A husband-and-wife design team dramatically transformed their cramped and dated bungalow
To look at the sleek timber lines of this home in a small seaside town, you’d never know that a few years ago it was a pokey 1970s bungalow with a cramped, complicated layout.
“People who knew the house from before we bought it in 2015 get a bit confused about whether it’s the same house,” says owner Jayne Stewardson. Moving the main entrance from the side to the front – with a dramatic, oversized pivot door – was a key part of the transformation for Jayne and husband Darren. But they didn’t stop there – they also reclad the house in black-stained cedar. And the timber barn door hides a garage, which was originally a carport.
The wholesale makeover of the exterior – complete with landscaping – was accompanied by a dramatic makeover of the interior, too. That huge oak front door now opens onto a broad hallway from which all the rooms lead off. “We compromised a little on the size of the rooms just to have this big, wide hallway,” says Jayne. “It’s like a spine that goes through the house. It feels quite grand.”
Despite the striking transformation, Jayne and Darren worked entirely within the existing footprint of the house, opting to redesign the layout rather than extend. “What we really loved about the house were the high ceilings, the lining boards, the chunky beams and the cedar windows,” says Jayne – so they kept all those, simply giving everything (except the cedar windows) a fresh coat of white paint. But the kitchen and bathroom had to go, as did the timber-look vinyl floor tiles and the sunrise stained glass, all replaced with materials that fitted what Jayne describes as her “slightly rustic, coastal” aesthetic. “I always stick to a simple, welcoming palette with natural fibres and fabrics,” she says.
“I was inspired by the context – the bush, the gums and the eucalyptus.”
The couple’s willingness to take on such a labour-intensive renovation is explained by their day jobs: they run a project management and design company. At the same time as renovating their own home, they were overseeing a complex renovation and extension to a heritage-listed property two hours away. They still managed to finish work on this house in just 18 months, however – and that includes reworking the garden, a favourite place for the couple to relax along with their children, Téa and Tom, plus schnoodle Zoe, the two chooks and rabbit.
“The kids are always outside, running around in the bush,” says Jayne. “There’s a creek at the back of the house, and my children are always making cubbyhouses and hanging out with friends there. And Darren and I spend a lot of time around the fire pit, cooking with friends.”
Once an unkempt jungle, the garden was turned by the Stewardsons into a calming space with plenty of spots to chill out or socialise. “When we bought it, there were a lot of tropical plants, which seemed a bit random,” Jayne says, “but we kept them and I think they ended up mixing quite well with all the native plants we put in.” They highlighted a beautiful gum tree by creating a circle of paving around it, installed a fire pit and outdoor shower, and refreshed all the decking.
And it’s the garden that the Stewardsons are finding hardest to leave. They reluctantly sold up recently, but are moving nearby with plans to renovate again. So although they’ll miss this house, they’ll soon be using all their talents to create a new home to love.
Words by: Hannah James. Photography by: Marnie Hawson. Styling by: Belle Hemming Bright.