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A charismatic beach house on the edge of the ocean

A Sydney family channels east coast America to create a south coast retreat with breathtaking views.

The moment she arrives at her family beach house on the South Coast of NSW, Sydneysider Bernadette kicks off her shoes and heads out to the deck to inhale the view: an uninterrupted, panoramic vista of Seven Mile Beach, its shoreline just steps away from the Hamptons-inspired holiday home she shares with husband Greg and their children Isabella, 23, Anastasia, 21, Alexander, 19 and William, 17. “It’s so close you feel like you are on the ocean,” says Bernadette, who stumbled across this once-concrete shack in a coastal community close to her heart and where the children learned to surf. “The cottage hadn’t been touched for 30 years and was set up as two houses,” she recalls, “but it had amazing views of the beach from every room, and it was easy to imagine how gorgeous it could be, both for us and as a holiday rental.”

OUTDOOR ENTERTAINING AREA Bernadette looks to the headland from the outdoor entertaining area, where alfresco feasts can last for hours. Nearby, a built-in barbecue is clad with natural stone to seamlessly blend with the coastal surrounds, while the Eco Outdoor ‘Bronte’ table and ‘Barwon’ chairs exude a rustic beauty that complements the deck. “You need to buy good quality outdoor furniture when you are this close to the ocean,” remarks Bernadette, who keeps the table decoration stylishly simple with monstera leaves in a recycled glass vase (try Pillow Talk).

WHO LIVES HERE? Bernadette, who runs their holiday properties, Greg, who works in finance, and their children Isabella, 23, Anastasia, 21, Alexander, 19, and William, 17.

BEST BEACH HOUSE DESIGN TIP? Bernadette: “Create something that is inspired by and enhances the natural beauty surrounding you.”

HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE A SOPHISTICATED COASTAL LOOK? “Stick to a few motifs, themes and colours. I used a Hamptons colour scheme: blue, white, grey, blue and soft neutrals.

WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING? “Being mindful of our neighbours and designing a house that honours the sensibilities of Gerroa and the community.

SOUND WAVES Just a pebble’s throw to the sea, this is a luxury escape for Bernadette and Greg and their four children. After living overseas, they returned to Sydney in 2006, buying and renovating this holiday home three years ago. “We always envisioned having a place on the beach that the family could keep forever,” says Bernadette. The exterior embraces classic Hamptons style with pale grey timber cladding in Dulux Dieskau softly contrasting fresh white windows and doors.

To capture the relaxed sensibility they were after, the couple’s builder gutted the home and set to work, transforming the shabby shell into a high-end weatherboard abode with four bedrooms and a bevy of living areas. Replacing the aluminium windows and doors with white timber frames was an “essential, but huge project” says Bernadette. “We wanted sash windows that opened to the sound of the ocean and bifold doors to create seamless indoor/outdoor spaces.”

LIVING ROOM Whether guests are sinking into a powder blue sofa or reading a book in the rattan chair (both Coco Republic) relaxation is guaranteed in this homely living room. The Cabana Jo’s timber tables and a jute rug (try Early Settler) evoke effortless coastal style while a coral print cushion (see Pottery Barn) and an Amara polyresin coral bring the beachside look home. Taking ‘cosy’ to another level is a Jetmaster open fire and stunning stone surround from Eco Outdoor. “We wanted a year-round beach house,” says Bernadette, “and we love sitting by the fire while a storm and wild seas rage outside.”

Inside, crisp white walls in Dulux Lexicon Quarter and French oak boards in ‘Weathered Driftwood’ from Aged Oak Wide Floors form a beachy backdrop for the relaxed but sophisticated interiors. Bernadette says her design inspiration came from many sources: “We’ve travelled a lot and lived overseas so I had pictures of those places in my head, but I love looking at interiors and spent hours poring over websites and magazines.” Not surprisingly, she and her daughters “had lots of fun designing and decorating the interiors and finding beautiful pieces in local shops.” The Hamptons-style interiors are a celebration of the coastal landscape, mixing blue, white and neutrals with organic materials and timber furniture. “We chose good quality and timeless pieces that would last,” says Bernadette.

Dried flowers in a Mud Australia vase and collected shells add a coastal look.

When Bernadette and Greg planned their ideal holiday home, having two kitchens was a no-brainer. While the main kitchen has all the bells and whistles for entertaining, including a white Smeg fridge and large island bench, the smaller ‘kitchen’ oozes beach bar vibes, with a drinks fridge and ice machine within arms-reach of the deck.

KITCHEN Opposite the dining area as you come through the front door, the kitchen is open and casual. “We chose white Smeg appliances to create a retro beach house feel, which is also timeless, so I think it works,” says Bernadette, whose collection of Mud Australia ceramics provides a pop of blue on the timber shelves. A generous pantry and island storage make up for the lack of cabinets on the wall, where subway tiles from Inigo Jones & Co bring a handmade loveliness to the room. The island bench makes entertaining a breeze, with an undermount sink for food prep and a row of rattan stools from Suzie Anderson Home for anyone who wants to join in.

DINING ROOM Taking indoor-outdoor flow to another level, the dining room is open on three sides, its crowd-friendly table offering comfy Malawi armchairs and a ‘rockstar’ view.

In the dining room, a bowl from Amara Home adorns a timber table, where guests are treated to delicious food and the best view in the house.

“The dining room is my favourite space,” says Bernadette. “As you walk in, it has a ‘welcome to the house’ feeling and the powerful view just hits you. “Watching the pink sunsets is amazing – you could be anywhere in the world.” Bernadette also loves sitting here to work and read. “Natasha from Amara Home sourced a lot of furniture and decorative pieces for us, including the dining table, chairs and the beautiful baskets,” she adds.

Beach finds in a basket from Moss Nest.

A ‘Farmhouse’ canopy bed from Pottery Barn sets the scene in the main bedroom.

kids’ bedrooms

A ship’s cabin (albeit a very stylish one) comes to mind with the space-saving bunks in the kids’ bedroom, decked out in classic navy and white striped bed linen. “I fell in love with this idea at a friend’s holiday home and our builder made them for us,” says Bernadette, who chose the Ay Illuminate light to complement the scheme.

Proving the devil is in the detail, each bunk has its own bookshelf-cum-built-in charging station and a Dunlin ‘Atlantic Bulkhead’ reading light. Recreate the look with two sets of bunks, such as the ‘Galla’ timber bunk bed from Luxo Living.

ANASTASIA’S BEDROOM Thanks to lush layers of soft linen and a Laura Ashley metal bed frame, Anastasia’s bedroom feels romantic and inviting. Roman blinds, custom made by Morgan Curtains & Blinds, enhance the beauty of the sash windows while an Enoki ‘Cumulus’ pendant (see The Design Hunter) brings a soft, organic quality to the room. A striped ‘Sienna’ linen throw from Pillow Talk completes the Hamptons palette while a hand-stitched ‘Mabel’ cushion from Papaya adds texture and ties the colours together.

In Anastasia’s bedroom (above) Roman blinds, custom made by Morgan Curtains & Blinds, enhance the beauty of the sash windows while an Enoki ‘Cumulus’ pendant (see The Design Hunter) brings a soft, organic quality to the room. A striped ‘Sienna’ linen throw from Pillow Talk completes the Hamptons palette while a hand-stitched ‘Mabel’ cushion from Papaya adds texture and ties the colours together.

Isabella’s top floor bedroom (below) is prime real estate, with a built-in window seat the size of a daybed. “She has the most incredible view of the headland and spends a lot of time reading here,” says Bernadette.

ISABELLA’S BEDROOM Bernadette created a comfy corner with a custom-made bench pad, cushions from Coco Republic and Few & Far and a Papaya linen throw. A Mud Australia vase on the windowsill adds a final flourish of flowers.

In the main bathroom a clawfoot tub and classic taps from The English Tapware Company set the scene, where a marble shell sink from Amara Home sits atop a custom vanity, personalised with decorative knobs from Few & Far. “I love the fun bespoke touches and organic feel of this bathroom,” says Bernadette, who complemented the look with handmade subway tiles from Inigo Jones & Co. The pendant light from Bali “adds a beautiful texture and softness to the room” while a mirror from Cabana Jo’s and stool from Moss Nest completes the scheme.

A claw foot tub with overhead shower from The English Tapware Company.

oudoor living

“We spend so much time outside, it makes it easy to grab a glass of water, or wine,” explains Bernadette, “which is also why we designed lots of outdoor spaces flowing into the kitchen and dining areas; so people can easily walk in and out of the house, wherever they are.” Their coastal gem is just how the couple imagined it. “In fact, it exceeded our expectations,” says Bernadette. “Three years on, when we walk through the door it still takes our breath away.”

DECK “Whether we’re having our morning cup of tea or sunset drinks, this is the perfect spot,” says Bernadette of the quintessential Hamptons setting, sourced from Adirondack Chairs Australia in Berry. An extra layer of coastal charm comes courtesy of ‘Classic Striped’ indoor/outdoor cushions from Pottery Barn, a ‘Whitehaven’ pistachio linen throw from Papaya and a weathered brass ‘Ketch Yacht’ wall light from Dunlin. While ‘that’ view is the main event, Bernadette landscaped a small area outside, enhancing nearby natural vegetation with bougainvillea, magnolias and native plants.

Entertaining is a breeze with a second kitchen that’s located close to the deck.

Bernadette takes in the stunning view.


BUILDERS: Terence McAssey, Terence Daniel Design & Construct, 0412 717 656. Brad Henderson, MCR Carpentry, 0403 861 828.

KITCHEN: Highland Kitchens, (02) 4655 9820, highlandkitchens.com.au.

BOOKING DETAILS: Beach House Gerroa, 0448 276 587, beachhousegerroa.com.au.

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