An ’80s ugly duckling reimagined into a resort-style family home

From "fixer-upper" to sweeping views and a serene interior
Louise Roche

For Michelle and James, it wasn’t a case of love at first sight when buying their first home. Instead, it was a pragmatic decision to buy the worst house on a great street, with a view to the future.

Resort-style renovated 1980s coastal home exterior
The front exterior was painted in Dulux Colorbond Surfmist Half. (Credit: Louise Roche)

Who lives here? Michelle, owner of Skyline Burleigh; husband James, a hotel director; and their sons Flynn, three, and Noah, one.

Favourite feature? Michelle: “The huge windows and doors framing the view and the new fireplace. James and I love to have a glass of wine in front of the fireplace after the kids have gone to bed.”

Biggest splurge? “The infinity pool. An incredible amount of engineering and concrete went into making it possible.”

Lessons learnt? “A lot of the materials, including old beams, were still in great condition so could be sold or repurposed, which reduced unnecessary waste.”

Coastal style living room with stone fireplace
Michelle and her boys alongside the Jetmaster fireplace enveloped in Random Free Form Stone in Thredbo White from Neo Rox Concepts. The print is from Boho Art & Styling. (Credit: Louise Roche)

“The house had sat on the market for 462 days because no-one wanted it,” reflects Michelle. “There wasn’t a lot we liked about it either, but we loved the location and knew it was the only place we’d be able to afford in the area and was a way to get our foot in the Gold Coast property market,” she adds.

coastal style home entrance with timber console, storage baskets and neutral artwork
A teak console paired with an untitled abstract artwork, both from Magnolia Lane, forms a stylish drop zone. (Credit: Louise Roche)

At the time, the couple was living overseas, with their roles in the hotel industry taking them across Asia, where for 15 years they lived in resorts enjoying myriad five-star comforts – a laundry service, room service, onsite restaurants and picturesque pools. “It was amazing and is the reason that for the first 10 years we were married, James and I hadn’t cooked a meal for each other,” says Michelle with a laugh.

Light coastal living room with stone fireplace and A-frame windows
To create intimacy in the now vast space, a Miss Amara rug unites an Oz Design Furniture sofa, Freedom occasional chairs and coffee table from Magnolia Lane.

Ten years after buying their “fixer-upper”, plenty has changed for Michelle and James. Their family now includes sons Flynn, three, and Noah, one, and their home has been transformed. “We knew this house should have been all about the view, but originally you could only see a snippet from the living area,” explains Michelle. 

Light bright living room with white timber-lined ceilings and a-frame windows
The home’s soaring walls and ceilings are painted in Dulux Lexicon Quarter. (Credit: Louise Roche)

The plan, though, was always to return to Australia, so in 2019 with newborn Flynn in tow, the couple moved into the “fixer-upper” they’d bought seven years prior. For a year, the couple lived in the ’80s time capsule, with its split levels, brown, yellow and maroon interior, complete with a blue spa bath in the middle of the main bedroom, while they planned a swathe of changes.

Light bright open plan kitchen living room with timber integrated fridge
Texture abounds from the wool rug underfoot, ‘Paloma 2’ jute and linen table lamp from Beacon Lighting, to the teak coffee table from Magnolia Lane, topped with curated ceramics, including a cup from Burleigh Ridge Ceramics. (Credit: Louise Roche)

“With a baby, we quickly realised we wanted to take out the sunken split levels, reduce the number of stairs and enlarge the main living level so it was more family friendly and functional,” explains Michelle. Capturing the impressive view was also a priority, achieved by changing the pitch of the eight-metre-high raked ceiling so it soared over the easterly outlook.

Teamed with clerestory windows and wall-to-wall glass cavity sliding doors, the expansive views to Burleigh Heads stretching right along the coastline to Surfers Paradise are beautifully framed and form the backdrop to everyday living. “Now we just love this room,” enthuses Michelle. “Our favourite time of day is dusk when the space glows pink at sunset. With impressive engineering, a new deck and infinity pool were also added so they flowed seamlessly from the living area and created the luxurious resort-like feel the couple had become accustomed to during their time living overseas.

Light coastal kitchen with timber and white cabinetry
The timeless mix includes shaker-style cabinetry in Dulux Lexicon Quarter to match walls, feature cabinetry in Farmers Doors oak and an elegant benchtop in ‘Calacatta Classico’ from YDL Stone. (Credit: Louise Roche)

With the living area and kitchen now located on one central level, there’s an easy connection and flow between the two zones and there’s not a trace of the original ’80s colour scheme to be seen. Opting for a pared-back palette, ‘Elegant Oak’ engineered oak flooring in Champagne from Marques Flooring spans the level, while colour matching the kitchen with walls in Dulux Lexicon Quarter adds to the seamless appeal of the space. 

With the main floor completely gutted, the new kitchen was designed to sit opposite the living area, with a direct connection to the deck, so it was integral to daily activities and took advantage of the stunning view. Rather than covet a specific look, Michelle was keen for a sophisticated neutral palette, which wouldn’t date. “I’m not the greatest cook but it’s nice to have a lovely kitchen,” says Michelle. “It’s still a bit of a novelty.”

white kitchen with timber bar stools ad kitchen island
Handles from Handle House were chosen to complement brushed brass Abi Interiors tapware, while ‘Scandinavian’ stools from Replica Furniture add another touch of warmth. The pendants are from Zlights. (Credit: Louise Roche)

Inside, the couple worked with designer Louise Roche of Villa Styling who eschewed fleeting trends in favour of a natural palette of timber and warm earthy tones, accented with pops of green inspired by the gum trees, which ground the view. “Before we renovated, I compiled a Pinterest board with all the things I loved and having lived overseas for so long, I really wanted the house to have an Australian feel and reflect the colours and textures of the hinterland and the coast,” says Michelle, of the beautifully considered scheme featuring timber floors, clever custom joinery and fresh white walls adorned in landscape-inspired artworks and photography.

Coastal bedroom with natural bedlinen and ocean print artwork
(Credit: Louise Roche)
Powder room detail with fluted tiles
The powder room features tapware from Abi Interiors. (Credit: Louise Roche)

Moving out for the renovation, the original eight-week time frame extended to six months due to Covid-related supply shortages, during which time the family welcomed new family member Noah. “It was a hectic time, but our builder was wonderful, which helped keep my stress levels at bay,” recalls Michelle of the project, which recently won its renovation category at this year’s Gold Coast Master Builders awards. Settling into the house as a foursome, the new improved layout, which includes a playroom and a super-cute cubby out front, is enjoyed by all. “It’s now a great sized family home, which we just love to be in,” enthuses Michelle.

Modern coastal bathroom with timber vanity organic timber mirror, double showers and freestanding bathtub
A beautiful ‘Tivoli’ stone bath from Builders Discount Warehouse forms a sculptural backdrop to the space, which features twin brushed-brass Abi Interiors showers and twin custom vanities wrapped in Laminex ‘Elegant Oak’ and topped in ‘Arctic White’ quartz from YDL Stone. Abi Interiors basins, Target mirrors and sage-coloured Aura Home towels complete the look. (Credit: Louise Roche)

The couple was thrilled to say goodbye to the original ensuite, which featured grey tiles, walnut laminate vanities and carpeted stairs leading to a large blue spa bath in the centre of the bedroom. “It had a wow factor, but for all the wrong reasons,” laughs Michelle. With the layout completely rejigged, the ensuite was moved to sit alongside the bedroom. 

Coastal bathroom with timber vanity brass fittings and freestanding bathtub
A custom ensuite vanity is paired with a stool from The White Room. (Credit: Louise Roche)

Inspired by the home’s leafy outlook and love of the Australian landscape, the interior features subtle touches of green throughout. “It’s such a serene, calming colour, which is what I need at home with two toddlers,” jokes Michelle.

Coastal bush bedroom with eucalyptus green VJ panelled walls and checked bedlinen
A wall in Resene Mantle forms the backdrop to Flynn’s room. (Credit: Louise Roche)

“We built an infinity pool to add to the “resort at home” feel we were aiming to achieve,” says Michelle. The heated pool defined in ‘La Perla’ travertine tiles from 3D Stone, which sits within a deck topped in Rite Wood, required an incredible feat of engineering to install, but the effort and expense was well worth the result. “The pool doubles as a water feature and being right off the living area, in summer, we use it all the time,” says Michelle.

Hinterland swimming pool with outdoor living room and deck
The loungers from Lavita Outdoor invite poolside relaxation. (Credit: Louise Roche)
Swimming pool overlooking bush and city views
The elevated pool has a private outlook across lush natural greenery. (Credit: Louise Roche)

Drafting: Brock Heap Design, 0421 418 215
Builder: Effective Designs and Construction, 0422 692 587,
Joinery: Base Joinery, (07) 3355 1335,
Interiors: Villa Styling Studio, 0414 399 285,
Kitchen layout: Donna Guyler InteriorDesign,

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