Initially MHNDU’s client purchased the Devonshire Street site and then went onto purchase the adjoining site. As a consequence, the scale of the project increased significantly. Given it’s a prominent corner site in an area that was once the heart of the rag trade, MHNDU needed to come up with a scheme that responded to both the history of the area and the need to create fine contemporary inner-city abodes. Working closely with City of Sydney, the initial design schematics suggested a warehouse-style response to the site.


The architects drew inspiration from an early 20th century hardware store with its pitched roof that formerly stood on the site. Unable to incorporate the hardware store into the 20-apartment development, the architects used the silhouette of the store within the brick façade. Glazed white bricks, framed by red recycled bricks, create this distinctive outline or ‘trace’, establishing a sense of history and, as importantly, the memory of the hardware store that once presided over this corner.


Spread over three levels, the top-level apartments are clad in black zinc with pop-out contemporary dormer-style windows to draw natural light deep into the plans. These windows also respond to the many Victorian terraces in the neighbourhood, with their dormer-style windows nestled into slate roofs.


Given the diversity of the demographics in Surry Hills, from empty nesters through to professional couples and singles, MHNDU included a broad cross-section of apartment types: 35-square-metre studio-style apartments for those setting up home for the first time, to 75-square-metre two-bedroom apartments, all having their own balconies. As with many European-style apartments, 249 Devonshire Street includes retail at ground level.


Not surprisingly, given the locale, there is a strong industrial aesthetic in this development. However, while the apartments are aligned to the edge of the pavement below, there’s also an internal communal courtyard, with partially opened corridors benefiting from the views to the garden. In keeping with the industrial nature of the site, MHNDU has included industrial finishes, from exposed off-formed concrete ceilings to track lighting. However, there’s also a sense of warmth in the use of timber for the flooring.


For those who will call Devonshire Street home, there’s not only all the creature comforts of the 21st century, but traces of the history of this site.

Devonshire Street

Location Devonshire St, Surry HillsYear in progressCredits Words: Stephen Crafti

MHN Design Union acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we operate, the Gadigal people of the Eora nation and their Elders past, present, and future.