Inside Out (Australia)

SUNNY SIDE UP A generous splash of sunflower yellow adds plenty of energy to this spacious Victorian family home

After a couple of years in the US, this family has returned home to a pretty-as-a-picture gem in an idyllic spot, perfect for life by the sea

- WORDS JOANNE HAWKINS STYLING EMMA O’MEARA PHOTOGRAPH­Y NIKOLE RAMSEY

Living near the ocean is an integral part of Dana and Michael’s life. After a few years in the Victorian surfing mecca of Torquay, the couple and their four children relocated to Laguna Beach in Southern California with Michael’s work, and enjoyed a blissful couple of years. When the time came to return to Australia, the couple knew they wanted to continue their coastal lifestyle, so started looking online for a property big enough to house their growing family. “We wanted to be near Torquay as we loved the surf coast area,” says Dana. “Then this house popped up and I was getting heart palpitatio­ns because I loved what I saw. But I tried not to get too excited as it was a little out of our price range so I didn’t think we would get it.” Fortunatel­y, after a couple of months of trans-Pacific negotiatio­n (“There were many emails that went back and forth,” says Dana), the couple purchased the house with a six-month settlement, giving them time to relocate back to Australia and draw up plans to renovate what was to be their forever home by the beach. Dana, did you actually see the house in the flesh before buying it from the US? Yes, Michael said one of us needed to see it before we signed on the dotted line, and, as the interiors were more my thing, he really wanted me to have a look to make sure I was happy. So, I made a quick five-day trip back from California. Did you get a repeat of the heart palpitatio­ns when you saw it? I fell in love the minute I walked in the door, basically. I’m a bit of an old soul and I love all the period features, the open fireplace and the beautiful leadlight windows in what is now our dining room. A heritage house like this near a river and the ocean is hard to come by so that was a big attraction as well.

Did it need much work? Yes! Inside, it was tired and a little worn out and very dark. The staircase and the timber cladding in the entrance hall were dark brown while the window frames, some of the doors and the cladding in the dining area were painted black, making it a little spooky-looking. There wasn’t really a proper kitchen and the bathrooms needed replacing. But I could see the house had lovely bones and just needed some love.

What was your aim with the house? As it was so dark, I wanted to make it light and bright and I do love a bit of colour, too. I’ve always loved the Hamptons style, but thanks to Pinterest, I’ve also developed a love of Scandinavi­an interiors with their pared-back lighter tones so that was inspiratio­n for this house, too. Ultimately, with four kids, I wanted it to be practical and a bit of fun, too. You obviously love a pop of yellow; what inspired you to paint the staircase in such a vibrant shade? Well, the original name of the house was Sunnyside, so that inspired me to have the yellow accents in the house. For me, it was all about brightenin­g the house up for the kids. I like being a little different and as soon as the painting started, I knew it was going to look fantastic.

And what did Michael think? He was fine with the yellow – he actually had more reservatio­ns when I told him I wanted to paint the external weatherboa­rds dark grey! I think it was harder for him to visualise how it would look and I had to get the painter to paint a section for him to see first but now he really loves it. Generally, though, he was happy to leave the interiors to me. The house has a bit of an American feel to it – were you inspired by your time living there? Perhaps, I do love the sense of openness and space that a lot of American houses have. I also purchased some pieces of furniture, bedlinen and lighting in the US and had them shipped here. The pendant lights over the dining table were bought from a glass studio in Santa Ana and they represent the shades of California: the sun, sand, blue sky, ocean and so on. When I switch them on, it reminds me of watching the sun set on a California­n beach. With all of this space, your home must really come into its own

at Christmas time? Yes, it’s a great party house. We’ve started a tradition where we invite our neighbours and friends around for Christmas drinks, there are usually around 50 people here enjoying the deck and pool area. And we celebrate Christmas Day with close family here, too. I love Christmas: I love decorating the table and the smell of a real Christmas tree, although one year I ordered a large tree and it was so massive it didn’t fit into the living area, so we had to put it into the dining room, where the ceilings are slightly higher. Are you happy with what you’ve achieved with the house? Definitely! There’s lots of space for the kids and their friends to come over; we’re very lucky. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a home so I feel like it’s my forever house. The builder on this project was Mark Mulheron of Mulheron Builders – to get in contact, call 0409 985 459.

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