One week before she was due to give birth, Monique and her husband, Andrea, were sitting in her obstetrician’s waiting room when their solicitor called: their offer on a dilapidated 1950s home with a heavenly view on Sydney’s northern beaches had been accepted.
Buying a home had not been on the agenda for the expectant parents, who were about to start “a huge renovation” of their cottage in the eastern suburbs.
“We were literally a week from putting bulldozers through,” says Monique who, with Andrea, had inspected the beach house on a whim.
“We saw its previous glory years that had been left to ruin,” she recalls. “We had the vision to be able to return it to glory – and to take it to another level, as well.”
The spectacular result, renamed ‘La Casa Bianca’ – in homage to Andrea’s Italian background – is testament to their unwavering commitment to that vision.
Across four years, Monique – the founder and director of homewares company Malawi Cane and wholesaler Coastal Drift – and her husband transformed the rundown house with its green-and-violet walls into a luxurious four-bedroom, three-bathroom home that beckons all who step beyond the sunny yellow front door to kick their shoes off and unwind.
With its white walls and all-white floorboards enlivened by tactile rattan, wood and soft furnishings adorned with tribal prints that nod to Malawi-born Monique’s heritage, her signature style is “rustic luxe”, according to the chic homeowner.
“It gives us permission to have our relaxed lifestyle, while still having an appreciation for beautiful design and finishes,” she says.
The slow-and-steady transformation didn’t overwhelm Monique and Andrea, even in the early days when daughter Mati, now four, was a newborn and they were juggling the works on their original home in the east of Sydney (they moved into this house when Mati was six months old).
Yet, Monique laughs off any suggestion she’s a home-reno superhero, though she’s completed at least 10. “Renovations, construction and interiors is just in some people’s blood,” she says.
Since downing tools last July, the couple has been savouring the fruits of their hard work.
“One of my favourite times of day is when it’s us as a family all up in the master suite,” says Monique, painting a picture of how they greet the new day from the gently swaying balcony chair.
“We all – dogs, cats, humans – hang out here every morning, coffees and milk in hand, enjoying the sunrise from the ocean horizon year-round and spotting whales.
It’s a tranquil and private family space where we share our first hour of every morning and where only we create the memories,” she says.
“Every home we’ve lived in has represented who we are and what we like.” ~ Monique
“Don’t be afraid of white,” is Monique’s mantra. Her interior walls are painted in a custom blend, while the white floorboards “are the easiest thing to look after,” she exclaims. “Everyone’s like, ‘How do you do it? You’ve got so many animals, and a child.’ But yes, it’s straight white concrete paint. Really simple.”