amy azzaritointerior designInteriorssneak peeks

sneak peek: sarah of a beach cottage

by Amy Azzarito

here in the states, we’re turning the corner on the last days of summer. in australia, they’re just gearing up for summer fun and beach weather so it’s fitting that we pass the summer torch with this peek into an austrailian beach cottage. sarah lives with her husband and three children just north of sydney in an area known as beaches – it’s a peninsula surrounded on three sides by water. sarah has totally embraced the beachy theme in decorating this cottage and in september will be selling all things beach-y on her site{thanks, sarah!}amy a

[We moved to Australia from a small village in the depths of Kent in England in the countryside surrounding London. We were looking for a fabulous outdoor lifestyle for our family – great year-round climate and a new life by the sea. We purchased the house about 2 years after moving to Australia and it was a complete mess but in a perfect location and had good bones. It was just old enough to have a few vintage features including wood floors and a big garden.  We had to completely renovate it on a tight budget – the look we were going for was laid-back, relaxed and inviting.  We wanted cool neutrals to work as a backdrop to the striking colors of nature all around us and aimed for a look that encapsulated the whole ethos of our life change – the ambiance of those old beach huts from days gone by with mismatched battered furniture, stripped back floors and whitewashed walls.]

[image above: We wanted to have a table that would overlook the garden and the old tree and benefit from the coastal breeze. The old table was a thrifted find, I painted it white and added a mis-match of chairs found on my vintage hunting travels.  It’s often dressed up with vintage bottles and my fave flowers to add a bit of interest.  The driftwood is ever-changing, we collect it from our long walks by the sea.]

[image above: The chalkboard was actually a side-of-the-road find – one day my hubby called from the bus on his way to the city to say that he’d seen an old vintage door he thought I would love with a sign on it saying ‘free’. He told me where it was and I loved it – trouble was I couldn’t lift it on my own, it is very heavy and so I had to nervously wait all day for him to come home and go see if it was still there.  I painted it white and filled in the middle bit which is glass with chalkboard paint.  It now plays a very important role in our cottage, I never thought that the kiddos would use it so much…it’s often filled with sweet little notes or as in these pictures is a motivator for getting chores done!]

[image above: The hallway is typical of one of these old Sydney beach cottages, that means it is tiny!  We ripped out some of the old cupboards, boarded up an old doorway and added hooks and a whitewashed old bench with baskets to keep all our things tidy. We keep flip-flops and sunscreen here and a jumble of sun-hats to easily grab on our way to the beach. ]

[This is our front sitting room – it’s the room we collapse in at the end of the day when all the kiddos are in bed, the place where a lot of tea (and beer) drinking goes on.  It is very simply decorated – just whitewashed walls, stripped floors and a jute rug.  It really works well with our lifestyle.  The coffee table is really old and gets whitewashed every now and then if it needs freshening up. I love displaying vintage finds or things washed up on the beach in here and every week it gets a simple bunch of flowers and nearly always stuffed into an old vintage bottle. ]

CLICK HERE for the rest of Sarah’s sneak peek!

[image above: I picked up this old Hungarian trunk in an estate sale for a song.  After a little bit of delving into the history of it, I found out that it had been used by a couple of refugees fleeing Europe just after the war.  They shipped their whole life in this one trunk and arrived in Australia without speaking the language – farway from home with this one piece to their name.  The trunk had been kept in pristine condition since unloading from that ship and if I hadn’t of saved it I was told it was going to the dump!  It is a lovely lovely old piece and I feel now like it’s part of the family.  It’s filled with our old keepsakes, tiny baby shoes, photos and children’s drawings. ]

[image above: This coat hook was inspired by one I had seen in a shop and not being in my budget I made my own.  I used an old wooden oar found in a garage sale for a few bucks, whitewashed it and added the hooks. It’s great for holding jackets and sunhats, it hints of that nautical vibe and is great for popping your bag on when you come in the door. (editor’s note: See details of the beach cottage makeover here!)]

[image above: Another view of the sitting room when it is dressed up with flowers. It faces north so the strong Australian sun streams through the windows -the light and color in here is amazing with the white walls and it’s such a lovely spot to sit at lunchtime, though more often than not we sit in here in the evening with the doors open as the sun goes down listening to night settle in.]

[image above: I love decorating tables and this is one of my faves!  It was inspired by a beautifully shaped bottle of strawberry cordial. Most of the other things on the table are finds from my treasure hunting – old white vintage linen, a Mason jar, jam jars for glasses and a few of what has become known as the Beach Cottage shell spheres! (editor’s note: More details on the tablescape here!)]

[image above: This is our en-suite bathroom to the main bedroom – it was very simply renovated when we first moved in – plain white tiles and simple tiled floor.  However, I wanted it to feel a bit more eclectic so I added some of my favorite vintage pieces. The ladder was whitewashed and distressed.  The table needed quite a bit more work, it was in a bad way but I loved the natural faded patina of the pink top, it reminded me of the inside of a shell – just the patina I am always on the lookout for.]

[image above: We had to rip out the original kitchen sadly and so designed this kitchen so that most things were visible. I wanted a relaxed feel and a modern clean look with a vintage twist – we use the wooden butcher’s block for most all of our kitchen prep and though it is a tiny kitchen we love it and with a few stools dotted around spend much family time in here and when friends come over we end up chatting in this tiny kitchen.]

[image above: The butcher’s block on wheels moves constantly between the kitchen and the breakfast room and serves as extra storage space. The bus-blind was made by me as a tribute to the beaches after I saw one in a boutique that was way out of my price bracket. I used black paint and printed off sheets of the names of places I love here on the beaches.]

[image above: The dining table is used for all manner of things and is a budget one from IKEA, it works so well for our family – the children can do crafts on it but at the end of the day everything wipes off and it dresses up beautifully.]

[image above: This is in the breakfast room – just off the kitchen. When we’re not on the deck on a cold day in the winter, we all gather are here. ]

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  • Ohhhhh…. this is so beautiful!

    I love these sneak peaks – I always feel like I’ve been on a mini-holiday. This one was especially relaxing – with lots of great ideas for my own home!

  • what a beautiful beach cottage! i love the chalkboard/door idea … hope that you sent the previous owners a picture of it now! I may “borrow” the hooks on the paddle idea for our cottage bathroom … there never seem to be enough hooks when we have guests! thanks for the inspiration!!

  • Phew, a sneak peek I love! I like hearing the stories behind the acquisition of pieces, and how a lot of what gives this place personality is white-washing all types of furniture, and decorating with pieces from the beach and flowers in simple blue/green glassware. Thanks.

  • Sarah – your house is really gorgeous. I love how you’ve kept such a calming colour palette throughout. My favourite thing of all, however, is what you’ve written on your chalk door. I have an entire wall of chalkboard in my kitchen and I will definitely be borrowing your “pick a job” list for the family chores. Thanks for sharing.

  • Can I move in NOW? I just don’t know how people do all white. I love it, but with two small kids, I would never even attempt. But I sure do love to look.

  • Lovely! Would love a “how to” on the bus blind sign. I’ve admired also but find too $!

  • Stunning! I too love that chalkboard door, that concept would work great on an old window too.

  • Hi, Sarah,
    Beautiful home you have there! Question: Are the floors in the top photo (with boots) pine? I’m in the midst of staining our porch floors, which are pine, and they look like yours there. Do you remember what you used on them? I know you have different brands in Australia, but even knowing if you used toner vs. semi-transparent and if you used oil vs. water-based…even knowing that would help! Thanks a lot.

  • Too much white! Not a house for kids/pets, unless you carry a bottle of bleach around with you :)

  • I absolutely love the all-white theme but the problem is it looks good in photos but not quite practical in real life [at least mine]. But the place is dreamy. What more can you ask for; the beach, that lovely house.

  • Gorgeous job – never too much white!
    I think this place is called The Northern Beaches (not beaches) – I lived there for 12 years and both my kiddos were born at home there. Best of Sydney!

  • For those who question the too much white with kids/pets; my cleanest well lived in room is our all white painted space and that is with never using bleach in there!

  • Thank you for sharing the photos. I love the soothing colors and can’t wait to incorporate some of your open shelving ideas!

  • i just recently found Sarah’s blog & photos of her home just recently – i have a little dream of moving to Australia. and now after ‘meeting’ Sarah. well, i just have to :D i think my little family would love to live by the beach where it’s lovely all year!

  • So many things to love in this post. I am a jewellery designer living just down the road from the Northern Beaches in Sydney and also love the lifestyle. Still a bit chilly at the moment, but waiting for the warmer weather! I also love all the flowers used around this home, brightens up any space…

  • What an inspiring post. I really like the idea of making coat-hanger out of paddle. On the other hand I would never put the ladder in my living room.

  • I typed ‘beach house’ into Google hoping I would get exactly this…. gorgeous! I am bootlegging your style for my own (currently fictional) beach-house!