Forget about security passes – for one weekend, the welcome mats have been laid out for the public, as Open House Perth unlocks a number of the state’s award-winning homes and commercial buildings.

According to Open House Perth creative director Carly Barrett, “There’s nothing better than having a bit of a sneaky peek, or getting into spaces you’re not meant to be in. Whether it’s the rooftop of Perth’s tallest building, or the kitchen of one of Perth’s best homes, Open House is about giving people the opportunity to get inside great architectural and design spaces in the city and its surrounding suburbs.”

Now in its fourth year, Open House Perth is taking this experience to a whole new level, unlocking more than 70 locations around the city that aren’t normally accessible to the public.

The idea of Open House originated in London in the 1990s and it is now hosted
in more than 30 cities around the world. It was not until 2012 that Perth jumped on board, and the event has since attracted more than 105,000 visitors. “With projects like the Perth City Link and Elizabeth Quay changing the face of our city, we thought there was no better time than now to celebrate positive change to our built environment, whether those spaces be small, medium or large,” says Carly. “We also believe WA is undergoing its greatest period of design innovation since the 1950s or 60s, an era when Perth was an international leader in architecture.”

The free, family-friendly event takes place on November 7-8, with its full events program available for download via Open House Perth’s website close to the date.

“Every year is a little different, with us growing on the year before,” says
Carly. “Event growth has been based on public feedback – we have an amazing audience who let us know about the little gems they find.”

Past favourites are back, and better than ever, but visitors can also expect
to see more homes and new city precincts. “People are likely to get so inspired by the homes and apartments, we imagine a lot of home renovations will subsequently take place.”

New additions to the program will also include underground structures the public never knew existed – including Central Institute of Technology’s CUT Mine tunnel – and an increased number of food and wine venues.

“We recognise that architecture and design are innately connected to good
food and wine, so we have partnered with some fantastic local venues to promote Perth’s foodie culture, and the role design has to play on enhancing the atmosphere of these spaces,” says Carly, who encourages people to book out the entire weekend, and use public transport or a bike where possible.

“Comfortable shoes, sunscreen and water are key ingredients, but the most important thing people should expect is to have their minds blown by just how good architecture and design in Perth really is.” 

Open House Perth, November 7-8,



Photography Greg Hocking.

The State Buildings in Perth’s iconic east end were built from the 1870s to 1897, comprising the Treasury Building, Lands Department and Titles Office. 

Designed by two of Perth’s most pre-eminent architects at the time – Richard Roach Jewell and George Temple-Poole – they are arguably some of the most impressive heritage-listed sites within the state. For years, however, these world-class architectural gems could only be appreciated from the outside.

“The buildings were empty for approximately 20 years, so most people
in Perth have never seen the space,” says State Buildings development director Kyle Jeavons. “Now the restoration has been undertaken, it is definitely the most stunning heritage space we have in Perth.

“Public access to the Postal Hall has been restored, which will now become a covered arcade connection from St Georges Terrace to the Mirvac Office Tower on Barrack Street. The Postal Hall was the original GPO of Perth, and certainly, in my opinion, is the finest heritage space, with its double-height ceiling, ornate features, and skylights that allow the space to fill with natural sunlight.”

A range of new retail and hospitality offerings surround the grand space, including Petition Kitchen, Petition Wine Bar & Merchant and Petition Beer Corner, which were designed by Space Agency.

Also within the precinct is COMO The Treasury, the new boutique hotel designed by Kerry Hill and Associates. The hotel boasts 48 luxury rooms ranging in size from 45sqm to 120sqm, plus the COMO Shambhala Urban Escape spa, a gym and a pool.

Throughout the Open House weekend, the whole ground floor of the precinct will be open to the public, excluding private hotel facilities. “The public will get a chance not only to see the restoration of some of Perth’s finest buildings, but also to use these buildings for their entertainment and enjoyment,” says Kyle.



Photography Dion Photography.

A plot of land larger than 400sqm that’s also close to the CBD is a rare find these days and, given such limited space to work with, it takes careful planning and smart thinking to create a beautiful home.

Perth architect Simone Robeson faced exactly that challenge when designing her Mount Lawley home on a cramped, 180sqm, triangle-shaped block on the corner of Vincent and William streets.

“The triangular form of the home which follows the sliver of available land is both iconic and innovative, showcasing that it’s not the size of the space that matters but how well that space is used,” says Carly Barrett.

The design process involved looking at the essential spaces that were required, which were a generously sized home office, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, an open-plan living room and balcony, and a carport for two cars.

“I wanted to ensure each room was a quality space, with fantastic light, views, and a feeling of spaciousness, rather than aiming for quantity of rooms,” Simone Robeson says.

To achieve this, Simone chose to place all living areas upstairs, segregated from the ground-floor office.

A 160kg black-steel projecting window was introduced upstairs to draw in northern light and form a seat to look down on the street below.

“Materials are a mix of industrial and luxe finishes, including a burnished concrete floor, Nero Marquina marble kitchen, stained custom plywood built-in furniture, and custom steel stair and balustrading,” Simone says.

“There is loads of storage; you need to be very clever with storage areas in small houses to ensure everything has a home.”

To complement the sharp, geometric forms of the house, a mural by Robert Jenkins was commissioned for the boundary wall.

It’s the first year Simone has participated in Open House, and she hopes this project will prove quality living spaces can be achieved on small lots. “Often these homes are built with a budget far less than what most think. It’s about investing in the design stage to ensure the house is planned well and cost-effective.”



Photography Douglas Mark Black.

Perth architect Kate Rae’s contemporary renovation of this 1930s duplex set out to bring natural light and ventilation into what was once a dark and confined space.

“I finished the build almost two years ago, but it has been an ongoing project,” she says. “In the 1980s, the previous owners did some renovations, but we ripped those features up, stripped it back to the original 1930s building, and made it two storeys.

“We kept the original fireplace and the old windows, reused the floorboards and picture rails, and kept its high-ceilings.”

Externally, the duplex is clad in Cemintel BareStone – a prefinished board – and incorporates balustrading from the old Hollywood High School, which both Kate and her parents attended.

“We selected this to contrast with the existing rendered brick, and for its durability and low maintenance,” Kate says. “It was important to us to create flexible spaces that could be adapted to changing needs as the family gets older.”

Set on a 530sqm block in North Perth, the duplex will be open for viewing for the first time during the Open House weekend.



Reminiscent of a sophisticated speakeasy, Varnish on King dares to go where
many venues have been scared to venture – underground.

“The underground location only enhances the overall experience,” says Carly Barrett. “The mix of luxurious and industrial materials is unique in Perth’s setting, and if you haven’t yet uncovered this hidden gem, it will remind you that Perth’s food and beverage industry has come a long way in the last few years, thanks to innovative offerings from publicans and restaurateurs.”

While Varnish on King and other selected food and beverage providers are open outside Open House, Carly says a visit to these venues will make the event extra special. Reopened in 2013 by Varnish on King director Andy Freeman, the building itself is more than 100 years old.

“We’re honoured to be involved,” says Andy. “We love the building we’re housed in, and appreciate the opportunity to showcase it as part of this initiative.

“Access will be available throughout the building. Nothing is off limits.”



Photography Dion Photography.

Designed in 1968 by Ernest Rossen, St Denis Catholic Church in Joondana is one of the most innovative religious buildings in Perth, making a bold statement with its robust, modernist form and Jewish context.

“Ernest designed St Denis on the basis of the Jewish wedding canopy,” says Father Peter Porteous, parish priest at the church. “He wanted to incorporate Jewish heritage in Christian tradition – the Christian faith has Jewish elements, origins and traditions, and he wanted to celebrate that.

“The names of all the Jewish biblical prophets are painted on the front door, which is unique.”

The design, inspired by the Chapel de Ronchamp by LeCorbusier, uses sculptured concrete and white brick to establish its minimalist appearance.
“Most other churches are designed gothic style – this church is a complete square, its very, very different,” Father Peter says. “The interior walls are rough, and the lights are against the wall, hidden by the canopy, so light cascades down. The roof scoops up to three storeys. It’s really quite spectacular how he has done it.”

Last year’s opening of the church attracted more than 200 visitors. “The feedback was good,” says Father Peter. “It was never more photographed in its life.”



When taking a stroll through Aberdeen Street in Northbridge you’d be hard-pressed to believe an underground mine tunnel lies beneath it.

The $98,000 simulated mine tunnel is part of Central Institute of Technology, and the first of its kind in WA. Opened in 2010, it provides students with a sensory immersion of working on an underground mine site.

It’s the first time the CUT Mine has been a part of the Open House program. Formerly a service tunnel, it was a collaborative industry project, with several companies providing funding and equipment. Its features include a refuge chamber donated by MineARC, lined walls simulating copper, nickel and gold seams, and a soundtrack of machinery and noise to best represent the mining experience.

“We’re looking at occupational health and safety, emergency procedures and warning systems,” says Paula Dewhurst, CIT’s learning portfolio manager of science, resources and environment. “We make sure all the students are wearing the correct gear when down in the tunnel.”

CIT will be offering 20-30 minute tours during the Open House weekend, on which visitors can participate in an emergency drill, and experience the darkness and loud noises.

“We can fit in around 16 people at one time,” says Paula. “There is quite a number of people that have a family member that is FIFO, so it’s a great experience for them to see what an underground mine is actually like.”

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