Justine Tyerman finds Luxe Houses’ The Wharf Birchgrove sumptuous and luxurious… but above all welcoming, warm and inviting. It’s a cherished home with a myriad of personal touches… not a hotel suite.
I can see I’m in for some tough decisions when I arrive at The Wharf Birchgrove so I mentally steel myself for the days ahead.
Secluded, private and secure, the sumptuous Sydney waterfront home is marketed by Sydney-based ultra-luxury villa rental agency Luxe Houses whose bespoke VIP concierge services rival the most star-studded of hotels. What is included in the price is astounding.
Yacht director and skipper Luke Magennis’ has invited us to cruise the harbour on the sleek and powerful 50ft MV Birchgrove moored a few steps from the door; celebrity chef Clancy Atkinsonwants to rustle up a gourmet dinner party; and I’m keen to explore the cafés, restaurants boutiques, parks and walkways in the historic suburbs of Birchgrove and neighbouring Balmain. I also want to lounge languidly in the glass-enclosed, heated infinity pool outside on the patio, watching the ever-changing harbour stage before me, cocktail in hand; and every day, I must remember to have a chat to the in-house butler about what time would suit for the turn-down service and other vital housekeeping matters.
It’s a tall order… but I manage to do justice to the lot.
The Wharf Birchgrove
I’m awake early on our first morning in Sydney. Sunbeams dance across the floor and flit up the walls, striking the bevelled-edges of a huge mirror, scattering a kaleidoscope of miniature rainbows around the living room of the habour-edge Wharf Birchgrove in Sydney.
My eyes absorb the layers of texture, subtle colours, artworks, family treasures and custom-made furniture in this exquisite private home.
I’m intrigued by the deliberate choice to divide the large windowpanes into black-edged squares and rectangles, each one framing a piece of the landscape, like multiple artworks. One frame captures the arch of Sydney’s iconic harbour bridge, another the silhouette of the city’s horizon and yet another the tall masts of moored yachts tilting left and right in the breeze like giant metronomes.
The glossy white kitchen is a gorgeous show-piece, startling against the dark matte charcoal walls and grey slate tile floor. The mirror surface of the splashback brings images of the ferries and harbour life right into the house.
The parquet kitchen table seats eight while a cosy, conversational nook is created by couches and chairs in front of a wall-mounted fire with a flat-screen television above.
The mood is relaxed in this part of the house, an area the owner extensively redesigned, joining two parts of the original dwelling together to create space for an informal dining area where there was once a courtyard.
I walk through glass doors to the formal lounge, just as the rays of sun begin to flood the room from the 7m-high atrium which extends the full height of the two-storey house. Glass walls enclose an internal courtyard, an oasis of green where tropical palms thrive in their sheltered microcosm.
The room is effortlessly elegant with exceptional attention to nuances of texture, hue and form thanks to skilful work by interior designer Simone Luppino. Urns, lamps, books and artefacts collected from the owner’s travels, adorn chests, tables and shelves. A plush floor rug in purple, black and cream geometrics softens the grey slate tiled floor.
Plump armchairs and couches surround a low table and a magnificent floor-standing gilt-framed mirror adds to the feeling of space and light. A large flat screen TV is recessed into a wall cabinet.
Up a step from the lounge, is the stylish formal dining room with a heavy wooden table flanked by a mirrored wall, framed mosaic, well-stocked wine rack, lush plants and a pair of tall black candelabra. Above the table hangs a huge wooden chandelier. Tasmanian dark oak flooring imbues the space with a warm glow.
Recessed behind the dining room, hides a fully-equipped state-of-the-art catering kitchen with metres of bench space and facilities that would be the envy of any top chef. A large laundry with even more preparation and storage space is adjacent to the kitchen. Just perfect for large-scale entertaining.
A lavishly-appointed ground floor guest bedroom and ensuite opens onto the courtyard and beyond that to the living area and a harbour and bridge view. The regal queen bed has a padded satin headboard and matching chest at the foot of the bed, handsome brass reading lamps, and a magnificent crystal chandelier above.
A grand gang-plank style stairway with heavy wooden steps suspended between two sturdy black iron beams with chrome handrails and wire sides links the two storeys. The staircase anchors the nautical theme of the house which is repeated elsewhere in exquisite pieces of coral, shells, an oversized sailor’s knot door-stop, porthole mirrors and shipping trunk-style chests.
An imposing artwork ‘Flaming June’ – a copy of an 1895 oil painting of a sleeping woman in a voluminous orange gown by Sir Frederic Leighton – hangs at the foot of the steps.
Upstairs, the dark oak floor in the main entrance contrasts with the sheen of the white gloss cabinetry.
A pretty powder-blue guest bedroom with a white-tiled ensuite bathroom, opens onto a sheltered, sunny balcony with a view of the bridge above the tops of palm trees growing in the courtyard below. An eye-catching central light fitting, a cluster of intersecting circles like Saturn’s rings, encloses six candlelights.
I slept upstairs in the supremely comfortable custom-made king-sized bed in the master bedroom that night with the curtains wide open, watching the winking red lights on the iconic harbour bridge and the reflections of the city’s nightlights, distorted by the wind and the wash of wakes. The bed linen was such high quality, I thought it was doubled. The palatial ensuite bathroom has a step-up bath, glass-walled shower and a dressing room the size of a small boutique.
I loved the abundance of Appelles spa products in every bathroom and the exquisite bespoke Cocolux candle scents, selected by Cocolux for Luxe Houses. The fragrance for The Wharf Birchgrove is ‘Sweet Pomegranate and Acai’, sweet and fruity with a hint of spice, just some of Luxe Houses’ special touches.
It’s a high-tech house operated by touch screen pads for lighting, blinds, television and music. There are five television sets, one in each bedroom and the formal and informal lounges. The place has an excellent integrated sound system, inside and out.
A private internal lift runs from the secure carpark at road level stopping on both floors.
The place is ultra-luxurious and sumptuous and yet warm, welcoming, cosy, tranquil, light-filled and above all inviting. It’s a cherished home with a myriad of personal touches… not a hotel suite.
The Wharf Birchgrove, built in 2009, is located on the site of a former shipyard owned by the Stannard Brothers boat building company, and sits directly above Sydney’s largest private wharf. Constructed in 1946, the 70m jetty was once a working wharf handling all manner of goods, and home to boat sheds and garages for ship repairs.
- Justine Tyerman was a guest of Luxe Houses: www.luxehouses.com, at The Wharf Birchgrove
- Justine flew Air New Zealand direct to Sydney from Auckland
- JUCY Rentals assisted with transport
- All reservations with Luxe Houses include airport transfers, personal greeting and Dom Perignon Champagne on arrival, housekeeping, Appelles bath and spa products, bespoke Cocolux candle scents and access to the Luxe concierge
- The Wharf Birchgrove includes a daily butler service for up to 6 hours, a housekeeping and turn-down service, private chef, food shopping and preparation. A two-hour sunset cruise on board Birchgrove MV with a bottle of Moet is inclusive when a guest at this property
- In addition Luxe Houses concierge services can arrange private charter jets, helicopter transfers, yachts, launches, jet-boats, private chefs, waiter staff for guest occasions, butlers, drivers, bespoke spa treatments, experienced nannies, guides, personal trainers and anything else to help make your stay flawless