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A sublime classic coastal property on the NSW South Coast

This home went from brown-brick blah to beachside beauty.
coastal blue and cream living room with sandstone fireplacePhotography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright

With glittering turquoise water on one side and rolling green fields on the other, the location of this beach property on the NSW South Coast is heavenly – but the house itself was far from sublime. Then, interior designer Melinda Hartwright blew through the property like a refreshing sea breeze, lifting it from modern mediocrity to a personality-packed stunner that’s utterly worthy of its divine location.


classic coastal white facade with blue front door
Melinda opted for an ageless colour scheme. “It’s a classic white beach house with brass accents and touches of blue – it’s simple, but timeless,” she says. The cladding is in Dulux Snowy Mountains Half, with the bonny front door in Dulux Duck Egg Blue. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)

Now based on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Melinda is formerly of NSW’s Southern Highlands, which is where she met her clients, working on their Bowral home, then a city apartment. She had a firm grip on her clients’ style and had earned their unerring trust. “Having done two other projects with them, they had become more adventurous in their choices. They knew my style and the kind of things I was going to present to them – and I knew how far I could push them,” she says.

classic coastal blue mudroom with pineapple wallpaper
“Here, you can come in off the beach, chuck your towel and bag, before going into the house,” says Melinda of the ‘sand room’. The Hygge & West wallpaper inspired the ‘Annalise’ tiles from Jatana Interiors, the blue cabinetry in Dulux Blowout, and details like the St Barts rattan pendant and brass bamboo pulls from Pineapple Traders. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)

Melinda’s brief from the clients was a two-part challenge: first, to add character to the charmless build, and secondly to bring a sense of playfulness. This was to be a place to relax and retreat, entertain and make memories – and the house needed to reflect that. “It’s a weekender for them and they wanted a place that was joyful and fun, relaxed and happy.”

classic coastal white kitchen with rattan details
The pale celadon green (Dulux Pale Green Tea) on the kitchen island matches the mint Teranova subway tiles. “It could be quite a formal kitchen, but things like the coloured subway tiles and the rattan panels make it much more beach house-y and more appropriate to the location,” Melinda explains. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)

First up was an architectural personality transplant. Melinda diplomatically says the house was “just a bit blancmange”. Less forgiving commentators might have called it stoically serviceable, with its brown brick exterior, shiny floor tiles and lack of whimsy. On the up-side, the location was incomparable, the backyard generous, and the house itself built to take advantage of the views, with living areas located on the upper storey.

coastal blue and cream living room with sandstone fireplace
This cosy living room has a new gas fireplace and Artisan Exterior ‘Ridge’ sandstone cladding, and a cluster of plush pieces, including the owners’ existing sofas, re-covered in mismatched-but-complementary outdoor fabrics – tough enough to survive sun, salt and pool water. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)

The makeover began with a facade facelift, an overhaul designed by Melinda, working with a draughtsman, then carried out by local company Life Home Builders. A forest of view-blocking concrete pillars made major surgery of this process, but with new structural supports, they were removed, and the staggered frontage squared off to create one long verandah upstairs, and space for an extra bedroom downstairs. Brown brick gave way to fibre cement weatherboard cladding, and blank windows were replaced with new panelled windows and French doors.

classic bathroom with green floral wallpaper
The bathroom vanity was an off-the-rack buy from Vanity by Design – add some new hardware and aged brass tapware, and it’s as high-end as any custom build. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)

Inside, the miserly little skirtings were replaced with a wealth of interest: elegantly detailed cornices, architraves and skirtings, new doors and hardware, and VJ panelled ceilings, which epitomise classic coastal style.

twin bedroom with palm tree print upholstered bedheads
The Lisa Fine ‘Pasha’ fabric on the bedheads launched this room’s green scheme, from the Schumacher ‘Abaco’ paperweave wallpaper to the Diane Bergeron scalloped pillow shams. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)

Next up was the really fun bit, layering the home with a carefully curated kaleidoscope of colour and pattern. “It’s got a beautiful view with glorious turquoise water, so we wanted the vibrancy of that to be matched by the interiors,” says Melinda.

classic coastal bathroom with freestanding bath
Brass is used in the bathroom mirror and James Said ‘Kon Tiki’ wall lamps. Melinda used Schumacher ‘Aditi’ wallpaper, matched with floor tiles from Jatana Interiors. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)

“We wanted classic interiors, but creative and playful and pretty,” she says. A core palette of coastal blues is expressed through bright cerulean cabinetry, patterned fabrics and wallpapers, offset by crisp whites and touches of sand. Branching out from blue, each bedroom is themed by colour (green, pink, aqua), while the bathrooms are each defined by beautiful wallcoverings, adding warmth – a signature feature of Melinda’s style.

classic coastal bedroom with palm tree details
The clients’ daughter wanted an adult iteration of a pink bedroom. A custom bedhead in Thibaut ‘Arboreta’ fabric and Diane Bergeron ‘Coco’ bedlinen capture the pink, while sisal carpet and a pale tobacco grassweave wallcovering from Domain Textiles ground the look. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)

Functionality was always top of mind – this is a beach house, it needed to survive sandy feet, wet swimmers and future grandchildren. With this in mind, Melinda embraced outdoor fabrics, hard-wearing sisal carpet and sand-camouflaging timber floors, plus a striking sand room – the beach version of a mud room.

classic coastal bathroom with blue stripe wallpaper
An off-the-rack buy from Vanity by Design, the ensuite vanity was customised with brass pulls from Hepburn Hardware, which marry with the tapware and ‘Bryant’ sconces. The Schumacher ‘Edwin Stripe’ wallpaper is the hero of this bathroom. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)

“It’s not your typical beach house – it’s a little more structured and more formal. But it’s still relaxed and inviting,” says Melinda. Her clients’ reaction is all the endorsement needed, Melinda says. “She said to me, ‘I never really liked going down there. Now I want to go every weekend and never want to leave!’”

coastal laundry with light grey-green cabinets
A pale greeny grey is carried through cabinetry in Dulux Pale Celadon, sage-green subways from Tile Cloud, and encaustic tiles from Jatana Interiors. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)

Designer Tips

These are Melinda’s insider insights on how to add character to every room.

Where do I begin? “I usually start a room with a statement artwork, a fabulous rug, or amazing hero fabric. Everything else falls into place once the lead character is established. Paint colours come last as there are many to choose from and the focal point is always unique and special.”

How do I make a room feel unique? “If there is a chance to use wallpaper in any room, I will grab it. If you don’t want pattern, you can add glorious texture, interest and depth of colour.”

coastal bedroom with rattan headboard and navy floral wallpaper
Melinda chose Peter Meyer woven blockout blinds to match the rattan headboard and Kravet ‘Lateral’ sheers in Marine to filter the western sun. The Schumacher ‘Kerala Paisley’ wallpaper is matched with a ‘Mahalo’ quilt from Pottery Barn. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)

Can I use wallpaper in a bathroom? “I don’t do tiled walls except in the shower, they are too clinical. If you have good ventilation and water will not be splashed on the paper, then absolutely wallpaper bathrooms.”

How can I start small? “The perfect place to try out bold, patterned wallpaper is the powder room. It’s a small room that can handle big impact, doesn’t cost a lot, and one that you don’t spend lots of time in. Powder rooms can be the jewel of the house.”

main bedroom with light blue floral wallpaper
The main bedroom is a soothing retreat — and a quiet scene stealer, with Melinda boldly choosing to paint the ceiling and cornice a muted silvery green, Dulux Antarctica Lake Half. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)

How do I mix patterns? “I usually work in a dozen or so fabrics into a good-sized room. Have a nice blend of pattern sizes and beautiful combinations of colours, then the sky’s the limit.”

Any rules for prints? “Go for plainer fabrics on sofas and upholstered items, and play with bolder patterns on cushions and lampshades that can be readily and less expensively changed.”

What are your go-to material combos? “I always try to incorporate a mix of stained timber and white-painted furniture, rattan, glass and some kind of metallic finish in a room. And a touch of black is usually needed somewhere.”

chest of drawers with light blue floral wallpaper
The walls in the main bedroom are half papered in Schumacher ‘Khilana Floral’ wallpaper in Peacock, while the sisal carpet (in Tuscan Intrigue, from International Floor Coverings) adds gravitas to the whimsical palette. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)

What’s a quick design tip?  “Avoid putting sofas against walls with a lone coffee table wallowing in the middle of the room. Make sure side and coffee tables are only a reach away, so that you can easily put a glass down.”

What’s one big-impact item? “Lamps, lamps, lamps. Overhead lighting is great for making a statement and adding a feature to a room, but when it comes to cosiness, atmosphere and ambience nothing beats simple, soft lamp light.”

white staircase with blue runner
The staircase has become a real standout feature with the navy blue runner against bright white. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)


The orange-stained timber stairs were transformed with white paint, and a Roger Oates ‘Westport’ runner turns them into a statement.

Outdoor Kitchen

A pale green is carried through cabinetry in a calming shade of Dulux Pale Celadon in the barbecue area.

outdoor kitchen with sage green cabinetry
The outdoor kitchen features a light sage shade and is as beautiful as the interiors of the home. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)

Guest House

Originally a shed, the navy guest house in Dulux Eclipse Blue has maximum impact alongside the all-white house. “Painting the house white worked, because we then had this fabulous splash of brilliant blue on what looks like an American barn,” says Melinda.

barn style blue guest house
The barn-style guest house looks striking in bold blue. (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Melinda Hartwright)


Interiors: Melinda Hartwright, Melinda Hartwright Interiors, melindahartwright.com.

Builder: Life Home Builders, (02) 4234 4830, lifehomebuilders.com.au.

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