Home Tours

Inside Tara Dennis’ beautiful riverside home

The stunning Sydney home of homeware and interiors queen Tara Dennis is a lesson in refined elegance.
Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri
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“Once you get here, it’s like ‘Ah, that’s better,'” adds Tara’s husband Martyn, a devotee of this serene spot, which was once the location of his family’s weekender childhood playground. “We had little tinnies out on the water and motorbikes back then. We’d come back home to eat and then disappear again.”

Tara Dennis home stone fireplace
“It was just a block when we came,” says Tara simply. “Martyn built this whole house, from the ground up – he did the whole thing.” (Credit: Chris Warnes)

It’s a blissful “boy’s paradise” the couple’s son Harry enjoys. His very handy parents designed and built – from the very sloping ground up – this stunning riverside retreat for their family, which also occasionally includes daughter Avalon, operations manager at their two stores.

Tara Dennis home window seat
“That’s the magic corner,” says Tara, of the custom-made nook-with-a-view beside the working fireplace that instantly draws in visitors. “I’ve yet to go to sleep there but everyone who sits there just goes ‘Ahhh’.” (Credit: Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri)

Taking inspiration from the old river shacks and oyster farms nearby, the couple was determined to create a home that blended seamlessly into the rugged environment and could easily be mistaken for one that might have been here for years. “We wanted it to feel like an older style house, like an old weekender,” says Martyn, who used sandstone, recycled materials and timber (there’s not a hint of plasterboard here) to create charm and authenticity. “I don’t do modern very well,” says Tara. “I like second-hand furniture, stuff with character and things that have a story.”

Tara Dennis husband dog river house
Martyn and Tara take a moment to soak up the sun on their front deck. Typically of this handcrafted home, the outdoor table was made by Martyn and customised by Tara. “I got a big cowhide and chopped it in half beause if you slide along the bench, you get splinters in your bum,” she says laughing. (Credit: Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri) (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri)
High up in the trees with stunning river vistas filtered through tall proud gums, the home’s inky dark exterior, crisp trims, weathering deck and gable roof sing beautifully of yesteryear. Inside, the charm offensive continues throughout the entire three-bedroom cottage – and delightful studio out back – thanks to Tara’s ever-stylish touch. “I make it pretty, he makes it happen,” smiles the warm interiors expert. Fresh white walls and lime-washed boards allow textured pieces, including a stunning original light-fitting and a rustic wooden railway sleeper, to shine.
Furnishings in subdued and muted blues, naturals and greys to blend with classic forms and allow the view to be the star of the show. “You want to see the water,” says Tara. “You don’t want to see the lounge or the furniture – it’s about what’s out there, not what’s in here.” It’s a restful yet inspirational mix that’s part Hamptons, part French countryside, a touch Scandinavian – but all Tara. “The minute I put up bright colours, it becomes jarring,” says Tara, who spent much of her earlier days delving into colour, transforming viewers’ homes and making everything from marble-top tables to mosaic letterboxes. “For some reason this house likes quiet, so I stick with the whites and the greys.”
Tara Dennis home black exterior deck
(Credit: Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri)

“I’ve always loved coastal, that’s my thing but I do think it’s become a lot more refined,” says Tara. “I used to be a lot more literal, now I’m more subtle. I’m more about the textures; textures of the timber or fabric, the softer colour palette.”

With its gable roof and all-wood exterior, TV host Tara Dennis’s family home sits beautifully with its rugged natural surrounds. “I’m hoping that it will age over time and just sit into the hill,” says Tara of the cottage her husband Martyn spent a year building. The inky exterior swathed in British Paints Black Ace supplies a Hamptons vibe but also looks very at ease in the Australian bush.

Tara Dennis home living room banquette window seat
(Credit: Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri) (Credit: Photography: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri)

In the living room, Tara – and Charlie, the dog from next door – take some rare time out on the comfortable custom-made banquette in the home’s central hub, defined by calming pale blue tones and touch-me textures. “To come home and have something soothing is really important to me, so white is always the base colour,” says Tara. A Coco Republic rope pouffe matches Charlie’s natural bouffant, while an Armadillo & Co ‘Sierra’ rug in Chalk adds softness underfoot. And that stunning centrepiece light? A work of art created by Lara Hutton and Jacqui Fink that Tara couldn’t quite resist.

Tara Dennis home kitchen
(Credit: Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri)
Tara Dennis kitchen open shelving
(Credit: Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri)
Tara Dennis home kitchen barn door
(Credit: Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri)

A custom-built barn door, made (again!) by the clever Martyn, this time from floorboards, separates the laundry and chic family bathroom from the living space. Wide blackbutt boards, painted in Porter’s Paints Original Lime Wash, were a beautiful choice for the floors.

Tara Dennis river home staircase
(Credit: Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri)

The double-height ceiling was inspired by a cathedral ceiling Martyn once saw in a tiny Paddington terrace. “The reason the home felt so big was because of the height,” he recalls. New double-sized French provincial-style lounge chairs from Côté Maison, covered in linen from Westbury Textiles, are a hit with the whole family.

Tara Dennis home bookcase office nook under staircase
(Credit: Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri)
Tara Dennis home studio craft room
(Credit: Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri)
Tara Dennis home bedroom
(Credit: Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri)

Natural linen sheets are a sophisticated choice in the bedroom. “They’re so nice to sleep in,” says Tara. The painting of Dangar Island on the Hawkesbury River, by Denice Sealy, was a gift from Martyn’s mum.

Tara Dennis home bathroom
A marble-topped vanity and bath surround connect the bathroom stylistically to the kitchen. (Credit: Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri)
Tara Dennis river home black exterior
(Credit: Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri)

Next on the couple’s ‘to do’ list is landscaping the garden, which promises to be a challenge in an area where water is scarce and the terrain rocky and rugged. “Every time Martyn digs a hole, he has to get out the jackhammer,” says Tara. Still, there are plenty of places where the family can relax. “We wander down to the wharf, jump in the boat and sit in the middle of the river with a glass of wine,” says Tara. “I’m like, ‘Hey, life’s good again!’.”

Tara Dennis home outdoor fireplace
(Credit: Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri)

A mix of sandstone and timber gives this home an old-world feel, while the steep incline of the land meant that the couple were able to create several landing spots, including a sitting area with an outdoor fireplace.

Tara Dennis home outdoor shower
(Credit: Photo: Chris Warnes / Styling: Heidi Albertiri)

 The outdoor shower zone is not only wonderfully practical, but also high on style – thanks to the home’s striking grey facade. “A lot of people go for greens thinking that they blend with the bush,” says Martyn. “But the greys and blacks blend much better.” Adds Tara: “We wanted the darkness of the trees.”

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