Interiorssneak peeks

A Timber Pole Home Among the Eucalyptus Trees for a Growing Family

by Sabrina Smelko

This time last year, I went on a eucalyptus kick. I hung some in my shower, I pinned DIY eucalyptus decor and flower crowns on Pinterest, and I hunted every flower shop close-by for more. There’s just something about eucalyptus. So I’m a tad envious of Sara Hingle‘s home, surrounded by beautiful eucalyptus trees in the heart of Burleigh Heads, Queensland, Australia.

Nestled in the lush bushland, you’ll find an old timber pole house, home to Sara, the founder and Creative Director of These Walls Paper + Textiles (a wallpaper company we featured last month), her partner Mick, a project manager, their sons Joshua (5) and Thom (2), and occasionally Ruffie the dog and Maggie the cat. And beautiful as it can be living there, their split-level 1970s home comes with its own share of problems: keeping on top of the landscaping is a challenge, and during the tropical storms that frequent the area, the nickname “the Titanic” gets thrown around for their leaky home. But all of their home’s cons don’t come close to outweighing the pros: the location (which boasts close proximity to the ocean while remaining in the bush), the charm and character, the space, and feeling it brings.

When telling the story of how they met their home, Sara laughs: The night following their son Josh’s first birthday, Sara’s mother jokingly commented that they needed a bigger place for their growing family. Up until then, they were busting at the seams of their small duplex, and with a newly-mobile son, Sara and Mick ended up spending the night staring at the glowing screen of a computer, buried deep in a session of “internet real-estate window-shop[ping].” The following day, while on a country drive among the trees and beside the ocean, they stumbled across the home of their dreams and hours later they were signing the paperwork.

With an acre of yard for young Joshua to run around in, the home was the perfect size and accommodated the addition of Thom shortly after. But Sara and Mick quickly learned the expenses that came with being a young family. This meant that huge additions and renovations were off the table, especially after the costly and tiring job of removing a pool. Once they were settled in, they threw a few coats of Dulux China White on each wall, and with the addition of new furniture, carpeting and lighting, the house started to feel like home. It wasn’t long before Sara worked her magic with wallpaper and textiles, which added plenty of warmth and personality to the space. –Sabrina

A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
The view from the dining table into the kitchen with windows that look out to the trees. "It makes for great watching / zoning out while doing the dishes!" says Sara. The wallpaper is Leopard Palm in Night by These Walls, the armchair is a vintage find that Sara recovered in Scallop Dots fabric in Rust, the linen cushions are Jade Midnight by These Walls and the barstools were eBay finds.
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
The dining table / work table used to be an old pine table, but Sara and Mick's clever neighbor Travis (from Mixed Designs) transformed it by adding a cement tabletop, reinforced at the base, and adding castor wheels so they can move it as needed. The darling animal painting by S. Buamar was purchased on Sara and Mick's honeymoon in Bali. "It reminded of Basquiat's work," Sara says. "It's a love or hate piece, but we love it and that's all that matters!" The bench seats were made by their friend Stu and the pendant light is from IKEA.
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
The view from the lounge off the kitchen. "I love this space for a few reasons," says Sara, "It's our family hub and witness to a range of states - from morning chaos to nighttime cuddles with my boys!" The raked ceilings allow the most beautiful light to come in from the upper windows that run along the length of the room. "The angle of the light changes depending on the time of the year," Sara explains, "but winter is my favourite when I can catch the sun while sitting in my chair."
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
Looking down from the top of the steps in the dining room into the lounge. The leather lounge set is from Freedom Furntiur, the wool rug is from IKEA and the cushions are either handmade or from Sara's own These Walls.
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
"No words for how much love I feel looking at this little smile!" says Sara. Behind Thom is a view of the lounge room. The gallery wall is a collection of vintage artwork, traditional Fijian weapons, and prints and original art by a variety of artists.
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
In winter, Sara and Mick's potbelly gets a lot of love and is host to their "Annual Warming of the Marshmallow" party. Artwork from Greedy Hen (mixed media and illustration studio), Trent Mitchell (photographer), Aitch (illustrator), Hsaio-Ron Cheng (artist).
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
A sunny spot above the potbelly is host to a collection of plates, vases and artwork. The plate on the left is from Robert Gordon, and the rest were found treasures.
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
"This sideboard is my pride and joy," says Sara, "I had been looking for one to sit our telly on for sometime and one afternoon, driving home I just knew I had to pull into my local secondhand furniture store as I just 100% knew in my bones there was something good there waiting for me. And there she was, straight off the back of the truck!" She managed to score it for $50, before calling Mick to “get down pronto with the van before I wake up from this dream!”
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
Mick and Sara's bedroom is their calm haven. It may be small, but it's cozy and features one wall of floor-to-ceiling glass, which looks out through the gum trees to the Hinterland. The wallpaper is Atlas in Overcast from These Walls, which adds lovely texture to an otherwise simple room. The pillow cases and beside lamp are from IKEA, the kantha quilt is from I Love Linen and the vase on bedside table was passed down from Sara's grandparents.
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
Josh and Thom's room is a fun and bright space. "Its not my usual decorating style but then again, it's not my room, is it?" Sara says. Sara cut out planets by Terry Fan and hung them on the painted black wall (in Black Marlin by Resene), complete with hand painted stars and lettering. "It makes the boys feel like they’re drifting in outerspace while they drift off!"
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
The boys' bunk bed is from IKEA.
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
Sara's home studio has a huge skylight directly above where she sits. "I love working solo, at my own pace and balancing my home and business life." she says. The chair is a vintage TV chair recovered in Jade fabric in Midnight. "It is damn-near the comfiest chair in this world and I do believe it was made just for me (a small person)!"
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
The floor covering is seagrass matting, the pegstool is from HK Living, and the desk and office chair are from IKEA.
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
Bits and bobs from Sara's work desk.
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
Some linen fabric cuttings and swatches.
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
Some ply shelving holding These Walls wallpaper rolls. Yes, please!
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
Some mementos, and a postcard by Yoshimoto Nara.
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
Don't let Maggie's (aka Mad Mags') cool, good looks fool you, "she will shred your arm without warning!" laughs Sara, "The only person who can hold her and receive purrs is me (and even then I only carry her in a way that she can't flip out and attack). Love her, though."
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
Ruffie (aka Ruffina the Ballerina, their eldest "child") is one lovely lady. "She has the best manners," explains Sara, "and is all about ‘the love’ and puts up with the crazy antics of the boys so well."
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
Maggie cruising past one of Sara's favorite chairs, found in a two-story antique store in Port Macquarie on the NSW coast. It’s an old bridge chair covered in velvet stripes of teal, olive, musk, bone and aqua - what a combo!
A Home Among the Trees, Design*Sponge
Mick soaking in some sun on their deck. "Such a lovely place to relax and watch the kids on their bikes on a summer's afternoon, or have a BBQ with friends," says Sara.

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  • Haha, my first thought on reading the introduction to this article was “this person can’t be an Australian”.
    I think we’re so inundated by eucalyptus that for most people it isn’t some amazing, desirable, rare botanical find. It’s just everywhere. It’s making a mess in the driveway. It’s scraggly bushes. It’s more invisible than dandelions.
    I’m actually really pleased and amazed to have read that there are people out there who seek it out, who are pinning it and buying it from florists. I might look at the humble eucalyptus in a different way!

  • Gorgeous home!

    @Kate: I’m an Australian who has spent ten years overseas and I LOVE eucalyptus! I dream of having a garden in Australia full of native plants, but for now Europe is my home. I think you have to go away to really appreciate their beauty!

  • Thanks so much Sabrina and Design Sponge for having me. Tis so lovely to be a part of your gorgeous blog. Agreed @Kate – the leaves are such a mission (but do turn such a lovely colour as they dry out and lucky I have a leaf blower on hand) @Emma – yay Aus natives! @Michelle – oops, that spello was my error … not enough sleep ; )

  • Ruffie is the best dog ever if she has any idea that she lives in such a great house, surrounded by so many beautiful things :)

    And thanks for the mention, sorry that I never had my website ready!