A light, summery renovation for a Gold Coast apartment

A retired farming couple create a serene holiday home drawing inspiration from the sweeping ocean views.
Photographer: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Kylie Jackes

Over two decades, this Gold Coast apartment owned by couple Leigh and Gary has morphed from an interstate crash pad to a rental property and now, a coastal holiday retreat. “I wanted a completely different style to our home, which has a rustic country look,” reflects Leigh. “Being here is all about relaxing and being close to the water.”

A feature piece is a ‘Manado’ sideboard from La Maison beneath an internal window in the butler’s pantry – perfect for stowing board games and serving ware. A rattan pendant, from Donna Guyler Design, makes a statement. (Credit: Photographer: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Kylie Jackes)

Who stays here? Retirees Leigh and Gary, as well as the families of their adult sons, Brent, Shane and Daniel.

Why do you love staying here? Leigh: “It’s so central and we can walk everywhere. When we arrive, we park the car and don’t get back in it until we drive home.”

Apartment perks? “The complex has an indoor pool and spa which is a bit of a novelty to use when our grandkids visit.”


Best decision? “Hiring Donna and giving her my complete trust to convert a drab unit into a comfortable and stylish getaway.”


Favourite design feature? The internal windows in the butler’s pantry. They channel in so much light.”

Leigh and Gary enjoy a cup of coffee in their new dining area. (Credit: Photographer: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Kylie Jackes)

Leigh and Gary’s homestead, on a farm in the rural community of Pallamallawa in north-western NSW, has very few similarities to their Gold Coast apartment with its sweeping coastal views over the water. “It’s a complete change in every way. The moment we get to the coast we relax,” says Leigh of the apartment, a six-hour drive from their home.

New finishes include VJ boards in Porter’s Paints Volcanic Ash and a YDL Kalala Bianco benchtop. Abide Interior ‘Sorrento’ stools, pendants available from Palm & Oak through Donna Guyler Design. (Credit: Photographer: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Kylie Jackes)

For the couple, it was a pragmatic decision to buy the apartment in 1999, when their eldest son, Brent, started as a boarder at The Southport School located in the area. “Initially, we’d do the long drive to the Gold Coast on weekends, with our younger sons Shane and Daniel and stay at motels so we could spend time with Brent, but it wasn’t ideal,” says Leigh. “The rooms were small and we’d have to be out by 10am Sunday.” The solution was to buy an apartment not far from the school where they could spend weekends lazing about and Leigh would serve up home-cooked meals.

A winning option underfoot was hardwearing Korlok Hybrid wood effect vinyl flooring in Texas White Ash, which spans the living area and kitchen. (Credit: Photographer: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Kylie Jackes)

Eventually, all the boys boarded at the school and Leigh and Gary stayed at the apartment whenever they could. “The location was perfect and the apartment had 360-degree views which took in Sea World, the Marina and glittery views at night,” reflects Leigh. 

The coffee table from Uniqwa is grounded by a Dash & Albert rug while a Uniqwa ‘Singita’ sofa is layered with assorted custom cushions supplied by Donna Guyler Design. A Sarah Ellison Studio occasional chair is perfect for relaxing. Dining chair from Pillow Talk. (Credit: Photographer: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Kylie Jackes)

“We considered it our weekend sea change.”

Leigh, Homeowner
In the living and dining area, a decorative coffered ceiling was installed to add depth and interest to the space. An entire wall was also devoted to bespoke joinery with base cabinetry framed with open shelves, punctuated with a TV niche. (Credit: Photographer: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Kylie Jackes)

After the boys finished high school, the apartment was rented for 15 years, during which time the family didn’t visit, until 2019 when they discovered how shabby it had become. With more time on their hands, having retired from the farm, now run by their sons, Leigh and Gary saw themselves returning to the apartment once again for long weekends and holidays.

A cosy dining nook, perfect for slow mornings enjoying the ocean views. (Credit: Photographer: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Kylie Jackes)

“Originally we were planning to paint it, put in new floor coverings and spruce up the kitchen and bathrooms a bit, but it turned into a complete transformation,” shares Leigh, who sought the expertise of designer Donna Guyler to gut the interior and redesign the space as a holiday haven. “Donna promised to make it wow and delivered, managing the project throughout Covid, when there were long periods we couldn’t even cross the border to visit,” adds Leigh.

Removing walls around the kitchen and storage room allowed the conversion of a benchtop into a breakfast bar and the storage room into a butler’s pantry. “It blurred the lines between the kitchen and dining room, creating the illusion the three spaces are larger than they are,” says Donna. 

Leigh enjoys a fresh lemon water in her beautifully renovated kitchen. (Credit: Photographer: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Kylie Jackes)

The loose brief for the apartment was to enhance the comfort factor and imbue the interior with a casual coastal Hamptons style, layered with natural textures and soft tones. Significant changes included removing an internal wall to open the layout, moving the laundry into a European style set-up in the bathroom and creating a mudroom-inspired entry. 

Previously dark and narrow with underutilised storage, this area is now unrecognisable. The space was widened to create an inviting entry area, featuring mudroom-inspired joinery, including cabinetry painted in Haymes Wavelet, with rattan insets, paired with open shelves and overhead cabinets in Duropal Lindberg Oak high-pressure laminate from LI Surfaces. A bench seat has been topped with a seat pad in Warwick Eastwood fabric, which resembles aged leather, and pairs beautifully with patterned cushions supplied by Donna Guyler Design. Wall hooks by Hepburn Hardware are a handy addition for storing beach essentials.

A necessity for any holiday home is an area to hang your hat and kick off your thongs before stepping into a calming, clutter-free space. (Credit: Photographer: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Kylie Jackes)

“We wanted to imbue a sense of cosiness and level of comfort that enticed long, relaxing stays.”

Donna Guyler, Interior designer

Rather than traditional Hamptons blues, Leigh wanted a sea of subtle green and grey tones woven into the palette, layered through joinery, textiles and tiles and paired with rattan pieces and VJ panelled walls.

Layers and textures in the living room encourage a laid-back, coastal feel while greenery from plants and floral arrangements bring nature indoors. (Credit: Photographer: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Kylie Jackes)

“It isn’t a very big place, but it now feels so much more spacious and light-filled and makes the most of the views from every window. It’s never looked better,” says Leigh. Since completion in 2021, the couple stays often. “There was a time we didn’t know what we’d do with the place, but I’m so glad we kept it,” reflects Leigh. 

“Now we can enjoy it in a whole new chapter in our lives.”


Leigh and Gary love sharing the apartment with their sons and young families and, as it should be in a holiday home, the guest bedroom is instantly relaxing. The cane ‘Hamilton’ bedhead from Abide Interiors is perfectly matched with the simple bedside tables and art, all available from Palm & Oak through Donna Guyler Design. 

Walls in Porter’s Paints Mist induce a sense of calm and meld beautifully with the bedlinen from Bed Threads and Pillow Talk. (Credit: Photographer: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Kylie Jackes)

It made sense to keep the finishes in the ensuite and main bathroom consistent so the spaces felt harmonious. Selections included bold blue cabinetry in Haymes Atlantis Sky, a crisp YDL Arctic White vanity top, coordinated with Reece tapware in timeless brushed chrome and round mirrors available from Palm & Oak through Donna Guyler Design.

Drawing inspiration from the nearby ocean, the blue cabinetry paired with timber mirrors ignites a classic, coastal vibe. (Credit: Photographer: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Kylie Jackes)
Every beach pad needs an equally beautiful bathroom to wash the sand off. (Credit: Photographer: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Kylie Jackes)

One of Leigh’s favourite features is the textural green Casadeco ‘Tweed’ wallpaper from James Dunlop Textiles, which adds a subtle hint of colour to the neutral main bedroom layered in a waffle quilt and linen stripe sheets from Pillow Talk. The tones are reflected in a custom linen headboard supplied by Donna Guyler Design, with Abide Interiors side tables and wall lights available from Palm & Oak through Donna Guyler Design.

The subtle green in the wallpaper and gentle styling options makes for a relaxing oasis – perfect for reading a book or taking an afternoon nap while on holidays. (Credit: Photographer: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Kylie Jackes)

Source book

Design: Donna Guyler Interior Design, 0422 233 678,
Builder: Tom Van Baak, Salty Improvements, 0431 560 275.
Cabinetry: Wood Marble & White, (07) 5564 7600,

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