It’s hard to imagine contrast as a stylistic theme of an almost exclusively white home, but for media personality, Deborah Hutton’s newly renovated forever beach house, it can be seen in every detail through the use of light and shadows. Read on to see how Deborah renovated her home to achieve her dream look.
Affectionately known as ‘The Beach Hutt’ in reference to the nickname ‘The Hutt’ given to her by a close friend, the beautiful two storey property on Sydney’s eastern coastline is one that only Deborah could have designed.
The beach house look
“My home has been a passion project for the last 10 months and I have created the beach house of my dreams, not just a house at the beach. When I look at it I see elements of my grandparents’ traditional weatherboard Queenslander, a beach house I used to own, the Hamptons style I’ve fallen in love with and so much more. I’ve really poured my heart and soul into it,” says Deborah.
The moment you turn the corner onto Deborah’s quiet coastal cul-de-sac, the brilliant white home stands out in contrast to the yellows and browns of the neighbouring properties. The home captures the brightness of the location while creating interest with a slowly shifting play of light created by Linea Weatherboard which is used around the full façade of the home.
“One of my first big decisions was choosing Linea Weatherboard. I had this vision of the light and shadow effect you see in coastal and Hamptons houses, so when I saw the Linea Weatherboards at the Sydney Home Show and found out they were more durable than timber and needed less touch ups I knew I wanted them for my home."
I’ve added stone cladding in soft greys to the front and the natural shapes and texture of the rock contrast against the uniform straight lines of the weatherboard really well. It’s a look that runs through the home, creating a flow from the outside in,” she adds.
Continuing the look inside
Inside, the lower level includes the guest-bedroom-come-media-room, an intimate and cosy space that, with its Resene Shadowy Blue walls and dark artwork, contrasts with the rest of the house. Completing the guest quarters is the downstairs bathroom which is flooded with light thanks to floor to ceiling windows that back onto the private side passage. Here Deborah has created an illusion of depth by covering the outside wall with artificial Boston ivy. Inside, the shadow lines of the façade are subtly referenced with the softer, squared groove profile of Axon™ Cladding, which is resistant to water damage making it perfect for wet areas, while tiles are used in the shower itself.
From the guest quarters the light of the bedroom invites you toward the back of the home, a beautiful personal space enhanced by plush carpet. “It’s the only room that doesn’t have floorboards. I wanted a cosier feel. There’s just something about your feet sinking into a soft carpet in the morning that’s comforting. I love the look and texture of its uneven pile and picked the thickest underlay I could find to give it a plush feeling.”
With its own ensuite, the room is a personal haven that is filled with light from another set of floor to ceiling windows. “I’m so thankful to my architect Phil Leamon, who came in partway through the project and added floor to ceiling windows throughout the house. Without his input, I would have lost a lot of light and some of the view of the amazing coastline,” says Deborah.
The view is one of the home’s best assets and has been captured magnificently, but not without its own challenges adds Deborah. “I love the view, but it comes with daily north easterly winds at 3pm like clockwork. If I’d not lived here before I would never have considered it, but now I discovered Lift&Lock, double glazed sliding doors from Enviro Windows to block out the sound, which makes a huge difference.
“The exposed location on the clifftop means the back garden and balcony above takes on the elements, which is where my Linea Weatherboards and HardieGroove come into their own. They create the look I want and resist flaking, warping and swelling so require fewer touch ups. What’s more they’re also resistant to fire and damage from termites and moisture so they’ll last a long time. The texture they create is a perfect backdrop to my outdoor copper shower too, which is a hidden gem of the garden.”
As you head up to the living area, the first thing you see is the all-white, pitched ceiling where contrasting shapes engage the eye. A backdrop of HardieGroove with a subtle v-groove profile creates soft horizontal shadows, which are contrasted by a series of large solid beams. This play of light draws the eye through another set of floor to ceiling windows, out onto the balcony where the roof overhangs, creating a blurred line between the interior and exterior.
This first impression of the living area could have been very different if it wasn’t for Deborah’s vision. “I think I must have fought every designer, architect and builder on the staircase. Everyone told me to move it to a corner, but I knew that I wanted to see that view straight on. I also love the way that the brightness of the ceiling with all that detail leads your eye toward the sky. Again, the highlight windows are an addition made by Phil. He noticed that I had a solid gable and was amazed that I wasn’t going to have windows all the way up. It wasn’t part of the original plan, but as soon as he suggested it we started on the paperwork and updated the design.”
The central position of the staircase has also made room for details that are tailor made to Deborah’s love of cooking and entertaining. Hidden behind vertical panelling along the right hand wall and down from a handsome kitchen area sit a butler’s pantry, a small powder room and even a wine cellar that holds around 350 bottles.
“I love my layout and my wall space has been put to good use. My one big indulgence here is the custom wine cellar by Vine & Vault. It’s a great party piece to surprise guests with,” Deborah continues.
The rest of the open plan floor includes a living space, kitchen and dining area which have been designed meticulously by Deborah to reflect her personality she adds:
“The house feels more like home than it ever did because I’ve had so much input. The layout of the fireplace, windows and furniture comes from a beach house I used to own. It’s the space I had laid out in my mind first and I ordered my oversized three seater sofas from America a year in advance, even though everyone warned me it would be a nightmare, it was fine. The same goes for the Ralph Lauren lights that hang over the kitchen bench - the wait was worth it.”
The renovation process
This long-term planning of even the smallest details, as well as living next door to the renovation, helped Deborah avoid most issues. However one area that was particularly troublesome was the western balcony, which features solid panels lined with Linea Weatherboard suspended slightly off the ground by a series of Hamptons style pillars. The look is completed by a small rail, a nod to the balustrade on the original designs.
“That balcony! It’s been a group effort to get it right. I knew that I wanted to maintain my privacy from the street side, so a pillared railing was out of the question, but a full wall would look blocky. I went from draftsman, to designer, to architect in pursuit of a design that could work. In the end it was actually a friend who had renovated a few homes in Brisbane that hit upon the basis of the final look.
I then met with Hamptons designer Natalee Bowen and she suggested that I clad the interior wall with Linea Weatherboards. I knew instantly that it was the missing piece. The boards mirror the rest of the façade and continues that play of light into the living area. The deeper shadow lines also contrast with the HardieGroove that continues from the interior onto the overhang above the balcony,” Deborah enthuses.
Despite this relatively minor issue, the renovation finished one month ahead of time which she attributes to a number of factors starting with living in the home before renovating, her strong vision and meticulous planning.
“I still can’t believe I did all this in nine months. It helped that I had a defined understanding of what the house was and what it needed to be. I could visualise the space, how the light hit it through the day, which parts of the house are visible from outside and so on.”
Another factor that Deborah sites as being crucial to the project is her relationship with her builders at Virtue Projects.
“I’m actually going to miss my builders now the reno is done. I must have spoken to them every day. I think this was possibly the most important part of keeping a project on track. Every build is full of last minute decisions, so you need to be on call to see the issue and make a decision. You can also nip any problems in the bud before they get out of control.
“I also found briefing the builders with images was extremely helpful. Apparently some renovators don’t do this. I showed my guys images of my old beach house, Hamptons homes and many, many others to get the look right.”
From the moment you see the house, it’s evident that the look is indeed “right” and built on contrasts, from light and shadow, to soft carpets and hard wood floors. It’s a completely individual, classic and seemingly casual look, that’s delivered through carefully considered details and planning.
“I think I’ve made more than a pretty house. While I love how it looks, it’s the way the home is tailor-made to my memories, my interests and my lifestyle, even down to the name, that makes it special to me. From the moment I see the Linea Weatherboard gleaming in the sun and the palm trees moving in the wind I know it’s the home I want to come home to.”