tropical OASIS
Home Beautiful|December 2021
NESTLED IN LUSH SURROUNDS, THIS HILLSIDE COASTAL COTTAGE ON SYDNEY’S NORTHERN BEACHES GETS A MAGICAL MODERN RENOVATION WITHOUT LOSING ANY OF ITS CHARM
SUE WHEELER
Basking in the joy of poolside living, cocooned by palm trees and elephant ears, there’s no need for homeowners Matthew, Emma and daughters Willow and Isla to close their eyes and imagine their dream holiday. A feeling that you could be anywhere in the world exudes from their coastal cottage on Sydney’s Northern Beaches – and that’s exactly the vibe architect Matthew was after when he redesigned the “charming but underutilised” property. “I wanted to create a private tropical retreat, where you wake up at the weekend and feel like you don’t need, or want, to leave,” he says of the beautifully renovated house.

Emma found the cottage back in 2014, when they were looking for a bigger block. “It was in an area we loved – close to the ocean with a village-like atmosphere – and it had so much character,” says English expat Emma, who found it reminiscent of cottages back home. “I fell in love with the front verandah, picturing myself up there relaxing in the treetops, but I didn’t mention it to Matthew because I thought the steep garden would put him off.”

However, when the property curiously disappeared from a real-estate website then came back again, she decided he should go and see it for himself. He instantly envisioned extending the small house and turning the ‘challenging’ garden into an entertainer’s dream, with a series of functional terraces and home-office cabins at its top. Four days later, the home was theirs.

“I didn’t think we needed to do much,” admits Emma. “I was happy to have a beautiful house with a big garden… although it did have the tiniest bathroom in the world and a toilet in the laundry.” However, she is married to an architect! “Once I saw how it could evolve as the girls grow up, I let Matthew get on with it.” He was keen to retain the character of the cottage: “Knocking down and rebuilding can make a home feel soulless, so the old cottage is here but I designed a renovation that complements it.”

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