Inside the unbelievable home of Julian Cress, the man behind The Block

150121 - DARREN PALMER - JULIAN-5925

Originally Featured in Domain (23rd Feb 2018)

For many years, the warehouse building at 43 Johnston Lane, Annandale was the home and studio of Archibald Prize-winning Australian artist Fred Cress, with many iconic pieces created and stored in the home.

The first time I was invited to the warehouse was for a party Cress threw for his nearest and dearest, and a couple of stragglers like me. The party was a gathering to celebrate his life.
When Cress died, the warehouse passed to his sons, ending up being the home of his son, Julian Cress, the executive producer of The Block.

 

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43 Johnston Lane, Annandale was once the home and studio of Archibald Prize-winning Australian artist Fred Cress. Photo: Felix Forest

The next time I visited the house it had changed form somewhat, one rather large room with double-height ceilings becoming our filming studio for The Block Unlocked, the part of The Block where Shaynna Blaze, Neale Whitaker and I sat and chatted and generally laughed a lot, shooting the judges’ couch episode airing each week.

The room is huge, big enough for a whole set, three judges, a producer, two cameras and all the lighting required to make us look good. That sizeable room is just one small corner of this cavernously proportioned space.

[The door is] open for a new family story to begin in this architecturally masterful, hugely proportioned and historic family home.

Darren Palmer

The home became the place of wrap parties, the cast and crew gathering to celebrate the end of another series, and when the time came to move The Block to Melbourne, remained the home of Julian and his wife, Sarah.

 

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The industrial-style residence currently belongs to Julian Cress, the executive producer of The Block. Photo: Felix Forest

With their first child on the way, they had a vision to transform the warehouse, measuring out the proportions of the space and making improvements to the configuration and layout to make it a softer, more relatable and more comfortable family home.

To realise this vision, they engaged another The Block alumnus, Julian Brenchley, the award-winning architect responsible for the design of every dramatic building transformation on the show.
This, too, is where I came back into contact with the home, as a touch point to the considered design made by Brenchley and his team, making a few timely suggestions before the comprehensive changes were made to the home.

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Cress’ vision to transform the warehouse was placed in the hands of award-winning architect Julian Brenchley. Photo: Felix Forest

In terms of the layout, there were a few adjustments made by the architects that benefited the downstairs – the dark main bedroom was removed to make way for a massive four-car garage with motorised car turntable.

Light streamed down into the lower floors through a generous, brick- faced lightwell, shining light into two new downstairs bedrooms – each with a marble and concrete-lined en suite – a full wine cellar and laundry making the most of the darker area under the mezzanine-like first floor.

The stairwell was relocated to appear alongside the massive downstairs space that we previously used as a film studio, which was repurposed as more car storage, thanks to opening folded steel-and- glass doors between the garage and the open space adjoining, which was large enough to drive a car through.

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This bathroom has ample storage and wow factor in spades. Photo: Felix Forest

Moving the staircase opened up the floor plan to more living space, allowing for the creation of a sitting area, a dining area and a study that faces into the lightwell, providing with it a view of the brickwork that makes up the skin of this beautiful old structure, as well as a connection to the sky.

The expanded living area also made space for a lounge room that was so large it surprised me when I came to the home, once completed, to style and furnish it for the family before a shoot by the amazingly talented and renowned photographer Felix Forest that also made its way into my most recent book, HomeSpace.

The scale of the space is hard to fathom, the images of the lounge room make it seem normally proportioned, but the sofas are almost 2.8 metres long and there are two of them.

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The Cress family have listed the historic home on the market with McGrath. Photo: Felix Forest

The coffee table was 1.8 metres long and one metre wide, the rug about five metres long. My favourite artwork of the entire decoration process, one of Cress’s early works, absorbed the entire wall, with little space to spare, but was the perfect overscaled statement for this soaring height and massively proportioned room.

Light pours into the space through the skylights and the terraced area adjoining the lounge, with a view to jacaranda treetops and skyline, raised up high enough above neighbouring homes to give complete privacy with no other buildings in sight, meaning no one has the ability to overlook the space.

There’s also a sweet Juliet balcony from the terrace, looking back down into the home, to our previous filming studio, a result of a whimsical decision by Mrs Cress.

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The kitchen features Dekton concrete-look benchtops and black Shaker profile cabinetry. Photo: Felix Forest

Another Block tie-in comes in the form of the well-proportioned kitchen, complete with butler’s pantry, manufactured by Freedom Kitchens, the professionals that have made kitchens of high quality for The Block for many years.

Featuring almost indestructible Caesarstone concrete-look benchtops, black Shaker profile cabinetry with fluted-glass overhead cabinets, the kitchen is perfect for everyday cooking, entertaining and catering for large groups, which is fitting for a space that hosts a cast of hundreds.

Upstairs is completed with two more bedrooms, the main en suite featuring storage enough to please Shaynna Blaze and wow factor enough for our mate, Mr Whitaker. There’s more marble, a large bath for bathing the kids or having a relaxing soak, in another room with soaring ceilings complete with skylights. The custom copper basin ties in industrial touches throughout, where tapware is a blend of raw brass, exposed copper pipes and matte black handles and tapware.

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Sunshine pours into the massively-proportioned living area through skylights. Photo: Felix Forest

Sadly, the home that the Cress family built over generations won’t be handed on to the next, as Julian and Sarah and their two young boys have set down roots in a similar home in Albert Park. Which leaves the door open for a new family story to begin in this architecturally masterful, hugely proportioned and historic family home.

Damien West of McGrath has the listing, and expects the home to sell for around $4 million.

Images from HomeSpace by Darren Palmer, Murdoch Books, RRP $39.99. Photography by Felix Forest.

 

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