Serendipity struck just as Annabel and Thomas’ building plans were going through council’s approval process. Right next door, a wonderful property was being built by Alex Stritt of Stritt Design & Construction. “The house is amazing, and we really loved the builder, so we asked him if he would build ours,” says Annabel. “When they finished, they just moved the fence and all their building stuff next door and pretty well started on our house straightaway!”
It was a dream start to the knock down and rebuild project that the couple, originally from Melbourne, were about to undertake after living in their single-storey 1950s weatherboard cottage with what Annabel describes as “higgledy-piggledy little rooms”, for more than four years.
Who lives here? Annabel; her partner Thomas; their sons Tristan, 11, and Ciaran, 9; and Darby the Cavoodle.
Which room do you use the most? Annabel: “The kitchen. It’s a really beautiful kitchen and it’s a big bench, which was very handy during lockdown, because the kids would just perch there doing their homework.”
Any splurges? “The powder room wallpaper was a little splurge. Bree was the one who recommended I do wallpaper there. You can have fun with it and it’s such a small area you don’t have to worry so much about the cost!”
Is there anything you would change? “We don’t have a pool – it would have been nice, but I don’t really mind!”
Annabel commissioned Alice Nichols Landscape Design to create an all-white bower at the front of the home. “I wanted a cross between Sissinghurst Castle’s white garden and a tropical garden,” explains Annabel. Stocked with crepe myrtles, hydrangeas, viburnum and jasmine, and with mini agapanthus lining the pathway, the lush plantings produce white flowers from October right through the summer. “It’s absolutely gorgeous, we have so many comments from people walking past about how much they love it,” adds Annabel. You are then greeted by a powder blue front door, painted in Berger Winter Lake that opens onto a hallway flooded with light courtesy of the full-height void above.
Annabel was pregnant with the couple’s elder son Tristan when she and Thomas first moved to Avalon, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, back in 2011. The cottage they found then was a far cry from the graceful, family home that now stands in its place, but the pair could see the potential of the block. “It was flat, with a north-facing backyard that backed onto a reserve, and you could walk to the village,” says Annabel. “It had palm trees lining the side which I really loved, having lived in a little terrace house in Melbourne, and I thought ‘Wow, this is just amazing!’. The location really sold it to me.”
After the birth of their younger son, Ciaran, the pair engaged architect Andrew Barnyak to plan their new home. With council approval granted for the two-storey Hamptons-style property, and with the build well underway, Annabel could turn her attention to the fun stuff, with help from interior designer Janette Stritt.
SHOP THE LOOK
The spacious kitchen is Annabel’s favourite area. “It’s really a dream kitchen,” she says. “It’s just so practical and works so well. It’s got this beautiful little kitchen nook where the table is. Every morning, I get up and make myself a coffee and then I sit in that nook in the kitchen and just look out of the window. I do that before everyone else in the house wakes up. It’s my little moment to myself before the day starts.” The custom bench seat, made by Stritt Design & Construction, is loaded with comfy cushions from The Classic Outfitter, and paired with chairs from Alfresco Emporium and a French antique dining table found at Moonee Ponds Antiques in Melbourne.
Blackbutt floorboards, given a custom stain to achieve the dark finish Annabel wanted, run throughout the ground floor and form a base for the Shaker-style kitchen, custom built by The Kitchen Maker. For the kitchen island, interior designer Bree Oliver helped Annabel nail the colour of the cabinetry – Porter’s Paints Dusty Mule – and Annabel found the pendants at Emac & Lawton. Pretty Amity tiles in Grey from Teranova form the splashback.
Although a first-time renovator, Annabel had a clear idea of the look she wanted. “I’ve been reading all the interior design magazines for about 30 years, so I’ve always collected ideas, filing things away in scrapbooks and folders, hoping one day I might actually be able to do it myself,” she says.
She chose a lot of the fixtures and fittings herself, such as the lighting and tapware, and sought help from Janette when it came to pinning down some of the colours for the home, and finding tiles for the bathrooms and kitchen. “Annabel and Thomas have a great sense of style and I felt that we were all on the same wavelength right from the beginning,” recalls Janette. “Annabel had a really good idea of what she wanted, so we just helped facilitate that.”
The Cheminées Philippe woodburning fireplace in the living room is the same model Annabel’s parents used to have in their home. “I always loved that fireplace and sitting beside it in winter is so lovely,” she says. “It always brings back a lot of memories from when we used to do the same at my parents’ place.”
The build progressed smoothly and the four-bedroom home was finished in late 2017. The style is classic Hamptons, with dark timber flooring as a base for light-filled rooms in pale tones with hits of gorgeous greys and ocean blues. There’s a distinct eye for detail inside and out, from the fretwork that crowns the verandah and stunning coffered ceiling in the living room, right through to the extra deep skirting boards throughout. “My mum and dad always said that if you have really deep skirting boards it shows the quality of the house,” explains Annabel. “So that was a bit of their influence!”
The family have loved living in their beautifully designed and built home, but they’ve decided it’s time for a change, and they will soon be moving on to pastures and challenges new. The home will be in the hands of new owners who will surely enjoy it as much as Annabel and her family have done. “It’s just such a beautiful house to live in,” she says. “It’s got a really nice feel to it. It’s quiet and peaceful, you can hear the birds, and it’s just lovely.”
Hamptons-style finishes in the ensuite include a VJ-lined wall and marble-look Fori Romani Grigio Tundra tiles in a herringbone pattern on the floor. Concealing the toilet and shower behind a tiled wall is a clever design trick that lets the Roca ‘Virginia’ freestanding bath take centre stage. A Brodware ‘Neu England’ wall-mounted mixer and hand shower complete the classic look.
Annabel had some fun with the mud room and laundry decor, opting for a chequerboard floor, made using Dolomite tiles in Ash and Sand, and powder blue cabinetry. “I suppose I took a little bit more of a risk than I normally would in that room, because it didn’t really matter,” she says. “It was the laundry and no-one else but me would really see it!” Adding a bench seat and coat hooks helps the laundry double as a mud room, with space for storing outdoor gear and shoes.
The rear of the home opens onto a wide lawn, ideal for the boys and their pup to run around, and the mature palm trees that helped Annabel fall in love with the block when she first saw it. Although it’s relatively new, the handsome building, with weatherboards painted in Dulux Colorbond Shale Grey and timber trims in Dulux Lexicon Quarter, looks perfectly settled in the garden as well as the broader borrowed landscape. “One thing about the area that we really love is it’s so lush and green,” says Annabel. “I love that, all the trees and the birds.”
Interior design and building: Stritt Design & Construction, 0416 194 568, stritt.com.au
Property styling: Cordony Group, 1300 669 590, cordonygroup.com
Architect: Andrew Barnyak, andrewbarnyak.com
Landscape design: Alice Nichols Landscape Design, @alicenichols_landscapedesign