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Mary Street, Hawthorn

This beautiful old brick house was constructed in 1886 for Hector McDonald, a solicitor who worked for the Grace Park Syndicate, which undertook the sales of the residential allotments in Grace Park Estate. It is believed the house was designed by Grainger and b'Ebro, and was based on their first- prize winning design in the "1250 pounds category" of the 1884 Grace Park architectural competition.

Known as "Forres", the house was once the home of the Martin Family who leased it in 1914 and ran it as a boarding house. The family was immortalized in Anthony Hill's book Soldier Boy. The True Story of Jim Martin. The Youngest Anzac. In the book it is described as "a grand two-storey house, then about twenty-five years old, built in dark brick, with a bay window in the front and windows opening onto the wooden veranda."

At some stage it is believed the house was divided into flats, which remained up until the late 1970s. The current owners purchased the house in early 2007 and undertook an extensive renovation during 2008 and 2009. Using local architect John O'Loughlin, the interior of the house has been opened up, restored and modernised. The rooms are on a large scale. They have soaring ceilings, polished floorboards, crisp white paint, and are filled with natural light from the large windows.

The house is entered from the right hand side via a verandah paved with the original tessellated tiles. The entrance lobby is grand with doors and hallways leading off to various parts of the house and an impressive cedar stair case, which returns on itself, and climbs a further two floors. The ornate floral frieze running under the ceiling cornice and the decorative plaster corbel have been retained as reminders of the house's grand past, along with an old photo which sits on the large wooden chest.

However, that is where the past remains. The house is beautifully modern with contemporary furniture, curtains, rugs and artwork. Note the interesting ceramic light in the entrance hall, purchased on a trip to Hong Kong. A beautiful formal room opens off the entrance lobby to the right. Another door leads to the TV room and then through to the kitchen, which features a stunning marble central bench, shot through with grey streaks which are echoed in the grey cabinetry. The north facing family room has French doors and windows to three sides ensuring plenty of natural light and glimpses into the garden and pool beyond. The renovation did away with a jumble of small rooms that remained at the back. The rear brick wall was dismantled and rebuilt using the same bricks and the same footprint. A large study completes the ground floor suite of rooms.

The dimensions of the rooms on the first floor are equally impressive. There are four large bedrooms, each with a unique patterned central pendant light and window furnishings, a gym overlooking the rear garden and a laundry with its own private outside drying terrace. The main bathroom has a feature wall of stunning bronze textured tiles. The stairs continue to a third level which contains two guest bedrooms and an ensuite.

Unbelievably, white wooden stairs continue even higher, leading through a sliding door to a viewing area on the roof. This widow's walk or "belvedere" is fenced by a timber rail and offers extraordinary views to the city and surrounding streets.