THE SALTY HOUSE | BERNADETTE & CONNOR
The high ceilings and white timber flooring of this whimsical, bohemian family home complement its coastal location. Owners Bernadette and Connor have created a bright and happy open space, that’s the perfect fit for their beachy lifestyle.
The stunning white and timber palette acts as the perfect backdrop to the chic pops of colour and many unique treasures collected over many years of travel.
For this month’s House Perv, come with us as we marvel at how Bernadette balances her love of the Australian coastal-modern aesthetic with a nurturing family-friendly style.
IMAGES: Atelier Photography
Q: Who lives in your home?
B: Myself, my partner Connor and our three kids, Scout, Jack and Skip.
Q: Can you tell us a little of the history of your home and your journey living in it?
B: We bought the house, an old miner’s cottage in 2002 when we were pregnant with our eldest, Scout. In 2005 we built out and across the top. It’s been a labour of love as we have done all the building and design, decorating and renovating ourselves.
It recently received a revamp in the last couple of years as we tied together all of the items we’d been collecting for 15 years. We paired it back a bit and gave it some uniformity.
Q: Do you have any specific stories to tell about this project– wins and fails?!
B: We have loved doing much of the renovation ourselves. We saved and learned so much. Connor did a lot of the carpentry, tiling, electrical and plumbing work and all things ‘handy’.
I was able to distract myself from the pressures of my work as a clinical psychologist with the decorating and design.
One mistake I made was getting overly excited about having walls, corners and books available post-renovation. I found it was hard to keep them clean and feel Zen amidst the clutter.
I realised all the homes I loved most balanced their signature pieces with negative spaces. We have 11-foot ceilings so I took all the art up a notch, added focal lighting, and restrained myself when it came to filling the negative space!
Q: What are you happiest about with the home and how it looks and functions?
B: We have tried to create a sanctuary to come home to after a day’s work or a long day at school. We wanted to feel like we were on holidays when we walk through the door. We have always rebooted on holidays in Byron Bay, so it made sense to capture that way of life in our own four walls.
There’s a quintessential coastal folk vibe in Byron, reminiscent of that 1970s era of surfing bohemia. Con and I are 1970s babies, perhaps that’s why Byron has always captured our hearts. If we can’t live there, then we can bring it home with us.
It’s important to us that our kids live in a space that embodies the values that are important to us. We want them to feel relaxed, creative and nurtured at home. We want to come home to a place filled with light, and all that we have gathered and built and painted and read, collected and treasured over time.
I love the concept of Elsie de Wolfe who wrote, “I am going to make everything around me beautiful, that will be my life”.
If the kids see beautiful books and art, are living on and around handmade beauties, hopefully they will feel the beauty of the world, no matter how long or hard the day has been.
Q: What or who are your key style inspirations?
B: I am definitely influenced by the eclectic, global yet clean crisp white scape of interior enthusiasts Romi Weinberg (@romi_weinberg) the jewellery maker Kylie of Not Heidi (@not_heidi_) and the bohemian mastermind Mel Gubbin (@avenue.twentytwo)
I love how these creative women have created spaces essentially coastal-Australian, whilst nodding to the global collector who wants to create a holiday at home.
And like me, they don’t mind a dash of pink!
Q: How you would describe your interior style?
B: We haven’t focused on any particular cultural or country of origin. We started back in our early marriage collecting those larger special items from Indonesia. I have a soft spot for Chinese antiques. But we have pieces from India, Morocco, Italy, Mexico and France.
I like anything that is a bit ‘wabi-sabi’, well made, previously owned, or treasured and gives a sense of island living. Though I love a touch of Australian coastal native.
The timber is offset by lots of white. I love white lounges, and creating lots of seating options for family and friends.
Q: What do you love most about your home? Do you have a favourite space, room or piece of furniture?
B: Painting the floors white a couple of years ago was the best thing we ever did. It set off the timber accents, lightened up the downstairs and gave us a barefoot island vibe 24/7.
We’d had white timber floorboards upstairs for years, but the vast space in the open plan living downstairs was made so much more impactful by converting them to white.
Our bench seat in the kitchen is the heart-space of our home where we all centre. It is where family and friends gather and parties radiate from. It’s definitely my favourite place in the house for a snooze, a read, a chat or a cuddle.
My favourite pieces of furniture are definitely anything my husband has built. And my rug collection. I’m a bit of a rug obsessive. There’s a constant dialogue between me and my fav rug ateliers Tigmi Trading, Marrkett, El Ramla Hamra and Yonder Living.
Q: What do you love most about your home’s location?
B: We live in a small coastal suburb in Newcastle. We spend our time surfing and at the beach, in the garden and generally living an outdoor active life. Though I’m the one who tries to pull everyone back inside to read, cook and relax!
Q: Is it your forever home and if not, what do you see as the future for this amazing space?
B: We are not sure if it is our forever home. We are happy here for now, but we are always playing with ideas for the next project. We dream of building a holiday home for our future grandkids and their kids, somewhere off-grid a bit, where we live sustainably and surf all day!
Q: Three words you would use to describe your home?
B: Light, soothing, whimsical.