Iconic Byron Bay beachfront retreat, Rae’s on Wategos has this year received a refreshing refurbishment. ‘We felt that the interior didn’t do the building justice. It had aged, and the space seemed cluttered and dark… It didn’t feel like a building that is steps from the beach,’ explains Jordy Catalano, the Managing Director of Rae’s, which encompasses accomodations, a spa and a restaurant.
According to Jordy, Sydney-based interior designer Tamsin Johnson was the perfect choice to update this iconic establishment, and Rae’s was keen to work with an individual rather than a firm, to ensure a personal touch. ‘Tamsin’s style was exactly in line with our vision for the hotel: she is well travelled, and has experienced a range of amazing hotels around the world, so her knowledge of how best to refurbish the hotel goes far beyond just the fit out, into the whole guest experience,’ Jordy explains.
Mutual friend Daanen Nootenboom recommended Tamsin for the job, and she jumped at the opportunity. ‘I flew up with my little boy Arthur at four-weeks-old, and spent a night in each of the seven rooms over the week,’ tells Tamsin. ‘This was an essential process to really feel the function of each room; To see where the light floods in the afternoon, where the breeze blows and generally which areas of each room you gravitate towards… every room has an entire different personality so it was important to match the new interior, and have it become an extension of this.’
The brief Rae’s delivered to the interior designer was generously open, and the ‘minimalistic and unpretentious coastal’ look that Tamsin proposed instantly won Jordy and his team over. ‘The rooms were so cluttered and the natural surroundings are overwhelmingly beautiful so restraint was the most important key for the design; the process of omitting items was as important as selecting every new piece,’ she explains.
Using natural fabrics and a monochrome muted palette, Tamsin has incorporated custom joinery, sturdy outdoor-strength upholstery, and unique rattan woven furniture, as well as sisal rugs, obscure decor and touches of greenery throughout the establishment. To avoid cluttering the rooms, she incorporated a layer of art though sculptural custom lighting, oddities, books and upholstery. ‘Simple linen curtains with bespoke metal tie backs, custom travertine coffee tables and dip dyed solid concrete bed side tables sit beside the signature Raes bedhead design… the balance of comfort and beauty was key so every guest can settle in like it’s their own home,’ details the designer.
Virtually every electrician in Byron refused to touch the solid walls of Rae’s – the original building was built in the 1960s, opening as a kiosk called ‘The Argentinian’ before it’s stint as La Belle Epoque, a restaurant and private home, in the 1970s. Vinnie Rae and Helen Patterson purchased it in 1994, added a spa, and welcomed guests to Rae’s for two decades before Melbourne-based publisher Anthony Catalano bought the property in 2013. Miraculously, 60 new wall lights were finally installed –‘we had 10 sparkys on site for three days,’ recalls Tamsin. A highlight for the interior designer was gutting the hotel of its existing art and furniture to see the first phase of her transformation. ‘The client was just laughing at how much pleasure it gave me seeing the truck loads pulled out of each room. We literally kept three small tables!’ she says.
Next up, Rae’s on Wategos will undertake a minor refurbishment of its restaurant, again working with Tamsin. Rae’s has also recently acquired an eight-seater jet and a 96-foot super yacht, which the talented interior designer will be fitting out too! We are just dying to see them!