sneak peek: deborah bibby


It’s always fun to dream about our own homes, but it’s just as fun to wonder what the homes of others may look like. Today we have a special peek into the 1950s beach cottage of real living editor Deborah Bibby. Located in Clareville Beach on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Deborah describes her home as one with a holiday-house feel. It sits beautifully in the landscape surrounded by tall eucalyptus and banana trees; the smell of citronella lanterns burning; and the sounds of the tide coming in, birds so loud they can overpower a conversation and deafening rain on the tin roof. The cottage has recently taken on the name “Fish Shack” by Deborah’s son Jack, who is a devoted fisherman. Living by the beach also means lots of sandy feet through the house and flotsam and jetsam everywhere. As Deborah says, “it’s not an interior I can be precious about — and that’s how I love it.” Thanks, Deborah! — Anne

Photos by Chris Warnes

Image above: One weekend, I decided to paint my room turquoise. The colour is fun and it does make me smile — it’s Porter’s Paint Seven Seas. The bed and bedside lamp are from a shop, which used to go under the name of Manning & Manning it’s now called Chuck & Bob. The hand-sewn linen pillows are from rough linen, and the tiny hearts on the wall have been given to me over the years by my son Jack.

I try to look beyond the pure aesthetics of the interior (which can be hard when you work for an interiors magazine!) and instead surround myself with loved objects such as my books, stacks of magazines, black-and-white prints from past magazine shoots, my son’s paintings, sofas you actually want to curl up in and collected treasures — they all tell a story, and our home is all about the journey. Occasionally, I’ll update the space with a fashionable item but I try and resist the trends. My home is a loved, rich, happy space that fuels my creativity daily and hopefully makes family and friends feel warmth when I open the front door.

Image above: The canvas was a prop from a past shoot and I was lucky to retrieve it. The flower is a waratah — the official floral emblem of New South Wales. It’s usually in red, but the day before my house was photographed, I found some in pink and just had to buy a huge bunch. I love that it has a strong graphic look.

Image above: The front door needs a coat of paint. Eek! That’s our beautiful Labrador Chino having a nap. The pendant light was a gift from an old friend — he found it by the side of the road. The cabinet came all the way from Camden Markets in London.

Image above: We’re always short on space around the table, so one day, out of desperation, we dragged two random tables together and it worked beautifully — and that’s the way they’ve stayed. The chandelier is a one-off, a collection of old jam jars made by an artist friend — they make a glorious welcome at night with tea lights flickering inside.

Image above: The old rocker was a gift from a friend in London. The ram’s head was also a gift — a slightly strange one at that. It was a farmer friend’s favourite bull that had lived a long life — everyone now calls him the “cool dead bull.” The bus scroll canvas, from PrintDolls, features all the stops on the way to Clareville. Alice Flynn, an ex-stylist from real living, started this business when she left the magazine, and she now has another business called Penny Farthing Design House.

Image above: Not the trendiest sofa but definitely the most comfy — in the entire world! I think every friend of mine has overnighted on it at some stage. The linen slip covers wash up beautifully, making it easy to keep looking fresh.

Image above: Large, square timber coffee table (shot from above) stacked with items I’ve gathered from travels. I bought the coral while on holiday at Lord Howe Island, Australia (we stayed here); hide drink coasters from Africa; a smooth stone collected by my son from a riverbed in Kangaroo Valley, Australia; books — African Visions by Mirella Ricciardi; Peter Lindbergh’s photography — he’s my all-time favourite photographer; Flair by the brilliant editor Fleur Cowles, tea lights, candles and lanterns.

Image above: This floral flock sofa was bought at St. Vincent de Paul Society, otherwise known as Vinnie’s — a second-hand charity shop in Brookvale, Sydney. It was a great buy at just $100! It’s perfect for curling up and reading on a winter’s afternoon. But as the sun streams through the window, the pattern is fading away to nothing.

Image above: A very cool artist — David Bromley. This painting is titled Romy and has a long story as to why it’s hanging in my humble shack, but I haven’t space to write it all down here. Check out and be inspired.

Image above: I love magazines, need I say more?

Image above: The little oil painting was bought at a student art event and the coral was a gift from a friend. I was going to frame it in a box frame but instead decided to attach it to the wall so you can see its fragility.

Image above: My desk is from Guy Mathews Vintage Industrial Furniture, Fitzroy Street, Melbourne. There isn’t a website but the store is featured in the archives of The Design Files. The beautiful curved bench is made from a single sheet of ply. I’ve been minding it for a friend for some 15 years now. Do you think that makes it mine? The collection of black-and-white prints is from my former life as an editor of a fashion title. Another skull — this time a “cool dead sheep.”

  1. Kelsey says:

    In LOVE with that floral sofa! Gorgeous post!

  2. Gorgeous!! I’m obsessed with that blue wall color!

  3. Caitlin Kelch says:

    xxxxoooo – what a wonderful “permanent vacation” at home!

  4. Dominique says:

    I love that bedroom! It makes me want to redesign my whole pallet!

  5. Beautiful house! I especially love the turquoise bedroom! :)

  6. Jo says:

    it’s beautiful! I especially love the bedroom and the fact that you “just decided to paint it…”

  7. Samhain Moon says:

    UGH! Dream house, dream bedroom/boudoir!

  8. Erica says:

    I adore this home!
    I sooo want to be sitting at those backyard tables with a glass of wine in hand on a warm Summer’s evening…

  9. This home is breath-taking! My head is now filled with tons of inspiration. It’s just gorgeous.

  10. terri planty says:

    i am in love. i usually go for more modern but this home is so gorgeous and lived in. it has surprises and natural objects that relate so nicely to books and paintings and white walls and happy casual piles of frames and books and textiles. and great windows and light too. lovely.

  11. Wow wow wow wow. I bet you’ve had some memorable dinners under that tealight chandelier. I’m inspired.

  12. Kristina says:

    When people say “If you don’t like your life, you have to change it” this is what they mean… I need to change my life to THIS HOUSE!!!!

    And no, it doesn’t make it yours if you have it for 15 years, but you can consider it on permanent loan…!!!!

  13. Love the bus roll canvas, I’m planning to buy one for my flat for Christmas! NHG x

  14. I love that bright blue wall behind the bed. Looks so fresh with the pink and white!

  15. Kirstan says:

    Possibly one of the most fabulous spaces I’ve run across! I love design but find it a difficult task to incorporate ‘trend’ into my house that I love. I tried to stay close to ‘trend’ for some time but, instead, found myself putting exactly what I LOVED into our 105 year old home. Thank you for showing your lovely, spectacularly lived in and adored space. It’s inspiring.

  16. Emily says:

    I LOVE the bed–does anyone know what style it is/where a similar one can be found? Much appreciated!

  17. Merissa says:

    I love love love that blue chair next to the stack of magazines!! Does anyone know where I can find a similar one? I need a desk chair, but I like to be comfy! And stylish, duh!

  18. Kate says:

    I love how so much style and beauty is thriving in a laid-back atmosphere. Isn’t it funny how when objects in your house acquire their names (i.e. “cool dead ram”) your relationship with them completely changes? Now I want to know all the stories behind the pieces pictured!

  19. Allie says:

    I love the choral and the painting, but I think you posted that picture upside down. It looks like it’s the other way up a couple images before.

    I’m going to steal a couple pointers from this lovely home to use in my new house.

  20. virginia says:

    Love the blue wall, and the fish poster. I do recognize the fish poster as one of three (all different) I have in my home – I found it years ago, before online searching was possible. Just looked it up, and the company is still in existence:

  21. Deborah says:

    So excited to see my home posted, thanks Design Sponge for chasing and chasing me and Chris for taking the shots.What lovely generous comments from everyone – so thrilled it’s inspired. Deb x

  22. love the vibrant blue wall! it looks great with the wooden bedside table. also, the flower detail on the bed frame is fabulous!

  23. christine says:

    Deborah: Your home sums up what you said about having a home that tells your life journey! You have it all down pad and it is so comforting to know that it can be done. Not everyone can do it with such ease and I like the fact that it is a well lived home and not some abode which are decked with luxuries but does not have warmth! Love the stories behind each of the items and your journey in making a house into a HOME. You are blessed.

  24. Carol B says:

    Ooh! What an inspiring, artistic home. I love the vintage items, the artwork, the nature artifacts, and that lovely chandelier. What a great job you’ve done creating an inviting place to live, work (and visit, right?)

  25. D'Homez says:

    Artistic ways to decorate your home. Love it!

  26. Hanna C says:

    the bed is quite enchanting. I see lots of beds that are often rococo or such, but this one is super minimal and looks like a dream to be in.

  27. Miz.Jo says:

    One of the most inspiring Sneak Peeks I have seen. This home not only looks beautiful, but it has soul.

  28. Christy says:

    Cozy house, and I, too, love the teal color in the bedroom. Comment on the skull on the wall: it’s not a bull, but rather a Rambouillet ram. They’re noted for the curl on their horns, and they are gorgeous!

  29. Will Royall says:

    Just wanted to say it looks beautiful! I love wood furniture. We build it. lol. For a kids room, check out the bunk beds we build and design. Their pretty functional pieces, and look great too.


  30. Brass says:

    Fantastic interior design ideas. Very contemporary yet elegant, absolutely love it!

  31. I think it’s funny the coral+painting photo got turned upside down!

    That stack of magazines makes me feel sane – or at the very least in good company.

  32. alysia says:

    Love this! So beautiful!

  33. Dmitriy says:

    This house is really excellent. I love this direction in design!

  34. Elizabeth says:

    Where is the big comfy ‘overnight’ couch from?
    I love that blue.
    One of my fave houses yet

  35. naomi says:

    Nice house and colors. I used a similar blue color several years ago by Martin Senour called “Kingston Blue” – bit deeper, but with white and dark wood in a subtropical area, really pops.

  36. juliek says:

    absolutely gorgeous. Validates my deer skull on the mantle

  37. Craig says:

    Sigh, a tad disappointing from the editor of one of the better mags here in oz. I expected more. If I see another fake destination blind and yet another David Bromley in aussie homes, I’ll scream.

    But this comment won’t get published as Grace only likes to hear positive stuff. Forget the fact the audience has a brain and differing opinions.

  38. ali says:

    first. i want to live here.
    second. obsessed with your blog.

  39. Beautiful home…. Love all the different styles coming together so harmoniously, even effortlessly. And that magazine stack? Me too. Beautifully styled shots, too. Fun peek, Anne! Thanks!


  40. Scal says:

    I have the same Dinosaur Designs blue fruit bowl (in the kitchen shot) – love it!

  41. claire says:

    Thanks for showing another Australian home. I was super excited to find out it was the home of the Real Living editor. Such a great magazine – it’s the one I look forward to receiving in the mail more than any of the others!

  42. Robin says:

    someone asked above, but I love the little blue arm chair next to the magazines, does anyone know where I might find a similar one?

  43. Purple Deer says:

    The beach vibe is done so well, mixed with the modern…I love it.

  44. Alison says:

    Ditto….where is the couch from???

  45. viv says:

    The white paint is the exact colour Im looking for, can you divulge?
    Also, cant believe someone has as many magazines as me!

  46. Sumreen says:

    What a lovely house.. I am in lve with it.! Great work Deborah!

  47. Mark Hall says:

    This is a really…. really nice house. I want it!

  48. Will says:

    I really like the vintage furniture. There’s something about real wood that after a while when worn, adds to the character of a room like these. Really like the chandelier too.


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