Remarkable reno for ex-brothel and squatters’ den

234 Coppin St’s grand restored facade now
234 Coppin St’s grand restored facade now

A Richmond terrace with a seedy history as a brothel and a squatters’ haunt has been totally transformed and listed for sale by its prominent photographer owner.

Shane Monopoli — the founder of Exclusive Photography and a former regular on Bert Newton’s Good Morning Australia — paid $1.102 million for the then-derelict 234 Coppin St at auction early last year.

He went on to spend more than a year and a half stylishly renovating the late-1800s property with “no expense spared”.

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It’s on the market with a $2-$2.2 million price guide through RT Edgar Hawthorn.

234 Coppin St Richmond

… and before it was renovated.

Rubbish, broken glass and syringes littered the Victorian when the vendor bought it, along with remnants of its former life as one of Melbourne’s first legalised brothels. These included a sign baring its name, “Club 234”, and rooms labelled “pleasure”, “sin” and “lust”.

After closing as a brothel, the two-storey building was left vacant.

The building formerly housed brothel Club 234. Picture: Shane Monopoli

Remnants of the building’s former life as a brothel were evident before the renovation. Picture: Shane Monopoli

The sleek, industrial-style upstairs studio now.

Monopoli says the property was occupied by squatters during this time, leaving it in bad shape when he snapped it up for “a really good price” with the intention of running his photography business from it.

“It was completely derelict,” he says.

“There were holes in the ceilings and walls, the carpet smelled, there were hundreds and hundreds of needles, and bags and bags of garbage, (and) there was no power connected.

“I’m creative, so I could see past it all. Everyone said I was crazy — only my wife backed me up.”

The entrance hallway before the reno … Picture: Shane Monopoli

234 Coppin St Richmond

… and now.

Monopoli says his renovation was disrupted and set back by council requirements.

The building has a heritage overlay for being of local architectural significance as “representative of the late 19th century double-storey form (and) a good example of the Italianate style”, according to the Victorian Heritage Database.

But the piece of history has now been restored to its former glory, with some contemporary flourishes stirred in.

The kitchen in a derelict state … Picture: Shane Monopoli

… and the stylish new kitchen now.

Polished hardwood floors, striking chandeliers and 3m-high ceilings can be found throughout, while fireplaces and a grand staircase have been restored.

Monopoli says the top floor had been opened up to create a studio, and its walls deliberately decked out in broken plaster to create a “rustic, industrial sort of look”.

Hardwood floors and high ceilings are features of the transformed building.

The make-up room created by Mr Monopoli.

The reno involved restoring the building’s period features, including its fireplaces.

An office, bathroom and balcony complete the upstairs level, and there’s further office space plus a sleek new kitchen and powder room downstairs.

Monopoli says he is selling because the studio he created had proved to be too small for his business — which has photographed stars including Elton John, Joan Rivers and Olivia Newton-John, according to its website — giving a buyer the opportunity to make the building their own office or home office.

RT Edgar’s Brett Vanderwert and Glen Coutinho are seeking expressions of interest for the Commercial 1 zoned property.

The building was trashed by squatters before Mr Monopoli came in. Picture: Shane Monopoli

The renovation involved removing bags and bags of rubbish. Picture: Shane Monopoli

This article from the Herald Sun originally appeared as “Ex-brothel, squatters’ site for sale in Richmond after remarkable reno”.