A summer-loving interior designer meets a classic ’60s Sydney beach house in need of a new beginning. And it’s a perfect match!


Who lives here: A professional couple.

Style of home: A 1960s two-level beach house on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

Timeline: The modern update of this home took six months.

For a true beach lover at heart, this ’60s two-level beach house located in Palm Beach, NSW, was a dream project for interior designer Kristy McGregor. “I love working on beach houses  – I’m a summer person and I get really excited about working with people who share my love of relaxed living by the ocean.”

The homeowners of this particular oceanside house are a professional couple who have worked with Kristy on previous projects. The pair love her sense of style, combined with a strong focus on design and beautiful finishes. “I enjoyed working with the clients – we work really well together,” says Kristy.  “We would come to meetings with the same cut-outs from magazines and knew we were all on the same page.”

The couple purchased the house in 2010 and were instantly attracted to the location. According to the pair, “It has good bones with a great outlook over Pittwater. We thought it had huge potential to be a comfortable, stylish beach house.” Only an hour’s drive out of Sydney’s CBD, the house is the perfect place to unwind. “When you’re driving in from the city, you enter a more laid-back world at Newport and by the time you drive through the Bilgola bends and arrive in Palm Beach, you already feel as though you’ve been on a break,” say the owners.

Purchased in a tired and outdated state, the home featured an orange-veneer kitchen, tumbled white tiles with a blue fish pattern and faux terracotta floor tiles. The couple’s design brief to Kristy was to create a home that felt like a calming and simple beach house, with just the right amount of refinement. The pair love white, modern spaces with clean lines but wanted these concepts to tie seamlessly into a relaxed setting.

Having a background in architecture had added advantages for Kristy on this project with builder Arcon. It allowed her to over all aspects of the home from the interiors to the full-height stacked stone exterior facade, and several changes such as changing the roof design from old tiles to a modern zinc-look steel roof with a custom profile.

“The challenge was creating spaces that are crisp and refined but also warm and inviting,” says Kristy. “I wanted to create a calm and happy place that felt like you could run inside with your bare feet from the beach and lie down on the couch, yet still appreciate the finer things it has to offer.”

With these design and lifestyle considerations in mind, Kristy started sourcing finishes for each room and designing the concept images for each space. With a talent for hand-drawing floorplans and elevations, she admits “I love sketching 3D concepts of interior and exterior spaces. I usually start the design process with a series of sketches that helps the client visualise the space.”

To create a cohesive beach-house feel, Kristy turned to light coloured materials that were naturally textured and warm. With three bathrooms in the home to design, keeping the materials and finishes the same in each was the key to ensuring the simplicity of design her clients had requested.

“The bathrooms are a haven of natural stone selections in whites and neutrals,” says Kristy. She chose a handmade off-white Moroccan hexagon feature wall tile, with a large-format rough-sawn limestone tile on the floors and surrounding walls. These tactile elements are combined with linear slabs of Carrara marble to accentuate the chrome tapware. Joinery was kept in a soft and neutral tone, using limed timber veneer.

The renovation took six months to complete with Christmas as the deadline so the homeowners could enjoy lunch on the big day in their new home. It almost didn’t happen when some of the kitchen appliances didn’t arrive in time during the construction stage. A few changes to the specifications allowed everything to go ahead, including that all-important Christmas lunch.

The owners’ favourite room is the downstairs open-plan living space. Kristy used wide timber floorboards and custom-designed a limestone cantilevered fireplace bench to span the entire width of the room. White concertina doors invite you outside onto a stunning deck that overlooks the pool, bushland and Pittwater.

Kristy has created a space that the owners say is “a very easy, enjoyable house to live in”. She couldn’t be happier with how her concepts have come to life, too. “I get to imagine something that a few months later becomes a reality in built form!” she says. “I always look back to my sketches to see if the sketch resembles the final result and it amazes me how close this one was.”

lessons learnt

“Planning the lead times for the fixtures, fittings and finishes was the biggest obstacle for this project,” says Kristy.  “The limestone tiles and slabs had a very long lead time and almost didn’t arrive in time during construction. It held up the process slightly but was worth the wait – it would’ve been a shame to re specify the limestone as it is one of the most beautiful stones I have ever used. There was also a problem with the kitchen appliances arriving in time for Christmas. We needed to make a few last-minute changes to specs but, in the end, it all worked out in time!”

For more info on Kristy’s work, visit kristymcgregor.com.auFor details on Arcon, visit arconprojects.com.au.