19 Dec 2022 | 5 mins

He first opposed her idea, now it’s a $40m beach weekender

He first opposed her idea, now it’s a $40m beach weekender

The owner of one of Palm Beach’s most envied holiday homes, property developer Margaret Rose, shares her story of creating Sydney’s ultimate getaway.

When Margaret Rose first floated the idea of a Sydney northern beaches weekender to her husband and fellow property developer Bob Rose about 20 years ago, it was met with stiff opposition.

“He was absolutely dead against having a place at Palm Beach,” Margaret Rose recalls.

Now, the couple are selling their prized Ocean Road holiday home, Bellona, with a price guide of $40 million. The sale is expected to eclipse the current $27.5 million Palm Beach record, which was set in June when AC/DC guitar technician turned WiseTech billionaire Richard White bought a property on nearby Pacific Road.


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Palm Beach’s Bellona is for sale with a price guide of $40 million.

The project took off as The Rose Group, founded in 1976, was in the final stages of its $160 million residential project at neighbouring Cape Cabarita on Hen and Chicken Bay.

After years of hard slog building the business from the ground up, Margaret Rose, who had at that time recently battled ovarian cancer, wanted a sanctuary to rest and relax away from the stresses of work.

“There were many times I’d think, ‘oh, I’d just love to have a place on the beach, somewhere to get away,’” she says.

In true developer style, Bob Rose negotiated the deal: if one of the coveted four Ocean Road properties beside the Palm Beach Surf Club became available – he would think about it.

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The Ocean Road property’s interiors were designed by Michael Love.

“A couple of weeks later, I’m reading The Sydney Morning Herald about properties for sale in Palm Beach, and blow me down, I see Ocean Road,” recalls Margaret Rose with a smile.

The “property” turned out to be a vacant block of land being sold by the Forsyth family of Dymocks bookstore fame. The Forsyths had bulldozed the original property – a 1923 Californian bungalow named Willeroon – with plans to build an imposing family compound in 2001, invoking the ire of the local community, particularly high-profile neighbours the late TV boss Sam Chisholm and media mogul Kerry Packer. The Forsyths’ grand plans never eventuated, and they listed the then empty block the following year.

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Bellona is one of four prized Palm Beach luxury holiday homes beside the surf club on Ocean Road.

After a reconnaissance trip to view the Ocean Road block, Bob Rose kiboshed any potential purchase, deeming the price “way too high”.

A few weeks later, Bob Rose, whose office was beside his wife’s, had been unusually quiet – something Margaret Rose put down to back-to-back business meetings.

Suddenly, the veteran developer popped his head through the sliding door and asked if she realised the Ocean Road auction had taken place that day, to which Margaret Rose replied: “I forgot all about it, I wonder what lucky person got that?” Bob Rose shot back: “You.”

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This master suite is one of the property’s seven bedrooms.

“I didn’t believe him, and it took him a good 10 minutes to convince me he wasn’t pulling my leg,” she says.

“When I realised he was serious, I shook – I was so excited. So, that was his gift to me, all that time ago.”

After Bob Rose secretly secured the land at auction for $6.3 million, Margaret Rose dreamt up the design alongside Rose Group in-house architect Drew Barnyak, “We worked together like hand in glove, it was a labour of love,” she says.

The result: a spectacular home that is both luxurious and elegant – just don’t describe the style as “Hamptons”.

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Margaret Rose describes the property’s style as distinctly Australian.

“It upsets me a bit,” says Margaret Rose, pointing out that the home’s aesthetic is more Australian than American, specifically designed to recreate the feel of her grandparents’ home, with generous wraparound verandahs having ceiling fans encased in shutters – similar to the expansive deck of the iconic Palm Beach Surf Club three doors up.

The three-level Bellona – named after the ship that brought Bob Rose’s forebears to Australia – sits within the slope of the land, appearing externally as a single-storey residence with loft-style bedrooms. However, a tour of the property reveals an expansive seaside retreat of seven bedrooms, eight bathrooms, underground parking for eight cars and separate staff quarters.

The interiors, created by Margaret Rose alongside designer Michael Love, exude a calm coastal elegance through a palette of whites, taupe and blue, framing the landscaped gardens and views of the ocean, which sparkles just beyond the property’s garden pavilion and vine-covered front gates.

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Bellona’s kitchen can be configured either open to the view or closed during cooking.

Bellona’s subtle and elegant design instantly endeared the Roses to their neighbours the Packers, car dealer Laurie Sutton and Chisholm, whose holiday estate Melaleuca was bought by Caledonia’s Mike Messara in 2020 for $24 million.

Margaret Rose says the local community, which is largely made up of the Sydney and Melbourne holidaying elite, comes alive during Christmas and the school holidays, which is also when her nine grandchildren make the most of the family retreat.

“Often I just leave the gate open, so it’s in and out. They have nighttime picnics on the beach – I’m not sure if that’s legal – but we have a cauldron,” she says.

“That’s what life’s about. All the neighbours join in – the kids are riding bikes and scooters.”

There’s even a giant clamshell and tap to wash small, sand-covered feet before treading the home’s American walnut floors.

With her innate passion for architecture, Margaret Rose is a firm believer in the theory that “surroundings dictate behaviour”, a concept that has long informed the Rose Group’s distinctive and cohesive coastal aesthetic with a strong emphasis on landscaping and community connectivity.

The signature style of the Rose Group, which is now run by sons Bryan and Stuart, endures at the company’s recent projects – Beaches at Catherine Hill Bay and Lakeside in Gwandalan, which is under way in Lake Macquarie, south of Newcastle.

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The property also features a garden pavilion for post-swim showers and ice-creams.

For the Roses, the decision to sell their holiday home, like the past succession planning of their business that involved an eight-year stint in London to give their sons the space to lead, is a pragmatic step required to enter the next phase of their lives.

However, Margaret Rose, the self-described “beach girl” who grew up in Manly, will miss arriving at Bellona after a busy week at work to half a dozen oysters and a waiting glass of champagne – and the comforting sound of waves lapping outside her bedroom window at midnight.

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Margaret Rose will miss the walks to the nearby ocean pool. Louise Kennerley

A firm believer in “there’s a right time for everything”, the Rose family matriarch recalls driving past the original Willeroon home as a teenager and noticing a woman on the balcony looking out to sea.

“I remember thinking: ‘Oh my gosh, I wonder if you realise how lucky you are’,” she says, “so I’ve never actually forgotten how lucky I am to be here”.

The property is for sale through Ken Jacobs of Forbes Global Properties.