Quantcast

Interiorssneak peeks

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast

by Sofia Tuovinen

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge

In the early 80s while still in his teens, Jamie Kwong spotted a rustic shack in a TV commercial. The simple waterfront house, which Jamie thought must have been located somewhere in the Mediterranean, felt warm and inviting and made a big impression on him. Well over a decade later, while out exploring the waters outside their Palm Beach, Australia home, Jamie and his wife Ingrid spotted a familiar house on the opposite shore. It was the shack that Jamie had seen in the TV commercial a decade earlier, located just across the bay from where the couple now lived! Over the next 20 years, Jamie and Ingrid would admire the modest fisherman’s shack from afar, only imagining the stories it had told.

In 2013, during one of their sailing excursions, the couple spotted a “for sale” sign in front of the crooked little shack that they had loved for so long. Both surprised and thrilled by the opportunity, they steered for the shore to take a closer look. Originally built in the 1920s by local fishermen to a style heavily dictated by the steep bush block, the shack was completely untouched and exactly how Jamie remembered it from the commercial. He and Ingrid were both completely taken by the shack’s unique history, not to mention the breathtaking views overlooking the bay. “It was the most special place we’d ever been so we knew [it] was the one. After being attracted to the shack for around 30 years, when we saw it for sale, it was a no-brainer,” Jamie shares. What soon followed was an environmentally friendly restoration, renovation, and rescue project that took 18 months to complete.

This post is brought to you by the Affordable Art Fair NYC. Find the artwork that brings your home to life at our spring fair, March 22 – 25! Explore two levels of original contemporary art, showcasing over 300 artist by 72 galleries from around the globe, with artworks priced from $100-$10,000. 

Located on Great Mackerel Beach, the shack and its neighboring beach houses can only be accessed via boat across Pittwater bay or via hiking trails through the 37,000-acre Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Just as a century ago, building or restoring anything meant using what was available on site, transporting it by rowing a boat out the front or carrying it through the national park all the way to the shack. “There was clearly a lot of work to be done and the boat access only made this more challenging but we had never felt so sure, so determined and so at home,” Jamie explains.

To bring the shack back to its former yet humble glory, Jamie, a CEO and creative director, and Ingrid, a graphic designer and artist, wanted to acknowledge the shack’s history by working with the traditional methods and the same makeshift approach that the fishermen had relied on all those years ago. The shack was taken apart bit by bit and rebuilt exactly as it was, weird angles and odd roof lines included – just about everything in the shack was either repaired, recycled or repurposed.

Jamie and Ingrid strongly believe that making a home shouldn’t cost the earth – literally. To get the renovation work done with this principle in mind, the couple had help from an environmentally friendly French builder named Jerome, along with numerous backpackers and travelers from around the world. “There were carpenters, stonemasons, furniture makers, electricians, landscapers and laborers from across the globe who all grew to love the shack as much as we did. They brought with them centuries old carpentry and stone masonry techniques that give the shack its warmth and character,” Jamie says.

When it came to furnishing the shack, the couple made use of leftover building materials to create unique pieces for their home — the ramp that was originally built to transport materials from the beach was used to build a king-size bed, fallen trees and stumps were used to make tables, and old floorboards were transformed into kitchen cabinets. In addition, Jamie and Ingrid embraced the idea of finding and collecting everything secondhand for the shack. “We made a list of what else we needed and then spent about two years finding it all,” they share.

Today, The Little Black Shack is filled with Jamie and Ingrid’s favorite, much-loved and well-worn pieces that make them feel comfortable and at peace — nothing fancy, just a warm family home with things gathered, made and found. What was originally meant to be a getaway from the mainland has quickly turned into a future forever-home. “Our aim is to one day live full-time and completely off the grid at the shack, generating our own power, growing, gathering and catching our own food,” Jamie and Ingrid share. For now, the couple and their three children Indiana, Jye and Fin enjoy the shack on weekends and holidays. After suggestions from friends and family to open the shack to others, Jamie and Ingrid do just that. “Until we can live here permanently, our aim is simple: positively influence our guests and the environment, one group, one weekend at a time.” —Sofia

Photography by Luisa Brimble / @luisabrimble
Family portrait by Indiana Kwong
Evening exterior photo and last photo by Jamie & Ingrid Kwong / @thelittleblackshack

Image above: Built at various heights and joined together at odd angles, The Little Black Shack stands humbly on a steep bush block on Great Mackerel Beach. The shack can only be accessed by water or by walking through Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

 

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
1/20

To blend the 1,030-square-foot shack into the natural bush environment, Jamie and Ingrid mixed a black and a brown stain and watered it down to achieve a color best described as “Coca-Cola.”

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
2/20

The kitchen, which is oddly taller than the rest of the shack, features kitchen cabinets made of old floorboards, handmade concrete countertops, a farmhouse sink and unfinished black steel behind the stove.

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
3/20

Jamie and Ingrid bought the shack from the granddaughter of the fisherman who built it. The kitchen table is original to the house and a wonderful reminder of its humble history. The floating shelves hold everyday items and were made of large leftover decking planks.

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
4/20

The lounge room, with its handmade sandstone fireplace, is the heart of the shack. “After spending so much time traveling we have collected many treasures and memories. The shack is full of them,” Jamie shares.

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
5/20

The shack has 14 windows all overlooking the sea. All of them were either swollen, jammed, stuck or nailed shut when Jamie and Ingrid started renovating. “To retain the shack’s original character, we recycled and restored every one of them. The fishermen had designed them to slide completely out of view into storage cavities built into the wall. This original and practical design provides uninterrupted views and maximizes the cooling effect of the summer sea-breezes,” the couple explains. 

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
6/20

The window bay bench in the lounge offers breathtaking views of the beach and bay, as well as Barrenjoey Headland and lighthouse.

We bought a humble fisherman’s shack, the last thing we wanted to do was turn it into a fancy beach house.

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
7/20

The window bay bench consists of two large storage chests that Jamie and Ingrid made out of old timber. “They work as seating, guest beds and storage all in one and are one of our favorite places to sit and enjoy the view, a good book or a snooze,” they share.

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
8/20

The fireplace makes the shack a cozy retreat even in the wintertime. “Once the stone heats up it stays warm and radiates heat all through the night and long after the fire has died down.”

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
9/20

Jamie and Ingrid’s favorite wall is clad in rough-sawn board and batten and stained the same color as the exterior. “The wall is home to some really old nautical and seafaring pieces we’ve gathered on our travels all around the world over the last 30 years,” Jamie says. 

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
10/20

Hundreds of well-worn books that Jamie and Ingrid have collected over the years now fill the shack’s many shelves.

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
11/20

The walls in the bedroom have been painted charcoal and white for contrast. “We’re not sure of the age or history of the shelves, desk and stool but each piece is handmade. We got them all separately at various secondhand stores and flea markets, but they seem to just go together,” Jamie says.

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
12/20

The couple built a king-size bed out of old recycled timber that they had used as a ramp while renovating the shack. 

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
13/20

The windows of the main bedroom offer a clear view of the moon and starlit night sky. “There’s nothing more comforting than falling to sleep to the sound of the water lapping on the shore just below the windows, whilst lying between linen sheets in a bed you made yourself,” Jamie shares.

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
14/20

The storage area under the house was turned into an additional bedroom and art studio. “We repaired all the stonework and lined the walls with board and batten timber to protect the room against the weather and ocean elements,” Jamie explains.

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
15/20

The bed and shelves in the downstairs bedroom were also built on site out of old timber. “The sandstone areas of the shack feel very Mediterranean and whilst technically this is a guest bedroom, we’re often torn between which bedroom to sleep in,” the couple say.

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
16/20

Jamie and Ingrid added two decks, a stone terrace and a pergola that links the shack to the storage shed and serves as an outside dining area. 

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
17/20

The shack sits on one of Mackerel Beach’s biggest blocks of land and borders the 37,000-acre Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park at the back. “Despite the land size, the shack is one of the smallest houses here and luckily for us, was built the closest to the water on, amongst and around boulders that had fallen down from the sandstone escarpment above.”

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
18/20

“When we bought the shack, given it was in such a bad state, really small and on a huge block of prime north-facing, waterfront land, everyone assumed we would knock it down and build a big new house. We loved the shack for what it was – a family shelter.”

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
19/20

Jamie and Ingrid Kwong with their children Indiana, Jye and Fin and Luna the bull terrier. The family’s advice to others: “Our approach is not for everybody, but try to think of the impact your decisions will have on the environment. To us, newer and bigger is definitely not better. Just like the shack itself, there is so much beauty, history and memories in well-worn, well-loved objects.”

A Respectfully Restored Fisherman’s Shack on the Australian Coast | Design*Sponge
20/20

“We love how our home connects us to the sea” – the Kwong family.

SOURCE LIST
Most of the things in the shack were made, found, swapped or bought secondhand over the last 30 years all over Australia and the world. Here are some of Jamie and Ingrid’s favorite places where they have found treasures over the years. 

Secondhand & Vintage Furniture and Decor
Eclectic Find
The Lost + Found Dept.
Antique General Store Narrabeen
Rust
Lunatiques
Mitchell Road Antique and Design Centre

Paints
Porter’s Original Paints

Bed Linen
In Bed
In The Sac
Sheridan
Cultiver

Suggested For You

Comments

  • I adore this story and house so much!! I am so glad that they were able to restore it. I can only imagine how happy they are to have dreamed of a place for 30 years and then to finally be able to call it home.

  • This might be my favorite story, home, and building/design approach ever featured. Gorgeous family too.

  • This and Captain’s Rest – so perfect and wonderful ! And the family all look like movie stars! Yes, more like this please , repurposed, restored , rustic, romantic , seaside !

  • What a beautiful renovation project! I love how thoughtful their process was and how they worked to keep the feel of stories in the home. One of my favorite parts of the story was the photo of the kitchen with the original table. So many memories are made around a family’s kitchen table and what history that single piece must hold.

  • This is a wonderful post. I love the story and the way they restored the original house. Truly magical.

  • What a gorgeous family!!! Their home is stunning, cozy and everything I’d dream for a fisherman’s cabin. Stunning.

    Eva

  • Beautiful family! (even little Luna is in on their “vibe”)This little cabin has to be the epitome of shelter from our “helter skelter”world. Thank you so much for sharing your incredible endeavor!

  • You guys. Your house is everything. The smoky patina, the salty beachy-ness…it’s just perfect. Totally inspired to search for weathered wood pieces for our home.

  • Ugh, my heart swells for all of this!! I don’t think I’ve ever been more in love with a shack. So happy these wonderful people shared their labor of love with us, it is perfect.

  • This family is so beautiful and inspiring! What an uplifting and wonderful concept of home.

  • Wow. This is such an amazing story. It takes a lot to love a house for 30 years without even owning it. I love how they found their way to the shack. And that they refer to it as ‘the shack.’ I love this place obviously. Who wouldn’t? I love when a coastal property is rustic and not so beachy it their decor. It feels like it was more realness and depth. Well done to the family.

  • This is a dream home!!!! Love the integrity kept in the interior work!!!! Lovely family as well!

  • I love this home! I stumbled upon it on IG after you featured Captain’s Rest on your site. I can’t thank you enough for featuring these really unique homes and diverse homeowners. Please keep ’em coming!

  • This place is so lovely. Seems like the perfect place to unplug, relax with a good book and listen to the sound of the waves.

  • Thank you for sharing your beautiful home. I love the beauty of the house, and the fact that you filled it with travel treasures and recycled pieces. The beach is beautiful and your family radiates friendliness. I wish the story came with a sound track of the ocean! Sending good vibes right back to you!!!

  • This home has soul and feels like a perfect place to unplug and take it slow, enjoy the moment. I would just love to sit around and look at everything lovingly for a good while! So much texture and history go a long way here.

  • What a wonderful home! I am so pleased that you chose to restore it and not tear it down. There are so many small homes with wonderful character that are being torn down and replaced with McMansions. I am so tired of this trend. Your place shows personality and warmth. Thank you for sharing it1

  • Wow, thanks for this! I feel like I’ve had a coastal vacation just looking through the photos. I think this is my favorite tour.

  • What a beautiful family and a beautiful approach to restoring this house. Favorite tour ever. We’ve been painstakingly restoring a 1875 Victorian for 4 years now, doing as much as we can ourselves, and this just inspires me to forge ahead the way we’ve been doing it and staying true to the house rather than trying to make it something modern or new….WONDERFUL!