Once only the domain of the inner-city dweller, penthouses, typically the top floor of a prominent apartment building and reserved for only the very highest of fliers, are now emerging in some of Sydney’s outer suburbs. Think ‘penthouse’ and often the first thing that comes to mind is a movie-ready pad high above New York’s Central Park. And in fact, New York was a pioneer of the earliest penthouses. But far from being created for the rich and famous, these often tiny spaces, tucked between the top of the apartment building and the water tower above housed the family’s servants – and both were advertised as a luxury.
By the mid 1920s, the city’s young bohemians and creatives were first to twig to the perks of the high-up perches, followed by titans of industry and the city’s elite. Basic dwellings were transformed into far finer offerings and by the late 1920s it was a rarity for apartment buildings to be built without penthouse accommodation. Fast forward to 2018 and all over the world we have eye-boggling luxury accommodation, this time reserved without question for the often globetrotting, ultra high-net-worth individuals, aka UHNWIs. As a global city, Sydney is no exception to the trend, powered by its long burst of new development and proliferation of apartments running the length and breadth of the city. But there’s another evolution taking place – just as New York saw in the 1920s, the ‘who’ of penthouse living has changed as prominently as the ‘where’.
Build it and they will come
While the core perks of living in a penthouse – sweeping views, privacy, vast amounts of indoor and outdoor space and, of course, the best address in the building – haven’t changed much, penthouse buyers have become a far more eclectic crowd. While Sydney’s CBD and its new, luxury residences break price records, and Parramatta’s CBD follows suit with a raft of penthouse options amid its apartment boom, in suburban areas like the Sutherland Shire or The Hills - more used to large houses on even larger blocks - apartments are becoming the new normal. With the hard graft of raising a family done for the most part, couples are reconsidering their need for the family home. Apartments and their low maintenance, more efficient lifestyle appeals and more and more. And for some among them, re-sizing means looking at the privacy and exclusivity of the top-floor option of the ‘home in the sky’.
According to James McCarthy, Associate Director at architecture firm Turner, affluent downsizers are driving demand for penthouses in the suburbs. He’s seen it first-hand on projects for developer Capital Bluestone, in locations including Woolooware Bay and Capital Corporation with Esplanade Norwest. He says downsizers in these suburbs particularly want to remain connected to their local networks, friends and family are seeking the amenity and luxury of penthouse living. “These buyers are transitioning from large family homes to apartments and penthouse living gives them that extra flexibility and space that they’re accustomed to without having to move away to get it.” “With this mind, we’ve designed the penthouses at Woolooware Bay more as ‘sky homes’, with generous interiors of up to 160 square metres.”
All the comforts of home, and more
Though traditionally a penthouse referred to a single apartment and roof terrace that together occupy the entire top floor of a building; in practice the term is often deployed more loosely to describe large upper-level apartments. “In the past, top-floor apartments in most suburban locations were likely to be just another three-bedroom apartment like the ones on the levels below,” McCarthy explains. “But now the expectations of purchasers are far higher which is forcing developers to lift the bar in their design and lifestyle offering.” Not only does luxury run to fixtures and fittings but in some cases, it’s the ability to customise a design before it’s built that makes it all the more valuable, he says.
Buyers, particularly those downsizing from large family homes, often ask architects to reconfigure internal layouts to accommodate a butler’s pantry, media room, study or additional living area, says McCarthy. Several purchasers in the resort-style Woolooware Bay have added spas to their private terraces, while another requested a private rooftop swimming pool with a glass wall. When it comes to designing penthouses though, sometimes it’s the subtle details that matter most like providing a private lift lobby or, for the well-travelled buyer, having access to hotel-style facilities such as a concierge, swimming pools, spas and gyms. “At Woolooware Bay we have introduced a level of exclusivity. The waterfront location warranted an innovative design solution that would be truly memorable”, says McCarthy.
Coming home to the resort lifestyle
In The Hills district, where pockets of apartment living culture are emerging around new infrastructure, so too has the opportunity for penthouse living. Capital Corporation’s Esplanade Norwest includes penthouses ranging in size from 144 to 171 square metres. They come with butler’s kitchens, studies, grand master bedrooms, and views of the Blue Mountains on one side and the city on the other. David Inkster, Director of real estate agency PRDnationwide Norwest, says as with Woolooware Bay, penthouses sold so far at Esplanade Norwest have been snapped up by local downsizers wanting to stay in the area, close to family and their community. “Some purchasers came from big homes with plenty of land – one had a five-acre lot in Dural,” Inkster says.
“If you’re downsizing to an apartment, a penthouse can give you that feeling of space and privacy but without the maintenance that comes with a house and garden. All the amenities of a resort are on your doorstep - restaurants, shops and swimming pools.” Penthouses are also attracting buyers looking for a convenient lock-and-leave home. “Many wealthy baby boomers are now reaching that stage in life when they want to travel the world or visit family and friends overseas, sometimes for months at a time,” says Inkster. Today, penthouse buyers expect access to hotel-level amenities, perhaps a waterfront location and certainly top-quality fixtures and finishes such as solid timber cabinetry and flooring along with natural stone tiles. These ‘homes in the sky’, whether in the city or the suburbs, are no longer only about status. They promise a lifestyle that, in a competitive market, developers must strive hard to deliver.
Read the Daily Telegraph’s coverage of this phenomenon featuring Esplanade Penthouses the latest craze to hit suburbia.
We are committed to protecting your privacy. When we request personal information, we will normally explain why we need it, how it will be used and who we may share it with. At all times we will comply with the terms of this when handling your personal information. This policy answers the following questions about privacy at Aoyuan International:
Why do we need your personal information?
Understanding and meeting our customers’ needs is a central part of our business. We do this by providing real estate and services under various brands that are offered by entities within Aoyuan International. To do this effectively, we need to collect certain personal information.
In this policy, personal information is any information that could identify you or be used to establish your identity.
We collect, hold, use and disclose customers’ personal information so we can establish, manage and administer the products and services provided by us, and comply with legal and regulatory obligations. We may also use and disclose your information for purposes related to those mentioned above, such as:
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We use and disclose your personal information to keep you informed about the range of properties offered by us.
You can opt out of receiving direct marketing information from us at any time (see the section 'How can you contact us about privacy?').
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It's your choice whether to provide your personal information. However, if you don't, we might be unable to fulfil your request for specific information.
What types of personal information do we collect?
We may ask for a range of personal information to assist us in providing you with relevant enquiry or property purchase. The information we request could include (but is not limited to) name, address, date of birth, contact details.
How do we collect personal information?
Most of the personal information we collect will be directly from you. We gather this information either through forms that you complete and submit to us (in writing and digitally), by the information you provide via phone calls and interviews and through other forms of communication.
In some cases we might collect your personal information from external sources. Examples of the people or organisations that may provide us with information are:
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If you wish to remain anonymous or to use a pseudonym when dealing with us, we may be able to provide you with limited information or services. However in many cases it will not be possible for us to assist you with your specific needs if you wish to remain anonymous or use a pseudonym.
How do we protect your personal information?
Whether your personal information is gathered through face-to-face meetings or by interacting with us via telephone, mail, internet or other methods, we take steps to store your information securely. We hold your personal information in a combination of secure computer storage facilities, paper-based files and other formats.
We take a number of steps to protect personal information from misuse, loss, unauthorised access, modification or improper disclosure. These include instructing our staff and advisers who handle personal information to respect the confidentiality of customer information and the privacy of individuals.
When we don’t need your personal information anymore we will delete, destroy or de-identify it.
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From time to time we may share your personal information with other entities both within and outside of Aoyuan International. The entities that we might share your personal information with vary according to the product or service involved, but could include:
Do we send personal information to overseas recipients?
Some of the entities that we share information with may be located in, or have operations in, other countries. This means that your information might end up stored or accessed in overseas countries, including Australia, China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Canada.
When we send your personal information to overseas recipients, we make sure appropriate data handling and security arrangements are in place.
How do we update your personal information?
We will update your personal information if you contact us. In most cases you can update your personal information over the phone, by email or via our website.
We may update your personal information if we believe the personal information we hold is incomplete or out of date, we could seek to correct or complete our records by gathering data from other sources such as public records and other organisations.
How can you contact us about privacy?
How do you find out about your personal information we hold?
You can access the personal information that we hold about you by calling, emailing or writing to us (see how you can contact us about privacy). We’ll do our best to respond within 30 days; if it’s going to take longer, we’ll get in touch to let you know why and ask for more time.
There are some situations where we are allowed to refuse or limit your access to information, for example when the information is commercially sensitive. If that happens, we’ll write to you and let you know why.
There is no charge for making a request to access your personal information. However in some cases there may be a charge to cover the time we spend locating, compiling and explaining the information you ask for. If there is a charge, we’ll give you an estimate up front and confirm that you wish for us to proceed.
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Links to third party websites
Our websites may have links to external third party websites that may benefit the user. External websites should contain their own privacy statements and we recommend you review them when using their websites. Please note, however, that third party websites are not covered by this policy, and these sites are not subject to Aoyuan International’s privacy standards and procedures.
Website analytics measurement software is used to assist in tracking traffic patterns to and from our websites, anonymously surveying users of the sites. The system is used to collect such information as the number of unique visitors, how long these visitors spend on the website when they do visit, and common entry and exit points into and from the website. This non-personal information is collected and aggregated by third party software and provided to us to assist in our analysis of our websites. You cannot be identified personally from this information and no personal information is stored about you.
About this policy
This policy is effective as of 16 August 2017. We will update this policy when our information handling practices change, and any amendments will apply to the information we hold at the time of the update. We will post the updated policy on our website; we encourage you to check our website from time to time to view our current policy, or contact us for a printed copy.