Monique and Andrea are turning a post-war weatherboard into a family home with that unmistakable holiday feel.
Monique bought an old weatherboard on the coast – now she’s reviving its beachy holiday house charm.
“I’M NOT SURE IF WE found this house, or if the house found us! It was two years ago, I was heavily pregnant and my husband, Andrea, and I were a week away from starting demolition on a fisherman’s cottage we owned in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. On a whim, we decided to take a drive to the northern beaches. We stuck our heads into an auction for a property high up on the plateau overlooking Newport Beach. After a 30-second property inspection and a winning bid, the property was ours! A year later, we moved in and began work.
The original post-war bungalow was extended 20 years ago, so we’ve been renovating it to restore the essence of a true beach house. We call this weatherboard ‘cottage in the sky’ La Casa Bianca, which stems from my husband’s Italian background. The house was run-down and dirty when
we bought it, and being white the dirt really shows! It’s quite old, so a lot of our immediate work was on the aesthetics, but major changes include redesigning the front courtyard to give it a Tuscan feel, and weatherboarding the garage to match the rest of the house. It’s been great to move in our furnishings, homewares and artwork, and add my interior touch.
Defining the look
The style I’m creating is Nantucket coastal casual (Nantucket is a tiny island off Cape Cod on America’s north-east coast). Any structural or decorating choice has to pass my test question: “Would you expect this in a holiday beach house?” And there’s an emotional side to it, too; I want to recreate that magical feeling of childhood holiday memories. Everything in the house represents my own and my husband’s cultures and old homes: the tropics and colonial airs of East Africa and Malawi, where I was born, to the classic country style of homely English cottages, because I lived in the UK for a while, and the more rustic charm of Italian rural homes, for my husband’s childhood. Now we work our shared Australian beach lifestyle into the mix.
If there’s one consistent element in my house, it’s the cane furniture I import from Malawi. I’m biased, I suppose, but I really value the quality and craftsmanship of these handmade pieces. The other important theme is white: white, white and white!
I am very particular about which whites I use, preferring those that have more black in them to make them cooler shades. For example,
I will play with percentages of black in Dulux Lexicon to create either a brighter white, or one that can give a touch of grey or blue, depending on the sunlight hitting the room.
Even with all the white, the house is made entirely from wood so it naturally feels warmer. In winter, we find any excuse to use our beautiful but understated fireplace. To smell the wood smoke when you’re outside and hear the crackles when you’re cosied up under blankets on the sofa is bliss!
I think the interior of any home should allow its household to live the best life possible. When decorating, I like to take into consideration everyone and everything that lives under our roof and the hobbies we have. For example, the hallway to the front door is such a busy thoroughfare that deals with all the comings and goings of our family: muddy work boots, shoes worn when walking the dog and our daughter’s gumboots are all left here. All our animals run in and out, and it’s also the all-important route from kitchen to pizza oven that we have to navigate with fresh pizza balanced on paddles. So it’s a must that this space is constantly kept tidy and organised, which we do with wall hooks, a bench seat and shoe storage.
My approach to decorating is you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Take the time to shop around, research online and don’t rush into anything – shop wisely and build over time. My ceramics collection has evolved over the last 10 years. Many of them are from Mud Australia, and it started with just a few small espresso cups!
Locally, my favourite stores are Beachwood, Africanologie and Home On Darley. And I’m getting the most positive feedback at the moment (because it’s winter) about my faux fur throws – all of them cost around $60.
Our home is an inspiring space and a place to relax. When you walk in, there’s the instant feeling of being on holiday and away from the norms of life.”
Group sea-blue planters in different shapes and sizes.
OUTSIDE Up high The front balconies look over Newport Beach and out to the ocean.
ENTRY WAY Come on in This busy space is kept tidy with coat hooks and a narrow bench.
Monique imports this cane chair from Malawi.
LIVING ROOM Warm up Monique finds “any excuse” to light the wood fire. Sofa from Pottery Barn; coffee table from Beachwood.