Many people are drawn to the beautiful beaches of Byron Bay in northern NSW. Yet for interior designer Ali and her builder partner Michael, who called Sydney home for years, it was the hinterland that drew them with its rolling hills, village feel and generational farmers. “It reminded me of my childhood growing up in the English countryside, so I began hunting for a potential home in the area with a dream that I could escape the city and rekindle my love of the country and horses,” recalls Ali.
Who lives here?
Ali, an interior designer, Michael, a builder, and Ali’s daughter Lola, 17. Ali and Michael’s adult children also visit.
Styling philosophy? Ali: “I aim to create spaces with an abundance of natural light that feel comfortable, luxurious and enhance ease of living.”
What do you love about the area? “Everything! Heading towards the village [Eureka, NSW], the land opens up to glorious views of the Nightcap National Park ranges and Minyon Falls – it’s just stunning.”
Favourite Christmas tradition? “We always make gingerbread and mince pies, which we enjoy eating for days.”
Several years ago, the couple seized that dream with the purchase of a weatherboard Queenslander perched on acreage in the little town of Eureka. “Michael and I are both suckers for older homes, and although it had been altered with add-ons that didn’t quite make sense – the carport blocked views and the living area had no windows – it had a lot of charm and the most amazing outlook,” says Ali.
Inspired by the country homes of her childhood and a passion for mid-century simplicity, the concept was to celebrate the home’s original features and enlarge its footprint by extending the verandah. “When renovating, every change has a knock-on effect and my favourite part of the process is the ‘Eureka’ moment when the design falls into place and the jigsaw puzzle is solved,” says Ali, whose clever manoeuvring paved the way for four beautiful bedrooms, new bathrooms, an open-plan kitchen, spacious living areas and an alfresco zone, which spills out to a pool and spa.
However, turning the vision into reality over two years was at times a challenging slog, with the couple and Ali’s youngest child, Lola, living onsite between two cute but compact 1970s caravans. “It was a fairly rustic and humble existence and Covid threw us many trials with material shortages, price increases, closed borders and labour shortages,” she recalls.
Fortunately, with Michael’s building skills and Ali’s design expertise, they were able to take on the bulk of the work themselves, making the transformation all the more satisfying. Just as dreamy as the location, the home’s original charm melds gently with a new palette of natural surfaces, soft neutrals and autumnal hues, which look particularly magical at golden hour. Rather than a classic cottage interior, the look is infused with mid-century lighting and artwork underscored with Scandinavian minimalism. “It’s been an enduring labour of love and I’m really proud we’ve created a comfortable place immersed in nature with views from every angle,” says Ali.
The new outdoor area was a substantial extension at the back of the house. Lounging and dining zones are defined underfoot by Natural Bricks from Jatana Interiors and breezeway-style verandahs, which were built with the home’s original teak floorboards. During the festive season, the wood-fired pizza oven from Pizza Ovens R Us and the Barbeques Galore cooker get a workout.
Bi-fold windows in the kitchen slide open to double as a servery for the alfresco dining area and deck.
The new kitchen works especially well come the festive season, with its big Falcon oven and multiple fridges. “I particularly love the walk-in pantry for prepping and hiding things,” says Ali of the generous butler’s zone, which was originally a sleep out in an enclosed verandah. A contemporary take on a country kitchen, the scheme features rosewood benchtops, Astra Walker tapware with an Eco Brass finish and a Turner Hastings sink.
“I like the juxtaposition of the traditional country look with modern, luxurious elements.”Ali
Heritage elements sing in the tranquil living area, including the fireplace mantlepiece and metal surround. Both were sandblasted to remove thick layers of timber stain and paint, revealing the original Oregon timber grain. As a gesture to the home’s history, Ali designed joinery around the fireplace that appears as if it has always been there, repeating details such as wall mouldings and dado rails that are original to the home. Finished in calming Porter’s Paints Quarter Grey Pepper, the joinery contrasts gently with the walls, painted in Dulux Antique White USA.
We love… timber touches
Throughout the home timber is used in abundance, giving spaces an inherent warmth, solid feel and sense of cosy comfort. To ground interiors and seamlessly connect new and old, the internal floors were laid with Woodos Oak Character Brushed boards. “I loved that the boards have natural-looking timber characteristics and are finished in natural oil, rather than shiny polyurethane, so they feel softer underfoot and won’t discolour in the sun,” explains Ali.
The original living area was reconfigured into a spacious bedroom for the couple, who cleverly created room for built-ins and an ensuite. Traditional decorative features include wall mouldings, picture rails, a tiered plaster ceiling and sash windows, which sit comfortably alongside solid timber furniture by Mark Tuckey, including the ‘Platform’ bed, made from recycled Oregon timber and layered in Citta linen.
An abundance of light in this space prompted Ali to convert it from a bedroom. “I just had to come up with a concept to create privacy with the existing windows,” she says. “The top of the glass was already obscured with original flannel flower etchings, but I added privacy to the lower section with simple cafe curtains from Creative Blinds and Shades.” The effect is diffused light that casts a glow on the Alberta Stone bath from Renovation Kingdom. A sculptural Concrete Nation sink sits on a low vanity crafted by Mark Tuckey.
“I love the feeling of peace you get from being in complete comfort in the home while being so close to nature.”Ali
“We carved out space for the ensuite by enclosing some of the verandah, and one of the best things we did was incorporate the home’s original French doors,” says Ali.
Although the location may be reminiscent of the rolling English fields where Ali grew up, the distinctly different Australian climate has influenced her approach to the festive season. “I’ve learnt to embrace the summer heat, and these days seafood and a whole fish are usually the Christmas spread centrepiece. My kids wouldn’t forgive me though if there weren’t gingerbread and mince pies on offer, and I still have to have a classic British Christmas pudding with custard and brandy butter,” she enthuses. “Lunch is often an all-day affair and we beat the heat with plenty of pool time on inflatables.”
Interior design: Ali Griffiths Interiors, aligriffithsinteriors.com.SOURCE BOOK
Builder: Beukers Building, @beukersbuilding.
Joinery: Dynamic Kitchens & Joinery, (02) 6686 9788, dynamickitchens.com.au.
Pool: Paul Flatley Pools, (02) 6628 0676, @flatleypools.