Home quirky home:Instagram accounts celebrate Sydney suburbia

Drew Brian Hoy is trying to save Sydney’s historic homes and buildings,one photo at a time.

His Instagram account,Forgotten Sydney, is part of a social media wave that is celebrating ordinary Australian homes and apartments – and not the ones you’d find in the annual architecture awards.

Since the onset of the pandemic,his account has grown from fewer than 1000 followers to 14,000 followers.

Drew Brian Hoy,who runs Instagram account Forgotten Sydney,outside an art deco apartment block in Drummoyne.

Drew Brian Hoy,who runs Instagram account Forgotten Sydney,outside an art deco apartment block in Drummoyne.James Brickwood

Other accounts are booming.Retro Sydney, a nostalgic account that celebrates Sydney through the decades,has attracted 68,000 followers.

Other popular accounts includeLord Fry,who describes himself as a lover of the urban landscape.Other People’s Homes is by Sandy Weir,a former publisher,who says she is a lover of quirky homes.

Hoy’s theory? “If you can take a beautiful photograph of a building,you can raise awareness of it,and people build an emotional connection towards it. And if they find out that a building in their neighbourhood is going to be demolished,it will probably be protected,” said Hoy,a banker who completed an architecture degree before deciding it wasn’t for him.

Euroka and Merilbah are a matching pair of Victorian free classical homes,narrow like terrace houses,but not actually joined. The homes were built by William Fowler,who owned a number of homes in Summer Hill.

Euroka and Merilbah are a matching pair of Victorian free classical homes,narrow like terrace houses,but not actually joined. The homes were built by William Fowler,who owned a number of homes in Summer Hill.Drew Brian Hoy at Forgotten Sydney

Weir,who runs Other People’s Homes,was always a sticky beak and interested in how other people live.

“I am not on a crusade to preserve every house,” she said. “But I am on a quest to find interesting quirky character-filled houses that people love.”

She has always been a walker – 12 to 20 kilometres a day – and when her dog died during the pandemic,she started taking more photos of houses. “Sometimes,I think:‘You had all this money,and you built that?’”

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She has no time for people who make judgmental comments online about the homes that she loves and posts online. “I don’t put up with negativity,” she said.

Currently,Weir is fixated on an “amazing kind of slight crazy ’70s-built architecture”. She recently discovered Italian architect and artist Gino Volpato,who designed many homes in Sydney.

Followers of her account love art deco buildings. “But they also really love,love,love suburban ’70s and ’80s with wrought iron,and orange bricks. It gives them a sense of nostalgia,comfort and home.”

She is touched by how many people invite her into their homes.

When Weir stopped this month outside an Arncliffe home built in 1977 by a Spanish architect called Bianco,the “delightful owner came out and told me about her house.”

The woman told her that she and her husband had designed everything,inside and out,with Bianco.

Often she finds intriguing homes that have been hiding in plain sight from locals who have never stopped long enough to look.

Heritage expert Dr Zeny Edwards said the pandemic allowed people to look more closely at Sydney. “Nostalgia has loomed large,” said Edwards,an architectural historian.

Edwards said the pandemic had provided more “room for ruminating,for remembering the joy of things past,for scrutinising the limited view from our windows of chimneys,gabled roofs,gum trees and currawong.”

Hoy’s Forgotten Sydney Instagram account is packed with photographs from the days when apartment blocks were given names like Orio,Clayton,Beverley and Lindisfarne. Grand homes were called Hollywood,Ravenswood,Fernleigh,Ebrington and Mignon. Another was known as Ocean Liner Style House.

Like many of these accounts,Hoy has a special love of art deco buildings,which don’t have as many heritage listings as buildings from other eras.

Posting about an apartment block called Amse Court,Hoy wrote:“I love it when homes and buildings have names. It’s likely there was a story behind it which we will probably never know,but it adds to the character.

“I found it interesting that this building has privacy glass in all the front windows,but they do look original. Sadly,there is no heritage listing for this little beauty.”

In another case,he discovered a story in six parts. Hoy posted about a series of six art deco apartment blocks in Stanmore built by the same builder in 1938. The first was called Phillip. The third was named Thurlo. The fifth was called Almora.

Hoy’s research,which often includes heritage listings,council information,local directories and other sources,revealed that the initials of the names of the six buildings spelt the builder’s name:Pitman.

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Julie Power is a senior reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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