Home Tours

A coastal cottage-style guest house on Sydney’s northern beaches

This beautifully renovated backyard cottage is a magnet for family, friends and far-flung guests.

Set foot in this wonderful sun-drenched weatherboard on Sydney’s northern beaches and try to resist unleashing your smartphone. There’s a pastel-pink front door just begging to be snapped; a perfectly positioned hanging chair swaying gently on the deck; statement bathroom floor tiles that read more like graphic artwork; and a luxurious outdoor shower framed by a baby frangipani tree.

And yet for all its obvious aesthetic appeal, there’s more to this cottage than a series of carefully constructed photo opportunities.

With its denim ‘Hugo’ sofa from Lounge Lovers, sandy-hued Kira & Kira ‘The Iconic’ sideboard and sunshine-yellow Smithmade cushion, the lounge room takes colour cues from its seaside locale.

Homeowner Merrilyn’s parents, John and Barbara, first bought the property 20 years ago, lured by its location just five minutes from the beach and its crowd-pleasing credentials; the block of land boasted a main two-storey house at the front, plus a two- bedroom granny flat out the back. “My dad was all about looking after family,” explains Merrilyn. “He purchased this place so my grandmother would have somewhere to live.”

Cream ‘Totem’ cotton-lurex rug, The Design Hunter.

Over the decades, the main house has enjoyed various refurbs and renovations (including a memorable one that was featured in the August 2015 issue of Home Beautiful), but only recently did attention turn to the cottage. “I moved into the main house after both my parents passed, but I wanted to continue their legacy and keep the cottage for our family,” says Merrilyn.

‘Palm Leaves’ wallpaper in Alabaster Pink & Mint, Cole & Sons.

With grown-up daughters – including one who lives in New York – visiting regularly, plus a sister in Queensland and friends dotted across the country, it seemed only fitting that she convert the flat into a full- time guest quarters. And, Merrilyn decided, should there be a gap in the calendar, she would throw open the doors to Airbnb visitors.

The beauty of this sleep zone is that it serves up the sophistication of a boutique hotel with the soul of a family home.

House guests wondering how to while away their days need only glance to a corner of the living room.

A new purpose for the home called for a new look – and a top- to-toe transformation led by Merrilyn’s daughter Simone, an interior designer who works in sustainability.

The kitchen, once clad in tired terracotta and monochrome, now pops thanks to cabinetry in deep blue Dulux Vipere, a ‘Triple Kick’ pendant light by Melbourne designer Volker Haug, Phoenix ‘Lexi’ tapware in brushed gold, and ‘Transit’ bar stools from Curious Grace.

Over nine months, the duo revived and reworked each space in the 1998-built cottage. “It was definitely of that era,” says Simone, recalling the carpeted floors and terracotta kitchen tiles. The layout remained largely unchanged, but rickety interior walls were rebuilt and clad in Weathertex weatherboard, usually reserved for exteriors but chosen here for their noise-cancelling thickness and visual texture and depth.

“A woman at the local market does beautiful native flowers – I always get some when guests are coming,” says Merrilyn. The ‘Rust Confetti’ artwork by Rachel Castle reflects the room’s warm palette.

The kitchen cabinetry pops in a dreamy deep turquoise, while palm- printed pink wallpaper in one of the bedrooms is as sophisticated as it is sweet. “I never play it safe,” says Simone simply. “And we wanted to create lots of Instagrammable moments.”

Striking azure tiles from Tiles By Kate give new meaning to “floor show” in the bathroom.

Above all, the focus was on creating spaces too lovely to leave (save for the very inviting sparkling blue sea just down the road). “The cottage used to have that typical granny look,” reflects Merrilyn. “We’ve kept it homely but completely modernised it.”

A fitting finale for this seaside sanctuary? Reece’s Milli Inox overhead rail shower, for rinsing off sandy feet and bodies after a day at the beach.

Related stories