Home Tours

A blissful beach house renovation five years in the making

This home's beachy refit was a long time coming for its owners.
A white coastal-style kitchen with a fluted island and grey marble.Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch

For these busy executives Lisa and Matt, their four-bedroom home nestled on a hill in Sydney’s Northern Beaches provides stark relief from their demanding corporate lives. “It’s so serene up here, I find it quite breathtaking,” says Lisa. “Every morning, I have a coffee in bed and watch the sun rise over the ocean. It’s different every day.”

A weatherboard and breezeblock home entry way.
This Northern Beaches home suits its owners, Lisa, Matt and their son Riley, to a tee. “We designed this house to fit in with our lives,” says Lisa. It begins with the front exterior, which is clad in James Hardie ‘Linea’ weatherboards painted Dulux Tranquil Retreat. “We removed the front entrance columns and added a simple portico and custom timber door by Nicco Timber Windows & Doors to give it a coastal feel,” says interior designer Denise McIlwaine. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

The couple knew the advantages of a coastal reprieve, having lived in a two-bedroom apartment across from the beach prior to buying this house. The birth of their son Riley, now nine, prompted them to look for something bigger.

Riley sitting by the home's white breeze block entrance.
Riley takes a break from skateboarding in the front courtyard, where ‘Star White’ breeze blocks from MD Bricks provide a unique design feature and act as a privacy screen for the garage. ‘Sofia’ limestone pavers from Barefoot Living suit the coastal scheme. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

“I looked at this house five times during the auction campaign before I decided it was the one for us,” says Lisa. “It had an unusual floor plan – we called it a maze – and I knew it wouldn’t be easy or cheap to renovate, but I kept coming back for the location.”

Who lives here?

Lisa, Matt and their son, Riley, nine.
Describe your style. Lisa: “I would say it’s contemporary coastal. A timeless interior that can be updated with the addition of new cushions and accessories.”
Your biggest learning? “People can sometimes underestimate the value of interior designers. Denise was amazing and worth her weight in gold. I know what I like, but she was the one that helped pull it together.”
Favourite inclusions? “The butler’s pantry is a godsend. I love a clean kitchen and the butler’s pantry allows for this. Also the bathtub in the ensuite. How lucky are we to be able to have a bath looking out to the ocean.”

A sculpted white vase on a grey marble console.
Inside, a ‘Woodrow’ console table from Fenton & Fenton welcomes you and a round ‘Bjorn’ mirror from RJ Living reflects Byron 1 by Sarah Brooke. The vessel is from Ignem Terrae Ceramics. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

The family lived in the home for five years while saving up for its renovation, which gave them valuable insight into exactly what needed changing – and the list was considerable! They enlisted Denise McIlwaine from Order & Grace to oversee the home’s transformation, which included rejigging the floor plan to create a more functional flow, maximising the natural light and bringing the outdoors in.

“Our aim for the couple was to create an instant sense of tranquillity as soon as they stepped through the front gate, a place where they could relax and entertain in serene surroundings,” says Denise.

Owner's Lisa and Matt and son Riley in the kitchen.
Lisa, Matt and Riley hang out in the space. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

Pivotal to this is the open-plan living, dining and kitchen space at the rear of the house, which extends out to a generous verandah with an outdoor kitchen and stone fireplace for year-round relaxation. Clever joinery in the living room makes the most of a large blank wall.

“We decided to break it down into sections – a space for a large eye-catching artwork, an internal fireplace and some joinery to hold personal treasures and decor pieces to create a sense of home,” says Denise. “Lisa and Matt were delighted with the outcome, as were we.”

Kitchen and dining

Similarly, the kitchen hit all the right notes for the couple, who wanted something wow yet understated. A curved island bench topped with grey veined Talostone brings beautiful contrast to the white cabinetry. Dunlin ‘Drop 3’ pendants work in the space and a butler’s pantry ensures the kitchen stays clutter-free.

A fluted kitchen island with gold tapware and round hanging pendant lights.
The kitchen has Talostone Super White benchtops and fluted panelling on the island by Streamlined Kitchens, which elevate the space. ‘PurePlank’ floors in Allevard from Havwoods bring warmth to a mostly white scheme that has green decorative elements, such as foliage from Grandiflora in a terracotta pot from Watertiger, a Cultiver hand towel and an artwork, Twilight at the Lake by Chanel Durante, from Project Gallery 90. The casserole pot is from Watertiger. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

“We wanted the pendant lights to be elegant and complement the kitchen, but we didn’t want them to dominate the space,” says Denise. In the kitchen, a trio of ‘Drop 3’ pendants by Dunlin fit the bill – simple and sculptural with their smooth bone china shades and grey cotton braided cables. “They really are the perfect fit!” Visit Dunlin for more.

We love… perfect lighting
A white coastal-style kitchen with a fluted island and grey marble.
Family or friends can perch on the ‘About a Stool’ bar stools from Hay while Lisa and Matt whip up a feast using their schmick new appliances from Fisher & Paykel and Bosch. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

The freshly designed kitchen was a welcome change for Lisa, who was hemmed in by a much smaller kitchen in the old home. “I didn’t cook for enjoyment, only out of necessity,” she says. “Now I can spend hours pottering around in the kitchen.”

Matt sitting at the timber dining table.
Matt enjoys a coffee at the Ethnicraft ‘Bok’ dining table, while light streams in. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

To the side of the kitchen, the dining zone enjoys light from louvre windows and a skylight above. Meals are enjoyed on the Ethnicraft ‘Bok’ dining table and chairs from Trit House, with a ‘Coast Diamond’ rug from Payless Flooring demarcating the area.

A white and grey marble butler's pantry with gold tapware.
The butler’s pantry helps contain the mess of family life. Cultiver towel. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

Living and alfresco area

The home feels bright and airy thanks to the addition of large feature windows, skylights and glass doors. “It became a bit of a joke during the renovations because every time we were talking about windows, I would say, ‘That’s nice, but can we make it bigger?’,” says Lisa.

Coastal living room with white interiors and a skylight.
Comfort is king in the living room, with a ‘Frankie’ deep modular sofa from Fanuli just made for lounging in front of the TV or indoor fireplace. Lisa appreciates the wall of joinery, with cupboards and drawers to hide clutter. “I love a little ‘shovey shovey’ before guests come over!” she says. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

Crisp white walls enhance this effect and provide a neutral backdrop for the artworks, furnishings and accessories, which Denise says were kept “simple yet elegant, in order to provide a sense of calm. Coastal living embraces the concept of fluidity and openness, so the key was to not overcomplicate, maintaining a pared-back eye throughout,” she says.

Timber open shelving and white cabinetry.
Open shelving makes perfect use of a vacant wall in the living space. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

In a corner of the living space a Frey ‘Loft’ armchair is covered with Thomas Maxwell Leather ‘Lavelle & London Club’ in Trench and Warwick ‘Lexus’ fabric in Duckegg on the underside. A ‘Pivot’ coffee table from Trit House adds to the fluidity of the space.

A white living area with a tan leather chair beside an abstract artwork.
Arcadia print from Michael Bond Art. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

Sliding doors open the space up to the outdoor deck, with its ‘Talara’ two-seater sofa from Domayne and Freedom ‘Allaperto’ rug. “Matt and I sit out there with a drink or two, music on, chatting and looking out to the view,” says Lisa.

Lisa sitting in the outdoor alfresco area by a stone fireplace.
Carefully selected ‘Random Ashlar’ stone from Eco Outdoor surrounds the ‘A750’ insulated heatbox from Heatmaster, and is the perfect match to the blackbutt timber decking. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

Main bedroom

Natural materials – limestone paving, timber floors and stone benchtops – along with VJ panels, fluted joinery, linen curtains and upholstery add to the contemporary coastal look. “We didn’t want our home to feel pretentious; we wanted it to be really comfortable and cosy to live in,” says Lisa.

The main bedroom with an abstract artwork over a grey bed.
The Aqua Nebula #2 artwork by Jessie Rigby depicts a restful scene. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

In the bedroom, a feature window provides stunning views. A ‘Lucia’ bedhead from Heatherly Design with In The Sac bedlinen, along with ‘Avalon’ bedside tables from Life Interiors, sheer curtains in Warwick ‘Corfu’ fabric in Snow and Cavalier Bremworth ‘Untouched’ carpet add to the easy feel.

The main bedroom with white wall panels looking into the ensuite.
‘Strap 15’ wall lights from Urban Lighting. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)


The couple’s ensuite is a sanctuary within itself, with ‘Spring’ Terrazzo from Barefoot Living on the floor and splashback providing a nice contrast with the white rectified tiles, also from Barefoot Living.

A white and grey ensuite with a timber vanity, gold tapware and arched mirrors.
The timber ‘Posh Domaine’ vanity with Cherry Pie Carrara top, twin ‘Roca Inspira’ round basins and Kado ‘Neue’ mirrors from Reece. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

The timber ‘Posh Domaine’ vanity with Cherry Pie Carrara top, twin ‘Roca Inspira’ round basins and Kado ‘Neue’ mirrors from Reece form the perfect alliance, but the star of the space is the Kado ‘Lussi’ freestanding tub, positioned to take in those water views. “It’s a bit luxurious, but I really wanted it and I’m glad we did it,” says Lisa.

A white coastal ensuite with a freestanding bath and floor to ceiling window.
A Cultiver bath towel hangs over the bath. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

Riley’s bedroom

Riley’s bedroom has a skateboard decal, dachshund doorstop and navy ‘Lowdown’ locker, all from Lilly & Lolly.

Riley in his blue and white bedroom with a skating wall decal.
The navy ‘Lowdown’ locker from Lilly & Lolly. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

Family bathroom

Barefoot Living terrazzo and tiles, and a Kado ‘Lux’ bath from Reece are in the main bathroom where a Cultiver towel hangs over the side of the bath.

A white and grey tiled bathroom with a freestanding bath and hanging plant.
The Kado ‘Lux’ bath from Reece. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

“Both Lisa and Matt have said several times that they feel like they are on holidays when they arrive home.”

Denise McIlwaine, interior designer
A timber vanity with a counter basin and arched mirror.
An Issy ‘Halo’ vanity is topped with an Alape ‘Unisono’ counter basin, both from Reece. A Cultiver towel adds warmth. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

“I love that this house makes me always feel close to the ocean. We still don’t take the view for granted and love being able to hear the waves crashing first thing in the morning,” says Lisa.

Owner Lisa standing at the kitchen island.
Lisa loves her new white kitchen. (Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Corina Koch)

Interior design: Denise McIlwaine, Order & Grace, orderandgrace.com.
Building design: Action Plans, actionplans.com.au.
Builder: Crookwell Constructions, crookwellconstructions.com.au.
Joinery: Streamlined Kitchens, streamlinedkitchens.com.


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