16 April 2011

19 Centennial Avenue, Brunswick West, VIC, Australia

A renovator's dream!
This charming little hellhole has been on our list of potential properties for some time now, but for some reason or another, we hadn't quite got around to writing about it until today. I don't know why, because this place just exemplifies the abandoned buildings side of his blog. The first time we went past it, I very nearly drove off the road in shock, because up until that point all the surrounding houses had been quite nice. This just hurts my eyes. Usually when you see something in this state of disrepair, it's surrounded by a wire fence with demolition orders up. But no, this one is just chillin', clearly without having seen any love or attention since it was first built. It clearly hasn't been painted since then - the original coat has just flaked off over time to expose the bare boards underneath. It seems that the plaster rendering on the upper section of the house has just fallen off, exposing a tasteful sort of wood skeleton underneath. In fact, those sections remind me forcibly of the huts I used to build in my back garden, which were made of bit of old trellis fence. The roof tiles are falling like autumn leaves, and I think the house has shifted a little on its foundations, because those windows certainly don't fit as snugly in their frames as they once might have. The garden is messy with a crumbling fence, and there is a lot of accumulated rubbish shoved down between the house and the fence.
I'm sure it was nice 100 years ago.

Now, let me draw your attention to the pictures taken through the windows. We examined these after our first visit here, and were surprised to see that there was actually some stuff inside. A fan is clearly visible, as well as some other random clutter. We assumed that the residents had just left, leaving all their old furniture to fester. I mean, seriously, out of all the houses we've collected for this blog, we were quite sure that this place was totally, absolutely abandoned. We assumed it must have been sitting there for years with just that horrible, fetid old caravan for company.

That poor, poor fan!
Here's why we should never assume anything ever again. Recently, we drove past this place at night. We had been keeping our eyes peeled, since we thought it might be quite hard to find in the dark. Well, this wasn't the case at all. You want to know why? Because there was a light on. A proper fluorescent light, not the torchlight of vandals or squatters. The place is actually in use. I couldn't fucking believe it. This is probably the closest we've come to finding something worthy of a Dot Dot Curve rating, and it turns out that people actually USE IT, perhaps even live in it. Out of all the places we've found for this blog so far, this was one of the few cases where we didn't even have a flicker of doubt about the "abandoned" status we gave it. Even if this is just someone's workshop rather than their residence, you'd think they'd at least fix the roof. I would be genuinely worried about this place staying up in a high wind, so I certainly wouldn't leave anything I'm working on in there unattended. In addition to that, it looks so easy to break in to. All you'd need to do is tap on the wall and you'd probably make a gap big enough to crawl through. I'm not even going to think about someone actually living here, but after seeing that light on, it's a troublingly plausible thought. I hope that they move out before that wonky chimney falls through their bedroom roof!

You win the "worst house on this blog" award. Well done.
To be honest, I would rather live in that caravan for a year than spend a week in that house. You might not quite understand how momentous that is, but I am massively ill-disposed towards caravans. They creep me out and they're dirty and horrible and get in the way while you're driving. Caravans are the crows of the mechanical world. I hope that helps you understand how bad these place actually is. I hope for the sake of everyone living on that street that the termites and the elements get rid of this place sooner rather than later. Perhaps then the mystery residents can move somewhere nicer - I think even this would be luxurious compared with their current wreck.

Rating: Cellar floor.

12 April 2011

A real estate translation guide

Besides critiquing whatever properties - for good or bad - catch our eye, one of our favourite past-times here at MYL is to flick through real estate magazines and have a right old laugh at some of the shonky claims and horrendous writing. In the spirit of this, here is my guide to what the blurbs really mean, because if we know one thing about real estate agents, it's that they are full of shit and often are paid to hock off houses that they think are a total load of shit.

What they say: "Under instructions from state trustees."
What they actually mean: Somebody died here. The curtains, wallpaper, and carpet date from about the same year as Cliff Richard and are even more undesirable. James May probably has a shirt that looks like this house's interior, but unlike James May, the house can't quite get away with it any more.

Bet when 39 Barry St comes up for sale, it'll be a "renovator's delight"!
What they say: "Exciting options to renovate", "renovator's delight", "so much potential", or any variation upon this theme.
What they actually mean: It's shit. It's so shit that the agent can't even think of an admirable quality to highlight.

What they say: "Continuously owned by the same family since [any decade prior to the Cold War]."
What they actually mean: We're sorry about the hideous carpet and all the wares and keepsakes and generic knick-knacks that will undoubtedly catch your eye during the open home.

What they say: "In a league of its own", "something different", and "a rare opportunity".
What they actually mean: Just like everywhere else. We're pretending it's unique so that you'll be interested.

What they say: "Feature wall."
What they actually mean: We're trying to re-cast the most architecturally abhorrent aspect of this place as something somehow desirable and exclusive.

10 April 2011

176 Barkly Street, St Kilda, VIC, Australia

Back in the day when I was a poor undergrad student, I looked at quite a few properties in the desperate quest to find somewhere cheap, inexpensive, and in a vaguely decent location (emphasis on "vaguely"). I looked at some pretty horrendous properties in that time. It's amazing what real estate agents and landlords get away with asking for properties just because they happen to be a couple of blocks from a mediocre beach or across the road from a railway station or happen to fall within the formal boundaries of a poncy suburb. But 176 Barkly St takes the cake for being the single worst - and single most memorable - property I had the displeasure of setting foot in on this entire quest.

Oh-so-inviting entryway, where you can be bashed in seclusion.
I wish I could show you inside.  If the pictures of the exterior make you think it looks reasonably dank and dingy, you're on the right track. It's just so dark on the inside. Some rooms looked like a ray of sunshine had never once passed through the window; it was a bright spring day outside, but I felt like I was in England on a stereotypically drizzly winter's day. I remember the rooms at least seemed to have fairly high ceilings, a quality i quite like, but otherwise ... sweet jesus, the floorboards and the aged walls were dark enough to emphasise the drab, soulless feel, and the fittings in the kitchen and bathroom looked barely hygienic and barely functional. The sort of fittings that, in general, had disappeared before the Soviet Union did.

One of the windows has recently gained a tag. Charming.
On the outside, well, the design betrays a lack of imagination. The graffiti scrawled on the window actually somehow adds to the building, that's how meaningless and drab it is. There was graffiti by the entryway that stayed there for years - although gone now, it lasted a good couple of years at least. The landlord clearly had little concept of maintenance. The fact the building was so clearly vandalised was just a reminder that in such a miserable and dark corner of St Kilda, you too were likely to be vandalised on your doorstep. Especially on a Friday night. This building is literally just around the corner from the happenin' block of Acland St, and that is why the real estate agent was asking ...

... wait for it ...

I can understand why it's hidden behind trees! Bonus ugly building at left.
One hundred and eighty dollars a week for this stinking sack of shit. There's a pub a few houses down, a supermarket right across the road, you're about two minutes from one tram line and two minutes from another, strolling to the Palais Theatre or Luna Park is effortless, and it's just another minute on to one of the most crowded beaches in Melbourne come a sunny weekend. Yet even if that sort of location sounds awesome to you (I find St Kilda a bit crowded and commodified myself), you'd spend every day living there overcome by a feeling of being utterly ripped off. It's highway robbery to demand $180 for somewhere unfit to house a dog. Actually, I don't like dogs and would quite happily house a heap of them there, but I'm a twat.

Google Streetview, prior to demolition.
The good news, as the pictures show, is that the place seems to have been gutted and is in the process of demolition, or at least a much needed rejuvenation. I hope it's the former, because even if you completely rebuilt this thing inside, I'm pretty sure there is a forcefield across the windows that prohibits sunshine from entering.

Rating: Condemnable and can't be torn down soon enough.

06 April 2011

243 Mansfield Street, Thornbury, VIC, Australia

When I first came across this place, my immediate reaction was to rip into it for being another ridiculous example of the modern architecture I hate so much. However, that was a little while ago, and I've had time to think about it and realise that for once, I might not be writing a hate-filled rant about something modern.

Yes, it's a funny shape. It's painted in colours more suited to a Teletubbies set. It doesn't have a roof. It has racy angles all over the place. It shouldn't work! But it a weird way, it's actually kind of endearing. I mean, I would be pretty happy to live here. With the right maintenance, those bright colours will stay bright and attractive (now I sound like a washing powder advert), and let's face it, no-one would ever get lost looking for your house. The only trace of mushroom-coloured paint lies around the front door, on a surface which looks troublingly like corrugated concrete from a distance. Still, that is a much better effort than pretty much all the other new places around here have made - generally, the only deviation in their "mushroom" paint scheme is a nice stripe of black or brown. I'm very impressed.

To be honest, I think the biggest flaws with this place are not with the house, but with the garden. Firstly, that fence has to go. Sure, it's not quite as bad as those fences around here that look like level crossing barriers, but it's pretty bland all the same. It looks more like a barrier at the side of the road to stop unruly children dashing out into the traffic than a tasteful residential fence. And the garden needs some serious work. It's bright enough as it is, but some nice flowerbeds would ensure that this thing could be seen from space! The trees on the left need a serious trim - surely if you're going to paint your house that bright, you're going to want people to see it. Still, unlike the flaws you find in most modern places, these things are all very easily fixed. Perhaps when this place gets leased, the new tenant will fix it up a little.

For the first time in the history of Mow Your Lawn, I am quietly optimistic about a modern place. A truly momentous occasion.

Rating: Kind of quirky but not too offensive, really. Probably equates to a lick o' paint.