It doesn’t take much for an old fibro beach house to be revived, to be opened up to the light and to the breeze. And if you had Wollumboola Lake as your backyard artwork, where would you spend your days?
A little beach house in Culburra, found on a rainy day back in 2000 was the canvass for John Macarthur and Julian Porter to start work creating their little paradise. A love of the rugged, natural environment, so abundant on the south coast and so different to the work environment in Sydney’s Bondi Beach, brought about not only a lifestyle change, but that certain freedom that comes from living at the beach.
“I’ve always loved the south coast,” says John. “When we first saw this house we thought OMG. It was perfect. We had to contain our excitement.”
The original house was very small, and in the typical style of the day, not giving much thought to light, views or flow. Making over the beach house occurred one step at a time, allowing the luxury of settling in to get the feel of the place. Only one wall was removed, between the kitchen and the lounge room, and the back wall converted to fully opening bi-fold doors, and then the deck was added a few years later.
Looking at the house John’s loud and slightly unconventional sense of style speaks out. The kitchen is bright and tasteful; clean and cute; a little retro, very funky; definitely not kitsch.
“It was funny because when we went to the kitchen place they had a chart of the colours, and I said, so we could have every single colour if we wanted to? And their faces dropped, and they said, well you could… So away I went and came up with that scheme in the kitchen.”
What we love about it here, is that it’s the opposite of Bondi, that’s the other joy for us. I love Bondi for its café’s and madness, then we come down here, and it’s like yin and yang. it’s what we love about it.”
The garden, Julian’s territory, is all natives, attracting local birdlife, black cockatoos, king parrots, lorikeets, kookaburras, singing loudly, making conversation hard; the lake being the perfect breeding ground with its shallow depth and grassy bottom.
Pineapples feature prominently in the house decor. “There’s pineapples everywhere. They’re funny, they make me laugh.” says John “There’s something about pineapples” Julian adds “they are an amazing shape and colour.”
The house is simply furnished with some items coming from op shops, some from friend’s sheds, nothing too flash, however themes pop up everywhere. There’s the pineapples, the ‘Ming’ room, the kids bunked room complete with gollywogs, and of course the Frida theme. Not really cluttered but more an interesting, unexpected and sometimes a little bit peculiar mix of bric-a-bac.
“The funny thing is our décor just evolved. I laugh when people stress over their décor. If you put things in you like, they don’t have to match, and it tells you something about the person.” Says John reflecting on his philosophy of decorating.
“When we bought the place, we had nothing, no furniture, so we went to the op shops. We furnished the house for $1500, then bit by bit something went out, something else came in. It evolved. People say when are you going to finish, but it’s an organic thing like we are.”
The second stage of renovations involved knocking down the garage, putting in the pool and adding a pavilion style main bedroom, ensuite, workroom and garage, which is separated from the house by a wide deck area.
The workroom will one day become home to John’s knitting business when he eventually retires. Although hand knitting is a very specialised market, John found his niche hand knitting his unique designer fashion items, although now he has scaled back his work and mainly designs clothing and props for theatre.
Although the whole house opens up allowing air, light and breeze to fill every inch of space, it is the back deck which brings John and Julian the most joy. Entertaining, relaxing or simply enjoying the sun and magnificent views, the joy it brings is overwhelmingly zen. And that is a really nice way to live.