Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10 Great Tips for getting your home ready for sale

With Spring right around the corner, it is a good time to prepare your home to look it's best.

Deciding where to start can often be the most difficult part of preparing your home for sale. Following these ten tips will allow you to turn your home in to a marketable space that will appeal to all buyers.

1. The big clean! De clutter, declutter, declutter. This does not mean make the room bare, but do your best to extenuated the clean lines of your furniture in the room. Perhaps remove a chair or two, and adopt a minimal approach to table and bench tops. The more space you create the more space buyers feel they are purchasing.

2. Get a professional cleaner to come through and clean your house. These guys have the industrial tools that will do more than a vacuum and some Domestos. Consider washing the front of the house with a pressure washer and clean any high windows and skylights.

3. Tidy the garden. Trimming trees, replanting shrubs, adding mulch and mowing the lawn all help make a home look inviting to the buyer.

4. Perform maintenance. Oil squeaky doors, fix locks, change light bulbs, repair chipped benches and stone work. Think of yourself as a buyer and go through your house and point out anything that you think a buyer would find unappealing or in need of repair.

5. Put double or queen beds in all your bedrooms. Buyers associate a good bedroom by having the ability to fit a double bed in the room. If you have a single bed in a room, it is difficult for buyers to imagine a double bed fitting there. By placing a double bed in all your bedrooms, it gives your home a strong sense of private space.

6. Consider getting in a professional stylist. Styling is an underrated part of a sale, but a home with furniture is far more appealing than an empty house. Buyers will be able to visualise their couch size or their bed size by comparing it to the furniture they see, this helps to re-enforce their decision to view the property. A good stylist can amaze you with what they can do with space and design. Plus styled homes look fantastic in the photography.

7. Remove pets. The smell of a pet in a home can be off putting, as can seeing half eaten dog food or a dug up garden. While you may love your pet, the buyers may not and it can put them off buying the home. Some people have a fear of dogs and others have cat allergies, frightening your buyers away or making them sick is not a good way to sell your home.

8. Play some music at the open homes. Music is a great welcoming tool and that is why retail stores use it so much. It draws people into your home and allows them to relax a lot more than if there was silence in the home.

9. Display DA plans. If you've thought about a renovation in the past or have had plans drawn up, it might be a good idea to display these at the open homes. They can inform people on the potential of the property if they do not like the current floor plan.

10. Hide your valuables. Whilst theft at an open home is rare, it is better to keep valuable objects out of sight. This technique can also be used with family photographs, the goal is to let the buyers visualise themselves living in the property and sometimes personal photos can hinder this task.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Haunted real estate stories

Last month the SMH published an article asking the question, "Would you move into a haunted house." It is an interesting topic for real estate agents because while we don't often know if a house we have for sale or lease is haunted (often we don't want to know), we do go through so many properties that sometimes we experience things that don't seem right or a little unusual. I thought I'd share some experiences from some local agents who've been touched by the paranormal during their years in real estate.

One of the strangest haunted experiences I've heard was at a home in Blacktown by a leasing officer I knew. The property was sitting vacant and he was preparing a condition report (where we assess the property before a new tenant moves in). He was in the kitchen and absent mindedly put his hand on the kitchen bench to support his body, however when he did so, he felt his hand touch someone elses hand, as if someone was standing in the room next to him. The hand he felt quickly slid out from under his hand and when he turned to look he saw nothing there. It would have been a very strange sensation.

In an old home in Balmain East, another leasing officer I knew was sitting on the floor of an upstairs bedroom assessing the carpet for another condition report when she suddenly felt a huge weight on her, as if someone had sat on her back. She immediately felt cold and felt as if she was going to throw up. She got up and left the room. When she looked back into the bedroom she saw what looked like a small grey haze silently floating in the centre of the room. She told me that she couldn't get out of the house fast enough!

We had a property for sale and one of our agents was holding an open house at the property which was vacant and styled. She opened up the upstairs master bedroom which had a book and some iron keys on the bedside table. She then went downstairs, put the flag and the open board out before returning to the master bedroom to find that both the book and the iron keys had moved from the table to be sitting in the middle of the bed. She said that she didn't think too much about it at the time until a couple of opens later the same thing happened again and the front door slammed shut on it's own while she was in the hallway.

The Welcome Hotel has a ghost story about a spirit dog that supposedly visits the pub. It is the same dog that is pictured on the pub's coat of arms. Balmain has many old homes and I'm sure there are a few out there that house some interesting spirit stories. If you have one, post the stories on this blog, we'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Amazing Office Designs

If you've seen the movie "Office Space" you'd get a sense at how tedious working in an office can be. But for some people, the office is a second home... so why not make it as comfortable as possible? In this post we'll see some amazing office designs, built to ignite the architectural senses.

TBWA Hakuhodo Offices
The problem with the office is that you can be couped up inside when it's such a beautiful day outside. A Tokoyo Ad Agency thought about this and decided to bring the outside inside. Complete with garden, grass lawn and driving range, this ex-bowling alley has been converted to make the indoor environment replicate the outdoor.
Penthouse Offices by Benthem Crouwel Architects
Hovering above the Las Palmas building in Rotterdam, Netherlands, the Penthouse Offices showcase a large curved glass window facing out to the river. The interior is furnished with wood furniture and sleek white walls that create an open space, allowing for a smooth enclosed design.
Manchester Square Interior
The goal by SHH was to make this office feel more like a gentlemen's club. Spanning five stories in a Georgian townhouse in London's West End, these offices are a mixture of work and play. The furniture has been designed for comfort while the interior still attempts to hold faithful a mixture of Victorian and contemporary elements.
White Mountain Office
With a look straight from a James Bond movie, this spectacular office sits buried beneath the city of Stockholm. Once used as an anti-atomic bomb shelter, the space has been expertly converted to house one of Sweden's top ISP companies. Complete with a floating conference room, a secret stone entrance and the ability to protect whoever's inside from nuclear fallout, the White Mountain office would easily be on the property shopping list of any would-be Bond villain!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Will the Carbon Tax directly affect housing affordability?

The deadline date for the introduction of the Carbon Dioxide Tax is scheduled for July 2012, up until that time there will be much speculating on what the impending tax will do to the housing market. The majority of economists agree that the Cardon Tax will lead to a 0.7 per cent increase to inflation which will undoubtedly catch the eye of the RBA, who would consider raising interest rates to combat the rise. The National Australia Bank is forecasting two rate rises in the next year, one in late 2011 and one in May 2012 just before the Carbon Tax is brought in. While an initial 0.7 per cent inflation rise is considered a minimal impact, some economists like JPMorgan Stephen Walters believe there may be unforeseen economic aftershocks once the tax is introduced: "If we see electricity prices go up by 5 per cent rather than 3 per cent forecast, the unions are going to start to push for higher wages in addition to the compensation on offers. That is a clear second-round effect and that is when it becomes material."

The housing sector too is worried about how the Carbon Dioxide Tax will effect housing affordability. The Housing Industry Association - a body representing builders and suppliers of building products is arguing that the Carbon Tax will add an additional $5000 to $6000 to the cost of a new house and land package. This cost will of course be passed on to the customer which has the further potential to discourage home buyers from building their new home. "Increases in the cost of construction materials including bricks, steel and aluminium will be simply passed on to purchasers, pushing the price of new housing higher," REINSW President Wayne Stewart said, "the knock-on effect of this could see the median Sydney house pushed out of the reach of many prospective home buyers."

However, not all economists think that housing will be adversely affected by the Carbon Tax. Tony Wood of The Grattan Institute says, "Whenever industry is given the incentive, it finds ways to do things that cost less than any economist can ever think of." Some industries like aluminum, steel and cement, he argues, will be compensated under the current Carbon Tax scheme. "They should not be allowed just to put their prices up and pass through a carbon price they're not paying for."

What are your thoughts? Do you think the Carbon Tax will directly impact and hurt housing affordability in Australia? Put your comments below.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Support our team in the Oxfam Trailwalk

Picture this challenge: you must run continuously for 17 hours over rugged, precarious and mountainous terrain to reach your goal 100 kilometres away. Could you do it?

That is what our team at aboutlife...100 are attempting to do to raise funds and awareness in the fight against global poverty. The four person team, which includes our super Sales Agent Lynsey Kemp, our sensational Property Management Administrator Mary Tuka, Terry Tyrell Business Development Manager at Russell Investments and Joel Aurisch part owner of AboutLife Supermarket, are participating in the Oxfam Trailwalker.

It is a 100km track that runs from the Hawkesbury district to Sydney through dense bushland and hilly coastal terrain. It runs from 26th August to 28th August and is an extremely gruelling track even for walkers!
And our team is running it!
And they need your donations!

Help support the team as they train their guts out for one of the toughest tests this year. The goal for the team is to raise $10,000 for Oxfam which will aid the organisation by contributing to long-term development and positive change in needy communities around the globe. To show your support you can donate money to the aboutlife...100 team or join the Sarah Lorden Real Estate team at our fundraising Oxfam stall on Saturday 16th July at Loyalty Square, Balmain.

We will be holding a BBQ at the Oxfam stall with sausage sandwiches dripping in delicious fat, just to tempt the aboutlife...100 team and their insanely fit members!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Man-Cave

The Den, the Shed, the Cubby. Call it what you want, over the last few years we have see the popularity of these "havens of manliness" grow and grow. Once upon a time these venues of virilaty went by the name of the shed or the garage, a place where men could be men and pursue their passions. Some men will claim that it is a place for them to take some time out from the "ol ball-and-chain", others will say that it is a place for him and his buddies, but really its just a place where boys can play with their toys.
And what toys some boys have! In this post is just a small collection of some fantastic Temples to Manliness!

The Sports Man-Cave
Sport is a way of life for a man. If you don't enjoy the competition and the smell of other sweaty men, then you are just not a man!

The Golf Man-Cave
There are many women out there who know curse the day their husband took up golf. It was the day they became known as a "golf widow" but with the Golf Man-Cave, the hubby will always be at home, slicing shots into computer generated woods and putting around the vacuum cleaner to win the Home-bound PGA!

The Nightclub Man-Cave
What man hasn't wanted to turn his humble garage into an asylum for alcohol? This man-cave is worth charging an entry fee for!

Serial Killer Man-Cave
When your man's obsession with guns spills over into a converted bunker, you'd have to wonder if he is really worth keeping. The big brass vault door is to keep him locked in there until he's run out of ammunition... about 4 weeks!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"The Anchorage" - 44 Louisa Road, Birchgrove

Having written about the rich history of "Birch Grove House", Australia's second oldest home, in a previous blog, I thought I would talk about another home still standing in Louisa Road that sits literally across the street from where the old Birch Grove House once stood. 44 Louisa Road - The Anchorage.

Standing to be what some claim as the tallest home on the Balmain peninsula, "The Anchorage" at 44 Louisa Road, Birchgrove was built in 1896 by John Gibson. Gibson was the inaugural occupant of the home and was, according to the State Library of NSW, the chief Engineer of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. Previously known as "Fitzroy Villa" and built in the Italianate style, The Anchorage, has a unique feature - a Widow's Walk situated at the top of the flat roof, towering over the homes of Louisa Road.

Back in the early days of Birchgrove, there used to be a coal mine situated in the spot where Birchgrove Public School now stands. This was the first coal mine in Australia and once the coal was brought to the surface, it was placed on to railed trolleys that ran to a nearby wharf and shipped away. The Widow's Walk (or Captain's Walk) at 44 Louisa Road, played an important role in providing an over watch look out for the shipping lanes to and from the coal mine, as well as, a clear line of sight to Gibson's Dockyards at Cockatoo Island.

While the original architectural plans for the home still survive at the State Library of NSW in linen and paper, the home has recently been restored to its former charm but with modern amenities. Currently up for sale with Kate Lorden of Sarah Lorden Real Estate, the home is five levels of large rooms, all with spectacular waterfront views. It has its own private jetty, pool and the Widow's Walk is perfect for entertaining or watching the boats sail by.

You are invited to view the home at its first open house this Saturday 11th June 2011 between 12.00 - 12.45pm. It is an amazing piece of Australian heritage in Birchgrove's most exclusive street.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Some Amazing Underground Homes

With all the talk in Sydney about the need for high density living, developers and politicians have immediately turned to the high rise skyscraper unit blocks to solve the housing problem. But what about building beneath the surface, in an underground home? Visually stunning and often extremely ecco-friendly here are a couple of amazing underground homes that catch the eye.

Swiss Mountain Ellipse
In the Swiss mountain village of Vals, sits a sunken crater that is barely visible from the surface. For an underground home, it offers spectacular mountain views.
More Photos

Gary Nevilles Home
Former Manchester United Star Gary Neville has recently had plans drawn up for an amazing home that looks like something out of the teletubbies. Built almost entirely underground, the home has been designed into the shape of a flower with each of the petals representing the activities of "work", "entertain", "eat", "relax" and "play" with the kitchen as the central focal point in the middle.
Said to cost 8 million pounds to build, the home has a 0% carbon footprint and generates its power from a wind turbine, solar panels and an underground thermal heating system. In fact, the home is thought to be so efficient that the UK Government has set it as the benchmark for zero carbon emission design.
The architects of the building have used the ancient neolithic settlement of Skara Brae as inspiration for the design.

Uunderground cities of Kaymakli & Derinkuyu
Living underground is not a new concept. The inhabitants of Cappadocia in Turkey built dwellings into the soft volcanic rock. There is evidence that they housed persecuted Christians during the Roman and Byzantine eras and some of the structures are as tall as 11 stories. At their height, these stone cities would have been able to accommodate up to 50 000 people and large stone boulders were rolled in and out as doors to seal the community away from the persecuting outside world.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bushrangers in Balmain - Captain Thunderbolt

The folklore of bushrangers have touched the hearts and minds of all Australians. Their romantically rogue ways of highway robbery and living a life on the run have become legend in Australian history. Balmain, more specifically, Cockatoo Island became an island known for housing some of Australia's most notorious bushrangers. In 1857, a local newspaper called Cockatoo Island "a hot bed of vice, a nursery of crime and a den of the blackest infamy where crimes that would rise the blush of burning shame upon a demon's check are nightly perpetrated." After that description, no one could mistake Cockatoo Island for being a nice place!

In 1833, Governor Bourke established a gaol on the island that originally housed 250 convicts. The island, situated in a remote part of Sydney and surrounded by strong tides and currents, made for a perfect fortress to hold the derelicts of society. It stood as a goal for 38 years before being shut down. During that time, the gaol housed the famous bushranger - Captain Thunderbolt. Captain Thunderbolt gained notoriety as being one of the few prisoners to escape Cockatoo Island prison, braving the strong currents to set foot in Balmain.

Born with the name Frederick Ward in 1833 to convict parents in Wilburforce, Ward was originally sentenced to 10 years hard labour at Cockatoo Island for selling 75 stolen horses. He was 23 at the time. After serving 4 years on the island, he was released and married Mary Ann Bugg. In 1860, he was sent back to Cockatoo Island for stealing 2 shoes and a horse. His wife devised a plan to break him out of gaol.

On 11 September 1863, Mary Ann Bugg swam from the cliffs at Birchgrove to Cockatoo Island carrying tools to release her husband. The plan was a success with Ward, his wife Mary Ann and another prisoner, Fred Bitten, escaping Cockatoo Island and successfully swimming the narrow water ways to the Balmain Peninsular.

The trio then made their way north to the Hunter Valley region where they soon became notorious bushrangers committing crimes ranging from highway robbery to horse stealing. Their crimes were so quick, yet brutal that Ward quickly earned the name Captain Thunderbolt.

Captain Thunderbolt terrorised the NSW central north west for 7 years until he suddenly disappeared. There are a few theories about what happened him. One theory is that he was shot during a highway robbery in 1870 by a Constable Walker in Uralla; however the locals at the time maintained that it was Ward's uncle who was killed and not Captain Thunderbolt. Another theory was that he had fled to America where a "Frederick Ward" shows up in an American census in 1871.

Captain Thunderbolt's violent legacy remains with a statue to him in Uralla and at the Moonan Flat Pub in Scone, where there still remains a bullet hole in the wall made by the bushranger during a hold up.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Balmain and the ANZAC Spirit

In Loyalty Square there stands a sandstone monument called the Balmain War Memorial. It is one of Australia’s earliest war memorials, erected on 23rd April 1916, before the end of the First World War and while the battle at Gallipoli was still raging.

It is unknown why the war memorial was erected so early and why Balmain was chosen at a suitable place to commemorate the fallen. One theory is that the memorial initially commemorated those that gave their lives during the early Dardanelle/Gallipoli campaign. It is thought that nearly all the 5000 male residents eligible to enlist in World War One, did so. It's well documented that the local Balmain Rugby Union club could no longer compete in competition due to nearly all their members going off to fight in The Great War. The absence of so many male workers would have also affected Balmain's local industry.

38 local men from Balmain perished during the Gallipoli campaign and each name is etched on the monument. Two recipients of the Victoria Cross during the First World War are named on the monument, though neither were locally born.

Lance Corporal JWA Jackson, a veteran of Gallipoli, is still the youngest VC recipient and the first to receive it for his service at the Western Front. In the prelude to the Battle of the Somme in France, Jackson and his scouting party were under heavy fire when he captured an enemy soldier and returned him to the line; he then went back twice into no-mans land and rescued the remainder of his party, having his right arm blown off by a shell in the process.

Private Currey rushed and captured two German machine gun posts, killing all the crew in Peronne, France. He then volunteered to rescue a stranded force on the front line: "At 3 am when efforts to reach (a Lt Waite in an advanced position) having failed, Private Currey volunteered to make his third attempt and going out far into the disputed front he stood up and called with all his lung power. "Waitsy! Get in." The Germans turned on him every weapon they had; he was gassed and his respirator was shot through. But Waite had heard him and returned." - C.E.W. Bean.

Such acts of bravery and gallantry should always be remembered as we should with those great men and women who have given their lives for our country.

Lest we forget.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hill Plains House - 2011 Winner of the Australian Interior Design Awards

On Friday night, the who's who of Australian interior design gathered at the annual Australian Interior Design Awards. Judged by a panel of experts across a number of different categories the awards are a recognition by peers to the outstanding work Australian interior design companies are developing.

The 2011 big gong went to Wolveridge Architects of Melbourne with their design of Hill Plain House. They now carry the title as winner of the Premier Award for Interior Design Excellence and Innovation 2011.

With a new and inspired take on the Australian rural home, Hill Plains House transformed an unassuming facade into a welcoming interior with bold features. Its high ceilings, dark polished concrete floors and large windows allow light to travel horizontally through the home giving a sense of space, yet with a warm purpose. The home is also highly efficient and sustainable and makes use of these characteristics in an unassuming and unconventional way.

You can check out more winners and finalists at the Australian Interior Design Awards website

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Birch Grove House" - The dark history of Australia's 2nd oldest home

Having just aided a sale on Louisa Road and working on a new listing on the same street, I thought I'd talk about an important home that once stood on the prized street.

"Birch Grove House" was at the time of it's demolition in 1967, the second oldest home in Australia (after "Elizabeth Farm" in Parramatta). It was built by Lieutenant John Birch in 1810 and used locally quarried stone from Long Nose Point to aid its construction. He later sold the home for 480 pounds to merchant Walpole Loane who tenanted the home after a long period of vacancy where the glass and materials had been pilfered from the home. The tenants, Mr & Mrs. Bradley were later murdered in the home by thieves. Loane, himself, was know to be a man of unscrupulous character and after a series of renovations, place "Birch Grove House" for sale claiming the property possessed more land that he had rightful claim to.

In 1853, Birch Grove House came under the ownership of Henry Watson Parker for eight months, he married John Macarthur's young daughter Emmeline Emily and sold it again in 1954 to Didier Joubert for 6000 pounds. It was Joubert who is credited with founding the suburb of Birchgrove by subdividing the land around "Birch Grove House" for smaller residential housing.

As the suburb of Birchgrove grew, "Birch Grove House" fell into disrepute. In the 1870's, always giving up secrets, a enormous painting of Ceres, the goddess of nature and regeneration, was discovered beneath some wallpaper. It was believed to have been painted by a French convict.

In 1915, "Birch Grove House," sitting on considerably less land than in the days of John Birch, was sold to its final owner Mrs Lillian MacDonald for 1,150 pounds. Mrs MacDonald live in the home until her death in 1962. Leichhardt Council later sold the home to a development company who campaigned successfully for it's demolition in 1967. On Christmas 1967, despite much protest, "Birch Grove House" was demolished and a three storey unit block was built on its site taking the name "Birchgrove House."
"Birch Grove House" had been an icon in early Australian history. A place of murder, history and secrets, it is a shame that it no longer stands today. The original position of "Birch Grove House" on Louisa Road is where the unit block continues to stand at 67 Louisa Road.

ps. I apologise that I have not included any photos of Birch Grove House, the sad realisation is that there aren't any publishable photos on the property.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Easter in Balmain!

Have an eggsellent Easter with Sarah Lorden Real Estate!

If you want to catch the Easter Bunny hop on down to Balmain’s Loyalty Square between 10am and 2pm on Saturday the 16th of April. For good boys and girls the Easter Bunny will be packing a big bag filled with delicious chocolate eggs. He will also be bringing along a few friends who are fabulous at face painting.

The Easter Bunny is helping raise funds for the Salvos, so please give generously and enjoy an eggsellent Easter with us!
Also, when you’re looking at properties on, don’t forget to check out Sarah & Kate Lorden presenting “Balmain TV” in the left hand section of the page.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Tallest Hotel in the World

Having its official opening on May 3rd 2011 the Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong is set to claim the title as the "tallest hotel in the world."

Soaring 490 metres above the city, the hotel houses 312 rooms and occupies the 102nd to 118th floors of the International Commerce Centre, which dominates Hong Kong's skyline. Each room presents panoramic views of Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong Island and the New Territories and one night's stay begins from $745 a night.
There are six dining venues including Chinese and Italian restaurants, OZONE - the highest bar in the world, a "Chocolate Library" and a roof top pool sporting 144 ceiling-mounted TV screens to entertain backstroking swimmers.

"The overall design theme of the hotel is inspired by the city's dynamic culture," CEO Mark DeCocinis told The Wall Street Journal, "a global metropolis at the crossroads of East and West..." Once it's finished, there is no doubt that the hotel will be one of the most talked about in the world.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I've started a copywriting business!

Hi everyone!
Just to let you know that, while I'm still working in Sydney's premier real estate market, I also have a business up and running as a copywriter. The company is called "Logocracy Copywriting" and specialise in blogs, SEO, websites, brochures and any other form of advertised script or prose. I have just launched a facebook page which would be great if you could "like" it! I will be posting blogs and interesting articles on the world of copywriting and advertising.
"Like" the page at

If you are curious about the name, Logocracy comes from the Greek words "Logos" - "words" and "Kratos" - "to rule by". Therefore the name "Logocracy" means "to rule by words" hence the corny slogan "do your words rule?" and the logo which is a fountain pen with an exclamation mark, but also looks like a crown.
I'd love to hear any feedback on this blog, the articles or anything on copywriting. If you are looking for a copywriter for your business, you can contact me on the facebook page or email:

The Hitler House!

Here's something a little quirky!
A home owner in Wales has become an overnight Internet sensation when a pedestrian walking past his house noticed that the home bared an uncanny resemblance to the former Nazi dictator, Adolf Hitler.
While home owner Clive Davies remained oblivious to his homes fame, the photo of the house went viral to thousands of people via Twitter. He was later told by his son and daughter-in-law after his son spotted a picture of the house in a newspaper in Kabul, Afghanistan.
"I have never noticed any similarity before and most people who pass by are so close they probably never notice." Davies told a local newspaper, "Some people say they can see images of Jesus Christ on items such as toast, and I suppose it is just a variation on a theme."
The home has been with the family for nearly half a century and is the last home in a row of terraces. Mr. Davies later commented "I don't really think it looks like Hitler."

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Balmain: Birthplace of the Australian Labor Party

Last Saturday, the NSW Liberal Party trounced Labor in a convincing victory that ended 16 years of Labor rule. Only five seats remain "too close to call" and one of those hotly contested seats is the seat of Balmain. Incumbant Labor member Verity Firth has seen a considerable swing against her and her Party, while her rivals, Leichhardt Mayor Jamie Parker and Liberal candiate James Falk had votes go their way. The State Electorial commision still has the seat as too close to call with 70% of the vote counted.

Since it is a relevant time for political talk, I thought I'd talk about the influence Balmain has had on the Labor Party. Many people know that Balmain has a strong working-class history, but it is also credited as the birthplace of the Australian Labor Party in NSW.
In April 1891, a group of unionised workers, mainly maritime workers and shearers gathered at the Unity Hall in Darling Street and formed the Labor Electoral League adopting the recent constitution of the NSW Trades and Labor Council. This was the first ever meeting of what was to become the Australian Labor Party in NSW. A few months later, "Labor" as their members were calling themselves, won 35 seats in the NSW Assembly to establish themselves as a new governing force within Australian colonial politics.

Over then next 10 years, the universal appeal of leftist political thought grew the popularity of the League - socialists, women suffergists and rural communities all found representation within the Labor Electoral League. In 1901, the year of Federation, the Labor representatives of the four colonies of NSW, QLD, Victoria and South Australia met at the inagural Federational Conference and hastly joined together to form the Australian Labor Party, ready to contest in the first Federal Elections. And the rest is history

Historically, Balmain has been a working-class seat and very safe for Labor; however in recent years a demographic change has led to a rise in the Greens vote, transforming it into a maginal seat. April 2011 will be the 120th Anniversary of the founding of the NSW Labor Party in Balmain but it may very well be a quiet celebration if Verity Firth looses her seat.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mysterious French mansion frozen in time for 100yrs, opens it's doors

In Moulins, France sits a lone house lurking in the shadow of the town's cathedral. An eccentric bachelor by the name of Louis Mantin who was obsessed with death and the passing of time, wrote in his will that the house, known as Maison Mantin, was to open as a museum a century after his death. He died 6 months later in 1905. "He wanted the house to remain unchanged , like a time-capsule for future generations, so they would know how a bourgeois gentleman lived at the turn of the 20th Century" Maud Leyoudec, assistant curator of Maison Mantin told CNN.

Surviving two world wars including a German occupation in the 1940's, the townsfolk of Moulins respected the will and left the Mansion's doors closed for 100 years. Rumours circulated that there were skeletons in side and it became part of the town's lore.

When a house remains untouched for long periods of time, they tend to become decrepit and fall apart. The Maison Mantin was no exception. Mantin's great-niece opened it in 2005, highlighting the urgent need for restoration. "There was woodworm and damp caused by the house not being heated, and many of the elaborate wall coverings were torn," Leyoudec said, "There were insects everywhere in the house - it was really awful."

A team of 30 specialists set to work on the restoration which took over 4 years and cost nearly $5 million. The Mansion, reopened as a museum in October 2010 and displayed many modern comforts for the time including electric lighting, flushing toilets and under-floor heating. It also contained some unique artifacts such as two frogs sword-fighting and a stuffed puffer fish. It is thought that the Maison Mantin is a unique entity, having been the only home of its kind to have been deliberately left in its original state for 100 years - a snapshot of early 20th century life.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Balmain Pubs: Dick's Hotel & Exchange Hotel

Dick's Hotel:
Named after publican John Dick who built this pub in 1874, the hotel has stood on the corner of Beattie & Montague Sts for over 140 years with little change. For a brief period between 1886 to 1898, Dick's was also known as "Lean's Hotel" after it's second licensee Jabez Lean. It is known as "the People's Pub" not only for its cozy and conscience lack of bombastic flare, but because of it's history with the Balmain Union movement. Dick's Hotel had a verandah overlooking the street that was the scene of an accident in 1904 when a 7 year old child fell from the balcony and landed onto the road below. She sustained a broken arm and fractured wrist but was treated back to health. The verandah was removed around 1924 but the popular beer garden remains a favourite with the locals.

Exchange Hotel:
Heritage listed for its wonderful architecture, the imposing Exchange Hotel was the last and largest pub to be built in the 1880s. Rising up three levels, the Exchange Hotel, along with Dick's Hotel, were instrumental houses for the Balmain Labours Union that would later develop into today's Australian Labour Party. Politicians and speakers would take advantage of the height of the balconies to address crowds of the Beattie Street Push on the street below. It is unknown when the top balcony of the Exchange Hotel was removed but the balcony at Dick's Hotel was also dismantled. The Exchange Hotel recently underwent a $2 million renovation that restored it's old charm, but gave it a modern feel. The Safari Bar that, in the past, was adorned with hunting busts has now been given a face-lift to look like a 1930s Moroccan gin bar. Today the Exchange remains one of the most iconic buildings on the peninsula.