Mount Lawley is famous for many things. A lively, bohemian vibe, fuelled by its diverse population, thriving cafe and small bar scene, and eclectic mix of stores.
It's also renowned for its high entry price; an apartment will set you back a minimum $300,000, and you'll get little change from a million smackers for a basic freestanding abode. And it's also famed for its beautiful heritage buildings.
These are all reasons serial renovators Nichol and Andrew DeSaxe set their sights on the suburb for their "forever" home. Combined with their love of restoring quirky homes with an interesting history, an afternoon stroll past the Freemasons Hall ??? also a former RAAF base ??? was the beginning of a five-year renovation.
"We'd already restored a church and a smaller Freemasons hall a few kilometres away, so we were up for the challenge. As well as its history, it sat on the perfect block size for us - we wanted lots of land, and the location was quiet, but a five-minute walk to all the action," Nichol says.
It took ten years and a near miss to secure the hall.
"We rang the Freemasons WA once a year, asking if they wanted to sell. It was always a no. We'd actually given up, buying what we thought would be our family home in nearby Menora, just after our first child was born," she says.
Then a chance walk by the property prompted one more call.
"The property manager said he'd been hoping we'd call. They'd decided to sell, and the body corporate had voted to seek planning approval for 14 townhouses, which had been successful. The approval meant only the front facade would have to be retained, so he was ideally looking for someone that would love the property and restore it to its former glory, and knew that was our dream.
"Had we not called that week, it would have gone on the open market, and we would have been in a bidding war with developers."
When you see the meticulously restored building as it stands today, all the work completed with an eye for retaining the period features, you'd never know it was a Sliding Doors moment for Mount Lawley. In the alternate scenario, the same block would be home to a massive development.
The rooftop garden with views over Perth would likely not exist, the upstairs ballroom would have been divided in half to host two townhouses. Instead, it is a sweeping master suite, with a raised area for the supersized bed, and walk-in robe that makes Carrie Bradshaw's look doll-sized, which surrounds the bathroom.
A freestanding tub sits on a raised wooden dais, the shower and toilet are fitted with custom Italian tiles, cut to the exact size of each wet area.
Downstairs, there's a vast open plan living space, with a handmade jarrah table that seats 18 and a commercial grade kitchen with an industrial stainless-steel counter-tops.
The entire rear wall overlooking the backyard is hung with steel and glass double height doors that open out as required. There's also two elevators - one to the second floor and rooftop garden, the other to the hand dug cellar.
The building has so much history it was featured in 2016 on the popular ABC production, Who's Been Sleeping in My House and committed to print by RAAF historian Graham McKenzie-Smith.
While it played an important role back in its early life, its reincarnation as a residential family compound makes for an impressive second life.