Artist and designer John Lacey's natural talent and...
Back to the beach
Michelle has the work-life balance down to a fine art, living with her family near the beach and running her successful PR company from a home office that’s ablaze with colour from the photographic mural by Aussie Murals.
An ocean-side home was a dream a long time the making for Michelle, who grew up an ‘eastern suburbs beach girl’, but made her adult home in Sydney’s inner-city Lilyfield. As her children grew, the lure of the beach became stronger, and Michelle wanted to give them the beachside childhood she had enjoyed. Developing a habit of taking road trips to the northern beaches to look at property, Michelle eventually came across a large, four-storey brick house with commanding views of the ocean. “When I walked down the stairs I heard the ocean roar and I could see the huge expanse of the sea,” she recalls.
Michelle fell in love with the view, but the move didn’t go ahead. “I was never looking for a large house, but I believe that things happen for a reason. Although we lived in a 100-year-old cottage in Lilyfield, I always thought we would end up on the coast,” she explains. “I never forgot that house and constantly wondered what it would be like to get back to the beaches before the kids were in high school.” A year later, Michelle was visiting the northern beaches and discovered that the house was, once more, on the market.
“I went to have a look around, as I still wanted to give the kids a beach lifestyle,” she says. “Crazily enough, the same house was for sale again! So we bought it!”
BRICKS AND MORTAR
“The house was built in the ’80s by an owner/builder who was a brickie, so the brickwork is quite detailed and unique,” Michelle says. “We came from a weatherboard cottage and my daughter, Cassidy – aged seven at the time – asked me, ‘Mummy, why is this house so hard?’” Grey Berber carpet and blue walls had left the interior cold and characterless. “I think the owners were trying to match the colours of the ocean, but it just ended up with an institutional feel,” Michelle says. Her first move was to rip up the carpets and lay cream Italian tiles through the living areas. “I wanted to create a neutral background, so I could display the furniture and paintings that I love,” she says.
The walls were painted the soft, off-white tones of Taubmans Arizona White. A bright yellow Taubmans Poppyseed feature wall in Cassidy’s room refl ected her love of ducks, while Dulux Lancelot turquoise green and British Paints Marlin Blue feature walls in her brother Byron’s room added a splash of colour. Much of the house was slightly flawed with shoddy workmanship over the years. Originally a nine-bedroom duplex, Michelle opened up the divide straightaway. The plethora of bedrooms was quickly used up, with a drum studio for Byron, offices and a couple of guest rooms. A new kitchen, 18 solar panels, a new bathroom by Amazing Bathrooms, and finally, a much-needed driveway, completed the project. “If you feel passionate about a place, you can realise its potential,” she says.
A path through the garden leads to a bush track that opens onto the beach – a constant source of inspiration for Michelle. “There are two things that define my style,” she says. “I’m not keen on trinkets and treasures, but I love the treasure that I find on the beach. I have a passion for art and a passion for nature. Every morning I walk on the beach and, as a result, the house is full of shells and beach finds. You will find no more perfect sculpture than objects from the beach. Piles of rocks and smooth stones at the door, big glass jars with dead sea dragons, I’m always coming home with something special in my pockets!”
Michelle’s love of art is evident from the many paintings hanging on her walls. “I’ve travelled a lot and always bring back a painting, so the house is full of artwork, ranging from Indian paintings bought for $10 to works from Cuba, Russia and Mongolia,” she says. “I admire them every day and they are a catalyst for fantastic memories.” Even with the size of the house, Michelle wonders about wall space running out! “I buy paintings because I love them, not because they fit into a scheme,” she explains.
“The walls, rugs and throws are cream, which makes a good backdrop, and the blues and greens of the ocean are often in the background. I tend to bring the colours of the ocean in on one side of the house and the greens of the bush on the other. Bright colours feature around the fireplace, with softer-hued paintings in other areas. I used to buy a lot of ocean scenes, but now my paintings are more often from other cultures around the world, rather than following a particular theme or colour.” Michelle also supports Australian art, with a diptych by Martine Emdur taking pride of place in her collection. “I bought that piece the year we moved here, to bring the ocean into the house,” she says.
BEHIND THE SCENES FAVOURITE PLACE “I love gazing out at the bush and ocean from the comfort of the lounge.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE “Well, I guess it was a challenge of a sort that we decided to buy such a large house, and then converting it to a comfortable family home.”
LUCKIEST FIND “That would have to be coming back a year later and finding the house on the market again – as if it was waiting for us.”
FAVOURITE PIECE “I love to collect artwork from around the world, but my favourite piece is by Sydney’s Martine Emdur – and I enjoy it every single day.”
STORY KATE WILLIAMS
PHOTOGRAPHY TONY POTTER
STYLING KATHRYN BORGLUND