October 31, 2019

Premium SAHOMES: Historic Belair villa exquisitely renovated

Once the summer home of Nobel Prize-winning scientist Sir Howard Florey, this century-old Belair property is in the best health of its life.

The summer childhood home of one of Australia’s greatest scientists, Sir Howard Florey, has been released for sale this week — the first time the Adelaide Hills property has been on the market for more than 30 years.

Born in Adelaide, where he spent his youth and studied at Adelaide University, Howard went on to forge a career in England, co-winning the Nobel Prize in 1945 for the development of penicillin as the world’s first antibiotic.

In 1944, US scientists worked around the clock to manufacture 2.3 million doses of penicillin in preparation for the D-Day landings, reducing the number of deaths and amputations of allied troops during World War II.

The esteemed scientist, who has previously featured on the Australian $50 note, spent his summers at the family’s Belair home. The house was built in 1902 by Howard’s father Joseph, who was a successful boot manufacturer from England. Howard lived at the home until 1921, when he sailed for England.

Jo and Craig Smith purchased the property 13 years ago off-market, and the previous “custodians” owned it for more than 20 years.

“It’s a very unique opportunity,” Jo says. “You don’t actually own the home; the home owns you. We feel like we’ve been custodians of the house because of its history and because it is so rare.”

The couple is selling the renovated Victorian sandstone villa and moving to Tasmania, hoping a new owner will look after and enjoy such a rare piece of historic South Australian real estate. “It’s taken a very special waterfront acreage in Tasmania to lure us away,” Jo says.

Driving through the electric gates, the sweeping semi-circular gravel driveway reveals the view and entrance to the home. The large back yard of lawn, surrounded by terraced gardens, seems to drop off at the edge like an infinity pool. Jo says you could just about hang glide off of the edge.

Jo and Craig specialise in buying and selling classic American cars. Although an old 10-car garage provided space for their vehicles, it was removed to create space for the generous lawns. “It absolutely opened up the view,” Jo says.

“There’s definitely something very magical about this location. It has an exceptional energy that you just wish you could bottle,” Jo says.

On a block of 2354 square metres with wide frontage, the home is beautifully renovated throughout its four-bedrooms, two bathrooms, powder room and living spaces. Jo and Craig knocked down a wall to create a large open-plan kitchen, dining and lounge area which enjoys spectacular views.

Renovations were completed in consultation with interior designer Carmel Siciliano. The JAG kitchen, surfaces and fittings create a modern space that defies the age of the century-old structure.

The owners replaced casement windows with a giant pane of glass to bring in the sunsets, sea views and birdlife. “We get a lot of cockatoos and rainbow lorikeets, and the big cockatoos will come up and knock on our windows to be fed,” Jo says.

“Our boardroom-sized dining room table looks straight out to the night lights of Adelaide and you get absolutely cracking sunsets.”

The property is appropriately named “Nunkerri” for a beautiful place, or view. A rare feature of the original building was double-brick internal walls and there’s also a two-room stone cellar, which Jo and Craig have used for parties and entertaining.

The home forms part of a Mitcham Council Historic Zone. The street has a country ambience with a historic church, a water tower, a CFS station and a cafe. Jo has an affinity with the country, zipping about the block on her John Deere lawnmower, surrounded by an assortment of rustic farm machinery and a windmill.

“It feels like a backroad; a countrified setting with all the neighbouring properties on bigger blocks.”

The solid sandstone frontage and return verandah are in excellent condition, attributed to the structure’s flat footings. “Elevation and views, but with useable flat land, are almost impossible to get,” Jo says.

“The house now needs people who are looking for that tree change, to escape the rat race and have their own private oasis. It’s your own piece of paradise. We’ve had our time here, it’s only fair to let somebody else have the enjoyment of the property.”

“We’re looking for the new custodian who’s going to love it, care for it and really drink in what we’ve created there; it’s absolutely intoxicating.”

The sale is being handled by Grant Giordano and Ross Smith of Sotheby’s International Realty.



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