A Place in Time – Harbord Hotel by Alexander &CO.
Freshwater, NSW, Australia

Photography Anson Smart
Architecture Alexander &CO.
Interior Design Alexander &CO.
Words Sarah Sivaraman

Harbord Hotel by Alexander &CO. balances its roles as historic landmark and contemporary local pub with design choices that articulate an undeniable sense of place.

Set back just a moment from the beach, the Harbord Hotel in Freshwater has stood as a local landmark for almost a century. Alexander &CO. was tasked with rediscovering the building’s heritage and updating its disjointed, underperforming spaces. Drawing on the history and surf culture of the northern beaches, the outcome is a space that is relaxed, open and versatile.

Our intention was that the venue’s story should evoke a sense of nostalgia without feeling excessively thematic,” says architect Jeremy Bull.

The façade of the building has been restored, reinstating its presence as a grand, art deco pavilion. All three stories were completely gutted, making way for an upstairs events space with a built-out balcony, as well as a ground-floor front bar, and Balsa restaurant. A restored staircase leads up to the private function and events space on the second floor, while the third floor will be
built out as a recording studio and regenerated rooftop during the second design stage, later this year.

Balsa serves modern Australian fare in a space that features exposed spotted gum ceilings, stone flagged floors and amber lighting. The effect is one of warmth, elegance and familiarity. The curves of the art-deco window arches are mirrored in ceramic wall lights and in the green marble bar, which meanders effortlessly from one space to the next.

Drawing on the history and surf culture of the northern beaches, the outcome is a space that is relaxed, open and versatile.

Colour plays an integral role at Harbord Hotel, referencing the past while allowing the spaces to feel decidedly contemporary. White painted brick sets a crisp, clean tone, while “seafoam greens, periwinkle pinks, gunmetal greys and brass all make a strong case for an old school era,” says Jeremy. Furniture, fixtures, lighting and material choices are equally as considered, with vintage
surfboards and restored furniture sitting comfortably alongside custom-designed lighting.

The sense of openness and flow across this multi-purpose site is complemented by an abundance of natural light, let in by generous, arched windows casting shadows that are just as captivating as the architecture itself. And despite a tight four-month schedule to complete the project in the midst of the pandemic, Alexander &CO. has reimagined Harbord Hotel, whilst retaining the spirit of the community. “The result is a space in which the synergy of its various
materials, textures and colours answer to the requirements of the Freshwater ‘family’,” Jeremy says. Harbord Hotel successfully tells a story of place and of the past, while holding its patrons comfortably within the present.

Published 29 April, 2021
Photography  Anson Smart
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