Home Tour: Nature-inspired Beach House
A sophisticated family home on Sydney’s Northern Beaches redefines Australian coastal luxe.
Who lives here
A family of six, Lizzie and Michael Taylor and their four kids and two Australian sheepdogs.
Manly, Sydney’s Northern Beaches, overlooking Shelly Beach
Modern Australian beach house
I love the TV Room / Living Room! It was a fun room to work on because it was a designated kids area. The whole area has a kind of slouchy, cosy, relaxed and cool vibe, and I’m so happy with how it all came together.
The rugs in the sitting and dining room. They’re “sister” rugs, based on a design from a Swiss company who imported rugs from Persia in the 19th century. The colours tie the whole colour scheme of the house together and provide a grounding effect for the overall look and feel. The traditional Persian carpet style design adds an unexpected and interesting layer.
Bounded by the spectacular bushland of North Head and overlooking the glistening waters of Manly’s Shelly Beach, this original 1950s timber-framed beach house has been reimagined into a modern abode that emanates Australian coastal luxe.
Ocean swells, hidden coves and a village pulsing with on-trend cafes and global eats – Manly’s lifestyle is steps away from the home of Lizzie and Michael Taylor, and their four growing teens. Inspired by their surroundings, Lizzie and Michael wanted to steer away from traditional coastal-themes that are reminiscent of a Hampton-esque beachside retreat. Instead, the design-savvy couple brought in Alex Gourlay of interior design studio Vellum Interiors to give their home a stunning makeover.
“Michael and Lizzie are very creative and have great taste. Aesthetically, they were very keen to avoid any coastal clichés, but still tie in with the beach and bush location,” explains Alex. “They wanted the home to be unique and interesting, and a reflection of their family and how they live.”
The Look & Feel
Behind the beach house façade, the interiors paint a soothing picture of sophistication and relaxation. A boutique-style luxury with the ease of barefoot summer, the interiors nod to Manly’s lifestyle and the natural beauty that abounds.
“I wanted to elevate the design through meaningful, interesting and colourful pieces. Drawing inspiration from the stunning natural landscape and its changing colours,” explains Alex. “The home’s sophisticated and chic, yet also laid-back, which aligns with how the family live.”
Retaining some of the original features such as the Tallowwood floorboards, the home has taken on a decidedly different feel. Ocean views to the front and national park to the back, Alex opened up the house to draw the outdoors in, while increasing the bedroom count to suit the family’s needs. And where there are no views to the outdoors, Alex heavily references the surrounding landscape in the design.
“It was such a great experience to work with clients who were willing to take design risks with the use of bold colours and lots of different textures,” says Alex. “They have a beautiful collection of art, all with lovely stories attached to them. And Lizzie’s upbringing in country NSW also tied in, as that was evident in the art they own, the pieces Lizzie chose, and the colours she’s drawn to.”
The kitchen’s bold design is a nod to the beautiful surrounds; ocean-inspired blue walls, tallowwood veneer joinery, and a mirror splashback to reflect the water views. The Caesarstone rugged concrete island benchtop is a play on the rocky landscape of the national park.
The Dining Area
In the dining area, the Ralph Lauren ‘Ionian Sea Linen’ feature wallpaper and the custom-designed navy leather dining chairs pop against the white walls and tallowwood floorboards. Reflecting in the curved mirrors are the coastal views, while the soft Persian rug underfoot anchors the room.
The Living Rooms
Flooded in natural light, sheer curtains frame the ocean view from the sitting room. Soft textures, custom sofa with a timber frame, and pendant lighting above add to the sophisticated design, and the artwork by Queenie Nakarra McKenzie, collected by Lizzie and Michael on their travels to the outback, brings another layer of Australiana to the room.
“The second living room is a designated kids area. The colours are mostly neutral and muted tones that reference the sand. I worked in several different textures in the same colourway to create an enveloping, hyper-sensory experience,” says Alex. “The deep blue rug adds unexpected depth and a punch of colour, and references both the ocean and the blue wallpaper in the dining room next door.”
Reshaping the interiors has redefined the way the family lives in their home, embracing the outdoors while bringing in their love of the Australian landscape and coastal hues.
“It’s a stunning house that takes your breath away, yet you could happily wander around barefoot with your feet up on the sofa and still feel comfortable,” Alex says. “It’s not at all fussy, formal or pretentious, which is what I love about it.”
Perfectly positioned on a peninsula in Sydney’s North, Manly is a laid-back beachside suburb with year-round summer vibes. Popular surfing beaches, native bushland, secluded bays and world-class shopping. And the foodie scene is to die for with on-trend cafes and global eats. It’s the perfect blend of city and coastal living that allows you to watch sunsets at North Head, eat a hearty breakfast at Shelly beach and take an after-work dip in the deep blue.
Alex Gourlay’s Favourite Manly Hangouts
For breakfast and coffee
The 16ft Skiff Sailing Club is great for watching sunsets.
Go-to local boutique
One thing you love
Grabbing a coffee and sitting on the wall above the ocean at Fairy Bower watching the fish swim below, and spotting a whale or two if you’re lucky.
Get The Look
One of my favourite places for homewares is Planet in Surry Hills. Their stuff is completely unique, and much of it is one-of-a-kind vintage Japanese. Curatorial & Co, a gallery in Redfern, often have beautiful ceramics, sculptures and vases from their artists. Designstuff is great for a big range of designer items, and Ivy Lane in Paddington is another favourite.
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