Marie Louise Memories (#)

Marie Louise Salon 135 Enmore Road

Marie Louise Salon 135 Enmore Road

On the weekend I came across a new, innovative and exciting method of remembering and celebrating a local ‘urban icon’ in Enmore.  The key medium involved was actually………….. instagram!

I know- some people aren’t as much of a fan of it as I am, but well… haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate.


Open one last time

Like many others I have often walked past the Marie Louise Beauty Salon at 135 Enmore Road and have been captivated by its kitschy pink & purple exterior and time capsule-like retro window displays.  When the 1960’s style beauty salon ceased trading some time ago the shop was closed up ‘as is’, furniture, till, cosmetics, magazines, blowdryers, counter, mirrors- all remained inside the shop in situ aged only by a thickening coat of dust.  The premises became as Vanessa Berry of Mirror Sydney describes it a “Memorial Store”– an important local icon and a landmark for the popular retro, vintage and rockabilly subcultures that call Enmore home.

Kitsch Birds

Kitsch Birds

Salon Ephemera

Salon Ephemera

I’m sure for the 1950’s themed Doughbox Diner crew the decision to occupy the space at 137 Enmore Road was made all the easier by the location right next door to Marie Louise Salon!  If you sit outside their diner sipping a thick malt milkshake on a balmy spring night you could easily trick yourself into thinking you have gone back in time to another chapter in Enmore Roads history- a chapter oozing with hair pomade, pastel florals and the giggles of ladies coming out of the salon with a fresh ‘do’.

Interiors of Marie Louise Salon

Interiors of Marie Louise Salon

Imagine the hairdos and gossip sessions exchanged in these chairs over the years

Imagine the hairdos and gossip sessions exchanged in these chairs over the years

So when the ‘For Sale’ signs went up in June and the property was successfully sold many community members were left pondering what the next chapter would hold for the Marie Louise Salon.  Enter Naomi Doyle (known on her blog & instagram as Patches McGee).  Her brother-in-law purchased the property but before it is to be gutted for renovations starting this week Naomi decided to hold an open house clearance sale and display over Sat 9th and Sunday 10th of November.  Pin up doyennes, local historians, bloggers, walk-bys, photographers, old timers, instagrammers and self professed voyeurs all came along to snaffle up a piece of local history and to share pictures and stories via the hashtag that Naomi made: #MarieLouiseMemories.

Naomi Doyle aka Patches McGee the lady behind the hashtag

Naomi Doyle aka Patches McGee the lady behind the hashtag

Generally what happens when a Heritage Item or an Item of local significance is up for demolition/refurbishing Council requires the owner or developer to prepare an Archival Report.  Often a professional Heritage Consultant is engaged to prepare this report.  The archival methodology involves taking extensive photos and writing accompanying written descriptions of the property and its contents which are then collated into the report and filed to Council.  The only issues with this process is that

a) These reports are then filed away or put in the stacks of the local library never to be seen again by the vast majority of the population

b) The community doesn’t get to participate or actively engage with the memorialising process

Whilst the Salon isn’t Heritage listed to my knowledge and therefore wouldn’t have required an archival report, the Enmore community certainly believed the shopfront warranted ‘archiving’ of sorts.  They rose to the challenge of creating a memorial report of their own choosing – highly visual, filters galore and with that preference for focusing on the minutiae of spaces that instagram tends to encourage.

Collective memorialising- via the hashtag #marielouisememories

Collective memorialising- via the hashtag #marielouisememories

As you browse through the images under the nominated hashtag people share their stories and memories of the place, why they felt a personal connection, how they will miss it and what purchases they made at the sale and for what reason.  The images are live and responsive – just as the Marie Louise objects and kitschy keepsakes will live on via a new lease on life in somebody’s home, balcony or dressing table.

Thanks to Naomi for organising what turned out to be a fascinating exercise in local history and new mediums of memorialisation. Below a few other pictures of some inner west pleasures encountered that day.

Till next time Urbanists !

xx Em

Lemon and Sugar

Lemon and Sugar

Crepe Stall on Australia Street- I wish this was a permanent fixture

Crepe Stall on Australia Street- I wish this was a permanent fixture

These guys were set up on Saturday

These guys were set up on Saturday

Lights using coffee machine group handles

Lights using coffee machine group handles

Group Handle lighting at Cafe Newtown

Group Handle lighting at Cafe Newtown

Keeping with the pink theme- watermelon juice at Cafe Newtown

Keeping with the pink theme- watermelon juice


Randwick Eco-Living Fair, 15 September


The Fairground

The Fair in full swing

Yesterday I attended the Randwick Eco-Living Fair, a one day event organised by Randwick City Council held at the new Community Centre and surrounding Environmental Park on Munda Street, Randwick.

After a slightly blustery, rainy morning threatened to scare people off the sun appeared and everyone came out in force.  The event was a great way to showcase the council’s new facilities on the large site which include halls, exhibition spaces, playgrounds, large garden area and covered workshop spaces.  These new facilities are located on former Defence Force lands which had been in use since WWI as Randwick Army Barracks.  Parcels began to be redeveloped in the 1990’s with a large area protected as parklands as it functions as a haven for birdlife and some protected species of flora and fauna.    

Randwick Council obviously knows that it is all very well to have whiz-bang new facilities but if no-one actually knows where they are and what they can be used for then there is no point right?  Because I reside at the Clovelly end of Coogee I don’t get down that way often and I was very pleasantly surprised at the renewal and redevelopment that the area has experienced.  New housing in terrace/townhouse style surrounds the centre on Bundock Street and surrounds.

The style and medium density format of the newer development fits well with the existing older housing in the suburb.  There is also some really loving landscape elements (which the picture below doesn’t actually show well) but the inclusion of Australian natives, established trees and shrubs and ground covers made all the difference to my impression of the streetscape.

Modern take on terraced housing in Randwick

Modern take on terraced housing leading down to Randwick Community Centre

Signage to the Centre

Signage to the Centre

Walking In

Walking In

As I chatted to one of the organisers Ben Eadie from October Sun he explained that organising an event like this was like installing a mini semi-permanent city- you need infrastructure, waste, food, power, ATMs, shade, accessibility, first aid and seating as well as entertainment and traffic management.  Hovering above all these needs is of course the need to make the event as sustainable and low impact as possible.  

Clear and accessible waste management is key to reducing the clean-up and bump out at the end of the day.  He also said that the rise of the food trucks helped along by City of Sydney has been a huge factor in reducing the events management headache. These vans operate self sufficiently by producing their own power, water, lighting and gas as well as BYOing their own serving utensils, cups and plates.  They also look fantastic and contribute to the atmosphere of the event- my personal favourite is the ‘Nighthawk Diner’ pictured below housed in a vintage airstream caravan so shiny you can check your teeth for cheeseburger after your meal!

the Nighthawk Diner

the Nighthawk Diner

Although there was plenty to do for adults I felt like a real focus of the event was kids and kids environmental education, particularly introducing them to insects and bug life through a show by INSECTUS the insect man and to lizards and reptiles as well as a brilliant show about water and its importance.  Little giggles and squeals of delight from the audience abounded as a giant book opened to reveal a hand painted backdrop for the show.  And all for free- I can imagine my glee if I was a parent in Sydney finding such a high calibre of educational entertainment for FREE! And outside in a beautiful setting.     

Insektus the Insect man

Insektus the Insect man

There was also a great range of stores selling local produce and home and garden products to up your green factor.  Amongst all this there were roaming representatives from Council’s various environmental initiatives interviewing people from the community to get their feedback on various environmental projects including the controversial environmental levy.

I’m hoping as the success and popularity of events such as these becomes clear more councils will adopt some of the strategies and techniques displayed by Randwick.  Sometimes promoting sustainability is as simple as getting people outside into the sunshine to eat fresh local foods and lie on the grass while the kids zip around having the time of their lives! 

Til next time,
Em x

Stilts Performers

Stilts Performers

Landscape features

Symmetrical  landscape features

Veggie Garden

The Veggie Garden & a workshop in progress

Local pooches

Local pooches

the big top

the big top


Never has waste management looked so good

Finding a bit of shade

A diamond python finds a bit of shade


Spectators soak up the sun

Bike Friendly Clovelly + Better Block (the Video!)


Still's from Elin's video

Still’s from Elin’s video


Stills from Elin's video

Stills from Elin’s video


Things are starting to gain pace on the Better Block Clovelly planning front.  The event date is set for the 27th of October with a lot of planning, logistics and meetings to happen before then.  Our next gathering is this Sunday 3pm at the Creativity Unlimited Studios Clovelly Road.  In the meantime I’d like to share a beautiful video of our first meeting made by Elin Bandmann.

Elin runs the cool bike friendly blog PUT THE FUN BETWEEN YOUR LEGS and has become super involved in bike friendly initiatives all throughout Sydney. I love the tongue-in-cheek title of her blog- literally putting the fun back into cycling daily for all her readers.  

Look out for familiar faces in the video below, including mine and Grace’s!

Elin (just because she hasn’t been amazing enough already) has also designed this excellent logo below to promote cycling for fun and transport throughout the Eastern Suburbs and Clovelly.  The idea is that the logo can be made into stickers, displayed on bumpers, poles and in cafe and shop windows to generate awareness around cycling and even incorporate a discount for patrons who used their bike to get to the cafe/shop/event/business.  It is an excellent initiative and as it is being rolled out at the same time as Better Block I’m hoping that Bike Friendly Clovelly will be able to piggyback off some of the exposure and publicity we generate in the lead up to the event.

Elin Bandmann's logo for Bike Friendly Clovelly

Elin Bandmann’s logo for Bike Friendly Clovelly


Til next time!



Clovelly Road Better Block Inception Meeting

Better Block poster

Yesterday the community inception meeting for Sydney’s first ‘Better Block’ happening on the 27th of October 2013 was held at Creativity Unlimited Studios Clovelly Road.  Better Block is a neighbourhood demonstration movement which was started in the US by a guy named Jason Roberts.  The movement basically advocates grassroots urban design interventions in streets, blocks and neighbourhoods which are installed temporarily over a day or weekend in order to demonstrate how easily the community can engage in the activity of place making– particularly when it is planned from the ground up.

The particular interventions undertaken have varied from site to site as the Better Block movement has gained momentum in the United States.  They might comprise of dropping off a load of trees and pot plants to introduce foliage to the streetscape, opening up vacant or neglected buildings to host a temporary art show, painting demonstration pedestrian crossings, placing street furniture and cafe seating in places where the city codes prevent such activities from happening…the possibilities are only limited by the skills and willingness of communities to get behind the initiative and participate.  As Jason Roberts explains in his TED talk below, often the planning regulations preventing such things from happening on streets were simply the outdated legacy of laws which had been in place for over fifty years i.e for so long that people were loath to question why things were that way, as they were just the way they’ve always been.  Right? Sound familiar?


So, despite over forty Better Block events having occurred already in the US, Clovelly Road Better Block will be the second in Australia and the first in Sydney.  Those pesky Victorians beat us to the punch as per usual with a Better Block back in June 2013 in Geelong :D.  The man behind Clovelly Road Better Block is Phil Stubbs who is an active Eastern Suburbs sustainability voice who also lectures in Urban Planning at UNSW.  His partner Lisa runs kids and adults art classes out of Creativity Unlimited Studios and the space will also double as Better Block HQ in the lead up to the event.

Outside BB HQ

So why Clovelly Road? And why this particular stretch of Clovelly Road? This year, new strategic planning terms handed down by NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure designate the area as a ‘Neighbourhood Centre’- meaning a focal point for the surrounding area, a convergence point for business and social activities and a symbol of neighbourhood pride and identity.  This is all very well (on paper) however as Phil points out, this particular strip of Clovelly Road has seen approximately 12 businesses fail in the last couple of years.  Increased traffic and congestion on key linking roads such as Arden Street make walking and other alternative modes of transport less then attractive.  Clovelly at times seems sandwiched between bigger fish to fry like Coogee Beach and Randwick Junction.

IMG_7784 IMG_7783

Fundamentally though, I think the area was chosen as perfect for a Better Block event because of its innate potential to be a great street.  Clovelly Road East features stunning vistas down to the ocean, wide sunny streets and broad footpaths coupled with a vibrant variety of small local business who have managed to hold on despite the difficulty of competing with nearby mega mall Bondi Junction.  These elements make for excellent building blocks, but the true potential of the area is yet to be fully explored and it is being held back by an inactive concrete dominated streetscape that does not respond well to social movement and flow.  And at night time well… compared to nearby Bondi or Randwick, there is nothing doing.  To me ‘neighbourhood centre’ implies activity throughout the day and into the night, that lingering element that you get in the European squares and public spaces that Jason Roberts eludes to early in his talk.


Yesterdays meeting was about garnering interest, brain storming and gathering ideas for the event.  The turnout was great.  Over sixty people showed up, some just dropping by for a scone and a cuppa but most stayed for the long haul and all posted ideas and contributions which are going to make this event so interesting and exciting for everyone involved. There were representatives from local business, politics, other sustainability groups, Rotary- even celeb gardener Costa Georgiadis popped by for a chat! Phil’s method is entirely open source, if you have an idea Better Block can help make it happen.  Things will happen in groups, with a group for Cycling, Food, Art, Furniture and kids activities.  Phil explained that even traffic engineers had responded to the event with positivity- saying that as a one day thing, a lot more becomes doable and permissible.


I’ll be updating about Clovelly Road Better Block event progress in the lead up to the event.  If you want to learn more or become involved, like the Facebook Page and get in contact with Phil.  It is shaping up to be a fantastic event that will change the way we think about the Clovelly Road.

Thank you to Lisa & Phil for having us (all sixty or so of us)!

Til next time


IMG_7767IMG_7770IMG_7786IMG_7794 IMG_7793 IMG_7795

Compact Living- a Fonzie Flat for Life?

The Fonz himself


We all know Arthur Fonzarelli did many things well.  His hair, girls, tight t-shirts, his motorcycle, zippo lighters, that pesky vending machine- but is the legendary Fonz set to become the poster boy for compact living and flexible housing options as well?

The term Fonzie Flat is now cemented into the Aussie vernacular, even being named word of the Month in January 2013 by Oxford University Press Australia.  Although the name calls to mind a greasy den of deferred Italian adulthood the Fonzie Flat is being championed by planners, property developers and housing affordability researchers as a viable accommodation option for a variety of expanding housing needs.  These include stay-at-home twenty somethings (guilty!), ageing parentals and grand parentals, out of towner rellies, Air bnb trawlers, paying international students, home businesses, start up companies, boutique showrooms and of course my mate Laura (artist and full time Law & Order viewer).  All of these uses potentially function as a neat little appendage to a larger dwelling, with only the occasional SOS light switch morse code sent out to the mainland house during a chronic milk or toilet paper crisis.

But what if the Fonzie Flat model could be amputated from the mothership of the Australian dream mega-pad and strike and on its own?   As many a resident of an  Inner West workers cottage will tell you, compact living isn’t exclusive to apartment dwellers and can come in many forms.  We just need to start ensuring these forms are available, permissible and economically viable in Australia.

Image from the Dwelle website

Image from the Dwelle website

UK company Dwelle, based in Manchester are busy designing and constructing micro building prototypes which fit the Fonzie Flat model nicely, with one main difference.  They are carbon friendly, fully transportable and can be knocked up in a matter of days. AND they look good.  They feature solar panels, rainwater harvesting, low energy lighting and fully integrated electronics and appliances.  With the more luxe model featuring floorspace of 64m squared they are not much bigger then your average inner city one bedder but of course as many of my architect friends tell me, space is both physical and psychological.

In other words the A-frame roof, abundance of natural light and clever storage layout mean that you may not necessarily feel like you are being strangled by your own claustrophobia in a Darlinghurst bedsit.  You can also add more space by playing with optional extras and additions (like Lego!) and customise the cladding to respond to the surrounding environment.  Compact living is about letting go of the stuff that demands to be housed, stored and gathers dust until eventually it gets turfed and goes into landfill and living smarter.  This little project tells that story nicely:

Screen shot 2013-08-07 at 11.53.15 AM

Image from the Dwelle website

Image from the Dwelle website

Which brings me to another great point, and one which I thought of whilst gawping (as I often do) at The outdoor rooms and landscaping opportunities become key to the success of these little homes.  Less house = more block.  Yes they are small, tiny even, but that fact serves as extra encouragement to get outside, get walking, gardening or exploring, or just sit back and take it all in which- one of the original motives for the broad Aussie porch or verandah.  So much of the future lies in our past doesn’t it?  The cabin typology is back, but with an eco bent and in Australia we just happen to have the perfect set of climactic criteria to support it.

Scott Meivogel Cabin

Image from Cabin Porn, submitted by Scott Meivogel

At this stage Dwelle-ings aren’t available in Australia however a wide variety of granny flats, sheds and backyard studio buildings are being offered by many companies as all the different needs I mentioned before continue to grow.  The challenge is in realising that small flying solo is also ok, and that even a Fonzi-sized flat or house can potentially do its part in reducing energy consumption.  Also I feel like Arthur Fonzarelli would be pleased that I’m mentioning his pad, as well as the words ‘cabin porn’ in the same post.

Until next time- I’ll be taking some measurements of my Dad’s beloved shed!


Dad's Shed

Dad’s Shed

A Cultural Centre for the Blue Mountains


I grew up in the Blue Mountains, a well known National Park and World Heritage Area approximately two hours west of Sydney. My Mum and Dad still live there and I often visit, so be prepared for quite a few posts about mountain folk, mountain issues and mountain trail fables as my Dad and I make attempts at traversing the wilds together in an effort to work our way through his bible Blue Mountains Best Bushwalks by Veechi Stuart.


But last week it was Mum and I who ventured out together on a journey of the more cultural persuasion. Last year Katoomba enjoyed the Sydney arts and culture spotlight for a brief stint after the official opening of the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre. The centre has been on the drawing board for over 10 years and as the Blue Mountains has a long history of being a creative hub and arts refuge many stakeholders and locals considered the addition long overdue.

Interestingly the project was jointly funded by the Blue Mountains City Council, the NSW Government and the Coles Group which explains why the gallery sits on top of the smallish shopping centre and parking lot to form a mixed use development that also includes a state of the art new library- which I’m told attracts a queue of boisterous high school students around 4pm everyday.

Whilst the location on top of a shopping centre isn’t going to seem ideal for arts purists the involvement of the Coles Group would have been key to the realisation of the project. Gone are the days of full-scale public investment in cultural infrastructure and with over 70% of the Blue Mountains Local Government Area comprising National Park revenue sourcing is an ongoing issue, as it is for many regional local councils.


The architecture by Hassel is clever, simple and successful. The barrel roofs give a spacious and light feel and establish continuity between the library and the centre successfully. Notably the centre incorporates a large amount of public open space, helping it to double as a performance space and music venue for the town. The vistas out over the surrounding township from the ‘viewing platform’ are beautiful but it is the view looking up towards the heritage facade of the Carrington Hotel which really struck me as special. Framed by the large arch windows of the centre a different, less well known view of the iconic Hotel is opened up to the public, with the raw brick wall and famous chimney emphasising the gritty, utilitarian side of the otherwise luxe building.

My friend Nicole who was in my year at high school is working as Front of House and Memberships facilitator for the Centre and as we chatted Nicole informed us that in her experience visitors were engaged and interested in the architecture and not in any way shy in expressing their opinions on what they perceived to be the centre’s design strengths and weaknesses. Thinking back now, Nicole’s observation is completely consistent with my experience of the Blue Mountains community- very hardy, down to earth, full of pride for their environment and heritage and definitely not afraid to be critical of the new.

In terms of the exhibitions themselves, Into the Blue is a transportative, interactive and multimedia exhibition celebrating the addition of the Blue Mountains to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000. Featuring over 45 minutes of stunning footage, surround sound, interactive historic maps and activities as well as in depth interviews with conservationists, indigenous elders, writers and historians the exhibition appeals to all ages and categories of viewers, both tourist and local.

The National Photographic Prize 2013 is a touring exhibition from the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra showcasing excellence in contemporary Australian photographic portraiture. The chosen subjects and their stories are captivating, some of them very familiar (Chris Lilley, David Stratton, Reg Mombassa etc) and others intriguing in their normality (a girl from the artist’s local cafe, Granny’s 90th etc). We concluded our visit with the Goya etchings which are on loan from Albury City Art Museum and are a disquieting introduction to enlightenment morality (and a bit too dark and gory for Mum!).

As a new institution the coming years will be challenging for the Centre as it tries to keep both the local community and the more occasional visitors as a captive and involved audience. Membership with its many perks and the diverse public program will become key, with a local poet already taking up residence in the cafe to conduct workshops. With arts in the regions flourishing as creatives are priced out of the city, venues like this also become important purchasing entities as they build up collections representative of the local artistic talent and culture.

For more information on the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre and for a cute promo video starring Lisa Mitchell visit their website:

Entry is $5 for Adults, $3 for students and free for kids under 18 and the centre is open everyday. Membership is even more reasonable, especially if (like me) you visit the mountains frequently and are a sucker for all things arts and culture.

Big Bonus = Lunch at Leura Garage on the way back down the mountain. Hello rosemary salted fries with Aioli!


Til next time culture vulturers!