It was the unexpected renovation; a total overhaul caused by disastrous flooding and lockdowns. Located on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, this beach house has been owned by Chris and Geoff for 18 years and is a favourite family holiday destination for the couple, their adult children and their grandchildren.
WHO LIVES HERE? Chris, who is retired; her husband Geoff, a medical professional; four adult children and six grandchildren.
WHERE? Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne.
TIME FRAME? The project took about 12 months but was hampered by lockdowns, which delayed deliveries.
THE DREAM? A practical but pretty beach home for a multi-generational family.
APPROACH: Renovation – rebuilding a holiday home.
MUST HAVES: Easy-to maintain interior so the family can ‘lock up and leave’ when they return to the city; eat-in dining in the kitchen; a sewing room for Chris; a cohesive design aesthetic.
WISHLIST: “We have five active boys as grandchildren,” says Chris. “This can’t just be a showcase. It has to be a house that works for just when my husband and I are here, or when it’s full of adults and children and babies.”
WHY IS THIS YOUR DREAM HOME? “It’s beautiful and practical – full of family, wet bathers, sandy feet and active little boys,” says Chris.
The hub of summer holidays, weekends away and a private escape for the couple, it was neglected during Melbourne’s prolonged lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, when the family were confined to their city residences.
“During one of our longest lockdowns, we weren’t allowed to go to the beach house,” says Chris. “When we eventually came here, we discovered that the water supply to the water dispenser on the fridge had separated and the house had been flooded – probably for weeks by the time we found it. It wasn’t only masses of water damage, but we had mould issues. To see it was just devastating.”
It took the couple time to work out what could be saved and what needed to be rebuilt. “Initially the assessment was that it looked terrible but things could dry out – and we could do small things like take up the kickers in the kitchen and replace the carpet and the timber,” says Chris. “But as time went on, the job got bigger and bigger – to the point where there really wasn’t a room that wasn’t either water-affected or mould-affected.”
Caught in the middle between insurance assessors, builders and the emotion that came with losing so much of their home, Chris and Geoff turned to interior designer Amy Spargo of Maine House Interiors to help them put the house back together again.
New stairs replaced a dark, 1990s metallic balustrade in the entry, while a custom chair from Maine House Interiors provides a cosy nook, flanked by family photos. The basket and hydrangea is from Julian Ronchi Garden Design & Nursery, while the Dash & Albert rug is from Winton House. On the sisal stair runner from Floorspace is a ‘Savannah’ seagrass turtle basket from Pottery Barn Kids.
Realising the dream
“I was first engaged to do the furniture because the insurance company came in and said, ‘Look, we will literally throw everything out’ – which they did, which was dreadful,” says Amy. “They even threw out a trombone case that Geoff had since he was four, because there could be mould on it. As the builders started through the house, pulling things away, they realised the mould had gone so far that the whole house had to be gutted.”
Amy saw the opportunity to create a more cohesive design aesthetic and embrace the location. “As a designer, I knew it doesn’t cost any more to replace cabinetry with a better design in a different colour,” she says. For Chris, it was all a bit overwhelming. “We’ve done renovations before and they’re months or even years in the planning,” she says. “This wasn’t planned. It was foisted upon us. We salvaged a few bits and pieces, but it was even bigger than starting from scratch.”
The new palette of this beach house is a combination of blue and white – the favourite colours of Chris and just right for the coastal location. Most of the furniture throughout was custom made and painted to suit.
Chris appreciates all the lighting in the house – an element she hadn’t considered previously. “I love the light fitting over the stairwell,” she says. “That was sort of an add-on at the end. We were at budget and Amy said, ‘I found this light fitting but it’s going to take us a bit over budget’. I saw it and said, ‘I think we better have that one'”.
This renovation had many challenges, such as lockdowns during construction, meaning Chris and Geoff couldn’t be onsite. The answer was to give Amy a project-management role. “I live very close to the house, and I like being onsite – I have a good problem-solving brain,” says Amy. “Amy had amazing ideas that were often quite simple but really made the space work better for us,” says Chris. “I gave her a simple brief and she was able to just go with it.”
Chris loved the idea of wallpaper in the bathrooms, but she worried about the effects of any grubby fingers from visiting grandchildren. Amy’s response was to tile to just above child height, making the surface easy to clean and allowing the wallpaper to take centre stage.
In the powder room, Thibaut ‘Maduri’ wallpaper from Boyac supplies pattern to a Carrara marble benchtop, tapware from Brodware, wall tiles from National Tiles and a sink from Reece. Metallic touches come in the shape of a ‘Francis’ wall light from Emac & Lawton and an ‘Elise’ mirror from Hamptons Style.
The beauty of using wallpaper and fabric so widely in a decor makeover is that the almost infinite range of patterns can throw up tantalising design clashes. In the main bedroom, the botanical look of the bedhead is serene and tranquil – yet stroll through the ensuite door and checked wallpaper is more structured, but equally as pretty. “I love that the cushions are all the same size and coordinate. If I’m sick of the cushions in the bedroom, I can move them to the living room and move those cushions to another room,” says Chris.
“At the start we thought it was a much smaller job, and over time it became obvious that it was much bigger,” says Chris. “But perhaps, lesson learnt, when you’re renovating, it is very important to take your time. As this was unexpected, our first instinct was to do it quickly. If we had, we wouldn’t have finished with the right thing or such a great outcome. We finished up with a beautiful house that also works for us.”
Interior design: Amy Spargo, Maine House Interiors, 0418 521 888, mainehouseinteriors.com.
Builder: Johns Lyng Group, 1300 736 000, johnslyng.com.au.
Joinery: Morris Acciarito + Associates, 0413 803 683, morrisacciarito.com.au.