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Get the Easy, Breezy, Aussie Beach House Look

by Robin Braithwaite

Aussie beach-house living is laid-back and relaxed but needs reliable and durable choices to survive the weather and wear.

In Australia, we have our own unique beach-house style that has evolved over the decades, going from early cottages scattered along our beautiful coastline to contemporary headland homes. While beautiful Hamptons-style beach houses feature heavily in magazines and home design these days, their style isn’t quite ours. We take a look at our laid-back and carefree Aussie beach house and provide some tips on how you can get the look.

Colour it beachy

Aussie beach house colours are usually muted, natural shades of soft grey, sandy yellow, bleached white, pastel green and dusty blue, reflecting their coastal surrounds. Think of the ocean, dune grasses, sun and sand; these should be your inspiration. 

Adding chalky white details to windows, doors, pergolas and eaves brings a beachy softness to the exterior of a house. Bring in stronger accent colours with beach towels, pot plants, chairs and even a surfboard.

TIP: Test your colour selection. What looks good on a paint swatch at the local hardware store may look completely different under the harsh Australian sun. Find a large patch of exterior or interior wall to test your colours and view them over several days under different lighting conditions.

Make a neat entrance

Australian beach houses are usually built to accommodate people with active lifestyles. This means a grab it-and-go approach to getting out of the house and on to the beach or into the surf. Putting items near the door is fairly commonplace. Whether working with a narrow hallway or something more grand, Australian beach house homeowners make the most of the entry space by providing a hangers for hats, towels, beach bags and anything else they might need to take with them or conversely ditch as they walk inside. 

Reminiscent of the iconic zinc anti-sun cream Australians grew up having plastered all over their faces, beach-style tongue-and-groove panelling painted in chalky white is popular and works particularly well in entrances and down halls, and is very common in Queenslander style homes.

TIP: Add some baskets to store your thongs, sunscreen and fresh towels for a quick trip down to the beach, or to temporarily store those things you don’t want to forget on your next outing.

Open your mind to these front doors

Work your windows

It’s essential that any bedroom facing east has some kind of block-out curtain or blind. And if you’re lucky enough to have views then certainly maximise them, but only during the day. In the summer months you’ll be up at dawn if you don’t block out the rising sun. Plantation shutters add a casual, beachy note and provide the full block-out you’ll need for weekend lie-ins.

TIP: Louvred windows are wonderful for catching the cross breezes and have a laid-back Aussie feel to them.

Design a summer servery

Due to the warm to hot summers throughout Australia, the idea of indoor/outdoor living is hugely popular. Most beach houses in Australia feature a deck or two and often the kitchen flows onto the deck or a paved area. 

Some designers let the kitchen bench extend out through a bi-fold or awning-style window to the outdoor entertaining area, creating a kitchen servery. This is a great way to connect the kitchen to the barbecue area, making it easy to pass food and drinks without having to move in and out of the house.

TIP: Adding a servery to an existing kitchen is not as complicated as it sounds, but unless you’re a handy type, the work will involve a tradie, and you may need to talk to your local council.

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Stow it away

Beachside living can involve lots of toys and gadgets, and they all need a home. Make sure you have ample storage for your boards, wetsuits, goggles, snorkels, buckets and spades, beach umbrellas and bikes.

This can be as simple as a rack hidden away under an eave, or as sophisticated as a weather-proof shed complete with shelves to store board wax and sunscreen, along with hooks and rails to hang towels, wetsuits and more.

TIP: Position the storage near a water source so you can rinse down boards and store them straight away. The storage should also be easily accessible from the street and not just via the house.

Hook up an outdoor shower

Nothing screams ‘I’m at the beach!’ more than throwing your towel onto a hook and rinsing the sand off under an outdoor shower. It’s a really practical idea too – who needs to be sweeping up sand when it can be easily rinsed off outside?

TIP: Make sure you can access the outdoor shower from the street. If you don’t have side or rear entry to your home, the shower will need to be out the front or you’ll still be trekking sand through the house.

Invest in stylish outdoor living

The trend for outdoor entertaining is never more apparent than when you’re at a beach house. Although there isn’t a lot of difference between Australian decor for outdoor entertaining areas and those in other Western countries, there is a certain colour and style made famous overseas by Australian landscape designer Jamie Durie that incorporates some of the elements of our own region of south-east Asia into the generally laid-back look. 

The requirements for hosting friends and family for an alfresco meal can be as simple as a barbecue and an outdoor dining setting, or a more extravagant outdoor kitchen and entertaining area, complete with fully stocked bar. Whatever you choose, just make sure the furniture is comfortable, durable and weather-proof.

TIP: Install an outdoor fridge so that refreshments are close at hand, and choose a barbecue that can withstand the corrosive nature of salt air – look for stainless steel.

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