Our Beach House: 5 Design Decisions that were Impactful
Our Beach House: 5 Design Decisions that were Impactful
Renovating a home, or building a new home like we’ve recently done, entails making hundreds of decisions, both big and small. Making all those decisions is one of the most exciting parts of a renovation project, and it’s also the most daunting and challenging! Even if you have a clear vision from the start, it’s still likely you’ll get decision fatigue at some stage during the process. (This definitely happened to me at various points throughout the build — there was a 2-month period where all I could think about was lighting fixtures!)
I thought I would share 5 design decisions that were particularly impactful and the thought process behind them.
1. Including built-in bench seating in both the living room and kitchen. This was something we specified from the very start of our project when creating the designs for the house. We loved the idea of having built-in seating to create cosy nooks and sitting areas, and we loved the look of the horizontal lines of the floating timber benches, which compliment the horizontal lines of the house. Built-in benches make the most of smaller spaces and provide a visually impactful feature in the rooms. Obviously they come with an extra building cost, but then you save money on furniture in the end. Our L-shape bench seat in the living room is definitely a huge feature of the house!
In terms of the kitchen, we wanted to create a cosy reading/lounging nook in the kitchen for the kids to sit while they wait for their meals, mostly because the kitchen is far from the living area. (It turns out this little bench seat is everyone’s favourite spot to sit or read a book, and I’m so glad we incorporated this into the kitchen design.)
2. Choosing timber windows & doors. Timber doors and windows will require more maintenance (mostly oiling) over time, and they were definitely the more expensive window option, but I really felt this was a non-negotiable for this house. The timber windows bring such a warmth to the space, especially to the interior. They’re just so beautiful! I also felt that while they were the expensive window option, it meant that we could skimp in other places like walls and ceilings, because the timber windows made the otherwise ‘boring’ white walls special. We were also intentional about the type of timber we chose – we wanted it to be a sustainably sourced Australian timber, which limited our options. We ended up choosing Blackbutt over Spotted Gum because we liked the more golden colour of the timber. (We went with a local company called Teal Windows, and they were really lovely to work with.)
3. Our hemp walls. Hemp walls are a sustainable building option made with the woody part of the hemp plant, combined with lime binder, water, and sometimes sand. Hemp masonry has good thermal performance, and is a breathable material that reduces condensation and improves internal air quality. Hemp walls are mould-resistant and will keep your house cool in the summer and warmer in the winter. In addition to all the wonderful eco attributes of building with hemp, we really love the look of the feature hemp wall in the dining room and the rendered hemp walls in the kitchen. They add a natural, earthy texture and colour to the house, and we love the natural variation in colour of the hemp — it’s such a pretty feature wall. It smells nice too!
4. Terrazzo tiles on the floors. We had originally wanted polished concrete floors on this main ground floor of the house, but because the house is raised off the ground by 800mm, it meant that we weren’t pouring a concrete slab on the ground. Pouring concrete onto a raised timber floor proved to be expensive and tricky to do, so we had to find a different floor material. I wanted something durable, something that I wouldn’t mind getting wet and sandy from kids coming back from the beach, and I also wanted it to be easy to clean and maintain. We found the Fibonacci Terrazzo tiles (in ‘Freckle’) and loved their natural, pebbly look. It almost looked like pebbles from the beach just in front of the house! It turns out the floors are so forgiving of sand and dog hair and food and anything you drop on the floor. In fact, good luck finding something if you drop it on the floor, they’re that forgiving! We’re really happy with the floors and think they compliment the timber throughout the house really well.
5. Exterior paint. This was a huge design dilemma for us and is something we went back and forth on for a long time: whether to paint the exterior timber cladding or to leave it raw. First, I’ll explain a bit about the timber we used. We chose Accoya timber, both for the deck and for the exterior cladding. Accoya is a high-performing, long-lasting sustainable wood option. It doesn’t need to be treated and can be left raw, as we’ve done with the deck. We could have left the cladding raw on the exterior, which is what the builders were pushing… but I felt like it would have had a more patchwork visual result. Because the exterior is a mix of timber and fibre cement sheeting, and because we then have the third element of the timber windows, I worried that painting the fibre cement and leaving the timber un-painted would be too much of a contrast. In the end, I kept coming back to our original rendered drawing from our architect, which was my ‘North Star’ or guiding light (see above) in terms of the exterior vision. I’m so happy we chose to paint it, and we’re really happy with the colour we chose too, as it goes really well with the timber windows and doors. The paint is Murobond’s Murowash in ‘Vesuvius‘.
I’ll be sharing many more design decisions and details in my upcoming Renovation Ready live 2-day workshop, which takes place on May 4th and 5th. I’ve teamed up with my good friend, Natalie Walton, an interior designer and stylist, to share all that we’ve learned to get your renovation right. We’ll be sharing renovation tips, steps and the mistakes to avoid when renovating. For more information, go to Renovation Ready.