of car parks in high-rise developments are also pushing car park prices skyward. “We’re seeing the ratio of car parks to apartments becoming less.”

If $400,000 is out of your league, there are a few cheaper options on offer.

This level two car park in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct is going for $57,000, featuring such amenities as a security bollard and easy access to the lifts.

In Liverpool, Sydney, a seller has advertised 10 car spaces (two have already sold) for $33,000 each on Gumtree.

A tiny, 10-square metre parking space in Sydney’s Liverpool Street – squished between a handrail and a concrete rail – sold for just over $60,000 in April, with the agent noting that most cars wouldn’t be able to even fit in the spot.

In Hindley Street Adelaide, close to the city’s casino and convention centre, you’ll have a better chance of being able to open your car door in this CBD car space, selling for $43,000.

Armstrong says Brisbane is another hot spot for car park sales because of poor council planning and expensive street metre parking.

” target=”_blank”>This Brisbane city car park, in Spring Hill, is on the market for $48,000.

So who actually buys car parks?

Armstrong says it can vary widely, from inner-city workers, to super funds, mum and dad investors and large investors.

As with buying any kind of property, buyers must fork out for stamp duty, council rates and body corporate or strata fees.

Beyond that, there’s virtually no upkeep ??? “unless you’ve got a bomb parked in your car park and it leaks oil, that’s all’,” says Armstrong.

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The most exciting urban renewal project for the city

Southbank residents: Melbourne doesn’t know our suburbEuropean-style park coming to SouthbankWhat does it mean to be world’s most liveable city?
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There’s no doubt we’re experiencing a population explosion in the inner city and inner suburbs of Melbourne and why not? It’s the world’s most liveable city.

But one of the corollaries is that as density increases in the inner city, the pressing need to find open space gets more and more difficult.

In the past 25 years, I’ve seen Southbank go from a wasteland of old factories and warehouses to Melbourne’s densest suburb, and the only City of Melbourne suburb in Australia’s 20 densest suburbs.

That has meant that Southbank has less open space than any other postcode in the municipality, at just three square metres per resident.

Our 2015 Places for People report revealed that just 18 per cent of Southbank residents accessed open space locally compared with 90 per cent in Docklands and 31 per cent in the central city.

That’s why the City of Melbourne tries, wherever and whenever possible, to turn asphalt into green open space in the inner city: it’s for the benefit of those residents who are purchasing with the confidence of employment and recreation but not always on the basis of open space.

The most exciting of these projects in the city is Southbank Boulevard. We can, through an investment of $35 million, turn part of the road into a park that will be bigger than anything we have created since Birrarung Marr. Nearby Dodds Street has been partially closed for some time now, so to turn part of it to green space is a no brainer.

Traffic modelling indicates that the proposed changes would have minimal impact on parking and traffic in the area. In 1988, Southbank Boulevard carried 40,000 vehicles a day. The boulevard now carries 13,000 vehicles a day after direct access to the central city was closed following the construction of Queensbridge Square in 2001.

Equally, you can take existing spaces like University Square: one of the three traditional squares in Carlton and transform it from a fairly unloved and underutilised space into an extremely green space, even spilling over into the surrounding roadways, given there are no private dwellings adjacent to the square.

Some of the most exciting work we do is not on large scale projects such as these, however; it is identifying the small, underused, no longer needed roadways that can be turned into the smallest of pocket parks. If it’s unused roadway, still better to have it as park than as asphalt. Indeed, the City of Melbourne has converted around 80 hectares of underutilised asphalt and other infrastructure into expanded public open space over the last 30 years.

Finally, of course, in the coming years the largest open space project the city will be involved in will be the conversion of 1.5 hectares at the Queen Victoria Market from an asphalt car park (over the site of Melbourne’s first cemetery where there are still 6000-7000 bodies buried) into an open space immediately adjacent to the market. The space could be used for dining, restaurants, events or just enjoying yourself in a very large public open space immediately adjacent to the Flagstaff Gardens and in a precinct where we expect to see 12,000 new residents in the next five to six years.

Access to quality open space is integral to our quality of life and something that our forefather Charles La Trobe recognised at the time of Melbourne’s settlement when he set aside large parcels of land around the city for parks and open spaces which we enjoy to this day.

Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle is a regular Domain columnist. His fee for this article will be donated to Odyssey House Victoria.

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Investors not coffin up for corporate afterlife

A burning candle with a coffin and a flower arrangement on the background in a mortuary generic funeral photo: candle, coffin and flowers Photo: FairfaxAustralia’s biggest funeral services provider, Invocare, is in the business of taking care of the business of the “departed”, and it is good to see the ASX-listed group’s board is taking this vocation seriously.
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One of the resolutions that will be presented to investors at this Friday’s shareholder meeting asks them to give the board a rubber stamp for the “approval of potential termination benefits” if a senior executive happens to have, well, departed.

Corporations law requires that a company get investor permission for any termination payout that is more than an executive’s fixed annual pay packet.

As the Australian Shareholders Association points out, the board is seeking a three-year pass instead of coming to investors on a case-by-case basis. Needless to say, the ASA is opposing this, along with the remuneration report and another granting performance rights to the chief executive, Martin “Wyatt” Earp.

It is all part of aligning the interests of executives and investors, according to the Richard Fisher-led Invocare board.

It wants to allow the vesting of performance rights post-employment if an executive’s termination has been deemed a “good departure”.

It says the rationale is to keep long-term incentives active – rather than shut them down upon the executive’s departure – to ensure they are “motivated to make decisions that will deliver long-term sustainable value for shareholders”.

The interesting bit is that “good departure” does not include an executive resigning to go to a better place. Instead, it covers a situation where one of its head undertakers retires, takes a bona fide redundancy or – heaven forbid – dies.

The latter, of course, represents a potentially tactful business opportunity for Invocare, which reported double-digit earnings growth last year despite “a lower than expected level of demand”. Wait in line

Sure, James Packer owns half of Crown Resorts, but the board has made clear it will not be playing favourites.

A Crown release to the ASX on Thursday announced that Packer has received all appropriate regulatory approvals needed for the billionaire to rejoin the board.

And he will rejoin the board – at the appropriate juncture.

“Mr Packer’s application for appointment as a director will be considered by the Crown Resorts board at its June or August board meeting,” said the statement from Crown’s board, led by Packer lieutenant John Alexander.

No rush, huh?

Packer must be breathing a sigh of relief, though, given the China crisis and the probe into gift-giving to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Israeli press have been reporting that charges are expected to be made within months. While there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Packer, the close association with Netanyahu has not helped. The big stage

Former child actor and current Commonwealth Bank boss Ian Narev has been preparing for his big role of the year – announcing the Sydney Theatre Company’s results at its annual general meeting on Thursday evening.

As STC chairman, Narev reported that the consolidated group result – “including monies received towards capital raising” – was $2.31 million for last calendar year.

It “was a very strong year across our four stages and beyond”, said Narev, who spoke of highlights such as the Louis Nowra masterpiece The Golden Age.

The production might even have matched Narev’s starring role in Kiwi kiddies’ drama Children of Fire Mountain.

“This is a company of talented and dedicated people united by the common purpose of supporting the ambition, invention and success of Australian theatre-makers,” said Narev.

STC was supported by Malcolm Turnbull’s government through the Australia Council, but at least Narev doesn’t have to worry about Treasurer Scott Morrison hitting him with a super profits tax in return for this support.

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