Home: ultimate cottage renovation

The places in which we grow up have a unique pull on our heartstrings. While looking for a new home for their growing family of four, keen renovators Monique and John found themselves drawn to Avalon, a popular coastal town on Sydney’s Northern Beaches where Monique had spent some of her childhood. “Coming here with my mother as a child, I loved the holiday feel of the place. We wanted that for our kids [twins Mia and Bella] to enjoy as they grow up. We also loved the feeling of space and community,” she says.

When the couple came across a 1940s weatherboard bungalow, appropriately named Jacaranda Cottage for its beautiful flowering jacaranda trees, they promptly snapped it up, with the intention of making it over. “We liked the slope of the land at the back of the house and the way it caught the sun,” says Monique.

They lived in the house for five years before making any changes. Eager to retain some of the home’s original features – such as the verandah, the sandstone foundations and the fireplace – they opted to renovate rather than knock down, turning the home into one spacious open-plan level with a U-shaped internal layout – the kitchen, living areas and bedrooms wrap around a central covered deck area. “We wanted the renovation to be sympathetic to the rest of the houses in the street,” explains Monique. “All the original houses had been single storey, which is a lot easier with young kids.”

One of their first tasks when commencing the renovation was to clear a natural creek running across the front of the property of rubbish and old building materials. Sandstone boulders were laid along the banks, a few more cabbage trees – native to the area – planted along either side, and the old unstable bridge replaced with a new one, creating an inviting entry to the refurbished home.

During a year-long renovation, the home’s layout was completely restructured. Now, a new wing comprises the living areas, kitchen and dining area, and a second is home to the bedrooms.

Monique has an eclectic furniture collection and wanted a fairly neutral palette as a base. She chose Dulux low sheen paint in Natural White for the walls, teamed with blackbutt timber floors in the living areas and wool Jacquard print sisal carpet for the bedrooms – all of which complement the mix of retro and modern pieces. “I love Australian colonial pieces and kauri pine,” says Monique. “That each piece has a history makes it special.”

One year on, the end result ticks all the right boxes; the clever design combines the couple’s desired cottage feel with contemporary open-plan living. “It’s a great house with a surprise factor – people have no idea how big it is from the road,” says Monique. “The design works so well for us; all rooms open on to a central covered external entertaining area, and we get plenty of light. To have had the dream, and to have achieved what we set out to do... It just feels incredible.”

Homeowner Monique, an interior designer, and her husband John, a builder, opted for a contemporary kitchen influenced by simple Shaker style. The island bench is topped with Calcutta marble, with hardy stainless-steel benchtops covering the rest of the kitchen cabinetry, made by Homestyle Kitchens. Classic white stools from Beachwood Furniture provide a great spot for the couple’s twin daughters to perch, with flowers from Plumbego Flowers adding a fresh touch to the chic, custom-made kitchen table.

Photo by Craig Wall Oct 5, 2012


Home: ultimate cottage renovation

A family returns to a place of childhood memories to bring about the ultimate cottage renovation.


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